Todays essay is about the men.
The PGA TOUR has staged 17 official events in 2006 and five of them have been won by Australians. Two of those victories'the season-opening Mercedes Championships and Sundays Shell Houston Open'were captured by Stuart Appleby. As a result, Appleby jumped from No. 33 to 25 in the world rankings and up to No. 3 on the U.S. money list.
Only three players'Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Stuart Appleby'have won more than once on tour this year. Thats fast company for a young man who grew up on a farm north of Melbourne and doesnt turn 35 until next Monday.
Winning twice on the tour in a year is a good accomplishment for me, Appleby said late Sunday. It also marked the first time in his career he had done so.
And it was terrific stuff for the Aussies as well. With apologies to Adam Scott, Rod Pampling, Steve Elkington, Nick OHern and Richard Green'just to name a few'its hard right now just figuring out how to rank the Aussies whose last names end in the letter Y.
Theres Appleby, Allenby, Ogilvy, Baddeley, Parry, Leaney and Hensby.
The Aussies are coming at us in waves at the moment. Thunder Down Under. Wizards of Oz.
And dont expect it to stop anytime soon. The feeder programs in Australia'especially at the Australian Institute of Sport and the Victorian Institute of Sport'have caught up and passed much of the rest of the world in the development of global class athletes.
So, it would seem, just a matter of time before an Australian won a major championship. The confounding thing about that is no Aussie has won a major since Elkingtons victory at the 1995 PGA Championship. No Aussie has EVER won the Masters.
Appleby, in my opinion, is the favorite to break this drought. When his game switches on, he knows how to keep it on. At the 2001 Masters he played a stretch of 50 consecutive holes without a bogey. Thats still a tournament record.
Today, he said Sunday in Houston, I was always there.
Actually he was there before he was there. He said he knew before he arrived that he would at least challenge. Thats how well his practicing had been going. I knew there would be no way I could finish out of the top 10, Appleby said.
If anybody had asked, he wouldnt have been so brash as to predict a win because, he said, you dont know what someone else is going to do.
A struggling Steve Stricker, who once won a million dollars in a match play event Down Under, finished in the top five at Houston. And Vijay Singh, who had won three of the previous four Shell Houston Opens, didnt factor. Both were sidebar stories worth examining.
But Appleby and the Aussies was the scoop du jour in mens golf Sunday. If one of them triumphs at Winged Foot in June at the U.S. Open, every golf writer in America will be writing that they are the new dominant force in golf.
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