Rest of World Catching up to Americans

By Associated PressJuly 18, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Thirty-four flags are flapping in the breeze above the 18th green at Royal Liverpool, a potpourri of colors symbolizing the diverse field for this British Open.
The red, white and blue sure doesnt stand out like it used to.
Make no mistake, the United States is still the golfing worlds superpower, but all those other countries are closing the gap on Tiger, Phil and Co.
Every time we turn on our American coverage on the TV, it always seems that half the top 10 are so-called foreign, be it Australians or Europeans or South Africans or Koreans or Japanese, whatever, Colin Montgomerie marveled Tuesday. Right now, the rest of the world, if you like, is performing very well.
Just look at the world rankings, that convoluted formula that no one really understands but does provide a fairly accurate barometer on the state of the game.
Tiger Woods is at the top of the list. Phil Mickelson is No. 2. No argument there'the two best Americans are clearly the two best players on the planet.
But scan down a little farther, and its clear that the Americans dont have such a dominating grip on the standings. The only other U.S. player in the top 10 is Jim Furyk at No. 5.
Compare that to the rankings at the end of 2000, when the stars and stripes dominated with twice as many players in the top 10 -- Woods and Mickelson joined by David Duval, Davis Love III, Hal Sutton and Tom Lehman.
The trend holds up deeper into the list. The Americans currently hold down six of the top 25 spots, compared with 12 of 25 at the start of the decade. The U.S. has eight fewer spots in the top 50, dropping from 26 to 18.
The rest of the world has gotten better, said American Ben Curtis, the improbable British Open winner from 2003 who finally picked up his second career victory just last month. Theyre trying harder to get over and play (on the U.S.-based PGA Tour). I think thats the reason you see more of them up there in the points.
Curtis has a point. The rankings include plenty of guys such as No. 3 Vijay Singh of Fiji, No. 6 Adam Scott of Australia, No. 9 Sergio Garcia of Spain and No. 11 Luke Donald of England, all regulars on the PGA Tour.
Then theres a player such as No. 19 Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland, who splits time between the two tours. So far this year, hes entered seven events on the European tour, five on the PGA Tour and three that are part of both circuits.
Its not that weve made it easier for them to play on our tour, but weve opened up to them, Curtis said. Thats made a huge difference in the rankings. Its not necessarily what the Americans are doing. More of them have gotten over to play on our tour, and theyve played well.
That said, golfs surging popularity around the world -- 14 countries other than the U.S. are represented in the top 50 -- appears to be coinciding with a bit of a lull in Americas developmental pipeline.
While Sutton has essentially retired, Lehman (No. 48) is closer to the senior tour than his prime and Love (24th) is struggling to hold his spot among the games elite players, theres no one on the horizon showing signs of becoming another Woods or Mickelson.
The American Ryder Cup team could have as many five rookies this year, but the contenders are J.J. Henry, Zach Johnson, Brett Wetterich, Vaughn Taylor and Lucas Glover. Good, solid players? Yes. Any of them on the verge of greatness? Probably not.
Theres obviously some great young American players that weve never heard of yet, and we will, Montgomerie said. But I havent seen or heard of them yet, no, no. I dont mean to sound that way. I just havent heard of them as of yet.
In fact, some Americans who figured to be running neck-and-neck with Woods and Mickelson at his point in their careers are nowhere to be found.
That list is headed by Duval, who reached the top of the world rankings, won the 2001 British Open for his first major title, then suddenly couldnt figure out how to hit the ball straight. At 34, hes still struggling to turn things around, failing to make the cut in half of his 16 events this year and cracking the top 20 at only one tournament.
Charles Howell III is another guy who appeared to be a major champion in the making. But a 2002 victory at Kingsmill is still his only PGA Tour victory, and hes taken a major step backward this year. With only one finish in the top 25, Howell has plummeted to 60th on the money list and wont even be playing at the British Open this week.
Then theres Matt Kuchar, who appeared to be a star-in-the-making when he contended at both the Masters and the U.S. Open as an amateur. His pro career is a different matter. Hes managed only one victory on the PGA Tour and lost his card after finishing 159th on the money list last year.
Curtis never dropped as far as Kuchar, but he needed nearly three years to follow up his British Open title with his second career victory. The 29-year-old won the Booz Allen Classic last month, but win No. 2 hardly compares to his first'most of the top players skipped the Washington-area event.
Even so, maybe his career will take off now that hes won again. Or maybe someone else will come along to challenge Woods and Mickelson. Whatever the case, Curtis doesnt believe American golf is in a downward spiral.
Somebody is going to come up and be a star, he said. Theres a lot of great players out there who have never won. Its just a matter of time. Once they get to the winners circle, who knows what might happen?
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.