American LPGA Players Cold

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American players bristle when asked why foreign players dominate the LPGA Tour, but the question has merit.
 
Not only have foreign-born players won all six tournaments this year, they have won the last 16 in a row, a record on the LPGA Tour. The last American to win was Meg Mallon at the Canadian Women's Open in August.
 
''I get a lot of questions every week about the fact that an American hasn't won on the LPGA Tour this year,'' commissioner Ty Votaw said. ''But if you look at the top 50, no country has more people in the top 50 than the U.S. It's not a question of just who is winning, but who is having success.''
 
The United States did win the Solheim Cup, the only victory it can claim in women's golf over the last nine months.
 
Still, foreign dominance of the LPGA Tour is becoming more pronounced each year.
 
It has been almost five years since Americans put together three straight victories on the LPGA Tour -- Sherri Steinhauer at the British Open, Rosie Jones at the Firstar Classic and Dottie Pepper at the Oldsmobile Classic.
 
Americans won 15 tournaments in 1999. The victory count dipped to 12 the following year, 10 in 2001 and only five last year.
 
Toms Takes Up Fight for Sutton
 
Hal Sutton and David Toms have more in common than Louisiana roots and a PGA Championship in their trophy collections.
 
Both players want more variety in how the PGA Tour sets up its golf courses.
 
When Sutton decided to resign after five years on the PGA Tour policy board, he knew Toms would replace him. And he knew the board would have another voice to speak out in favor of more balance in course setups.
 
''I'm passionate about what I believe, and I believe we need to make some changes,'' Sutton said. ''The tour is awesome at 99.9 percent of the things they do. But there's always room for improvement.''
 
Sutton did not resign out of frustration.
 
He is trying to build a children's hospital in Shreveport, La., and he spent the last two days at a fund-raising tournament. He wants to spend more time with his three young daughters and work on his game. And he needs to focus on his job as Ryder Cup captain.
 
''I was burning the candle on both ends,'' he said. ''That was the one spot I thought I could cut out and feel some relief.''
 
Sutton said knowing that Toms would replace him on the board ''prompted my decision.''
 
Toms was elected chairman of the Players Advisory Council in February, making him next in line to join the board. He spoke decisively two months ago about too many courses that he felt favored the big hitters.
 
''That's one thing I'm going to harp on,'' Toms said. ''At least once a month, give everybody a chance. There should be a lot of variety. We should be able to go places where we feel like we can contend.''
 
Sutton did not feel as if he was talking to a wall at policy board meetings, and he remains optimistic that ''some smart people will see the light one day.''
 
His biggest concern is that outside business interests are influencing the tour.
 
''We're trying to protect the game we love, a game that has been so good to us,'' Sutton said. ''What's wrong with the game is there's not enough people in the decision-making process who can touch it, feel it, smell it and sense it.''
 
Playing Catch
 
Laura Diaz found a unique way to work on her wedge game. She sent her husband, Kevin, out into a field and had him retrieve her shots with a baseball glove.
 
''I worked a lot this offseason in having my husband out in a field with a glove, and hitting to the glove without knowing how far it was,'' Diaz said. ''I was looking at that glove and hitting the target. That has been pretty effective. I feel like I'm playing a game with him standing still, get it right in the mitt.''
 
And how did her husband feel about this game?
 
''Kevin doesn't mind, just as long as it doesn't go on too long,'' she said. ''He played baseball, so he's a pretty good outfielder.''
 
Tidbits
 
Zhang Lian-Wei, who beat Ernie Els with a birdie on the final hole to win the Singapore Masters, could be headed to America. He has been offered a sponsor's exemption to the Memorial, which would make him the first player from mainland China to play a PGA Tour event. ... While the PGA Tour already has had four multiple winners this year, Se Ri Pak became the first player on the LPGA Tour to win at least twice this year. ... Prize money at the British Open will increase by $160,000 to $6.24 million (3.9 million pounds) this year, but the winner's check will remain at $1.12 million (700,000 pounds).
 
Stat of the Week
 
Scott Hoch (23) and Fred Couples (20) are the only active players who have gone at least 20 years between their first and most recent PGA Tour victories.
 
Final Word
 
''I like to know whether I don't need to do anything stupid, or whether I need to try to do something stupid.''
-- Mark Calcavecchia, on the value of watching scoreboards in the final round.
 

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