Internationals Dot US Top 30 But Is That Bad

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It was only 10 years ago, actually back in 1994, that the U.S. tour was overwhelmingly U.S.-dominated. One decade ago, 26 of the 30 players who qualified for the Tour Championship at seasons end were Americans.
 
Then, just like today, the No. 1 player was not American-born ' Nick Price was born in South Africa, raised in Zimbabwe. So was No. 2 ' Australian Greg Norman. But from there down through much of the money lists upper half, it was largely the home-bred.
 
Lets see, Ernie Els was No. 19, David Frost was No. 20. But there wasnt another international player until down at No. 46 ' Craig Parry. Jose Maria Olazabal was No. 8 on the money list because of his Masters victory, but he only played in four U.S. events besides the majors and wasnt a PGA Tour member. This was Vijay Singhs second year in America, but he had a back injury in 94 and finished 52nd on the money list.
 
Take a look, now, at the prospectus for the Tour Championship as of this week. The Tour Championship isnt played for another month ' the first week in November. But the picture has totally changed from what it was a decade ago.
 
In the top spot this year is another international ' Singh. Number 2 is American Phil Mickelson, but No. 3 is yet another international ' Els. In fact, non-Americans are liberally sprinkled throughout the top 30. Fourteen 14 of the top 30 are internationals, as opposed to only four in 94.
 
What an incredible difference 10 years has made to the PGA Tour. Whereas a decade ago the few internationals among the games elite either came from Australia or South Africa, today they come from every corner of the globe.
 
Norman and Frost are no longer a factor, but look who has replaced them. This year, a Spaniard is represented, but it isnt Olazabal- its Sergio Garcia. Els is still winning tournaments, but another South African has been roaring through the U.S. tour ' Retief Goosen, followed by South African Rory Sabbatini. Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby and Mark Hensby are the top Australians now, not 49-year-old Norman.
 
And look at the other countries that are represented ' would you believe Trinidad and Tobago (Stephen Ames - now a Canadian citizen), along with Canadas Mike Weir, two from the Far East (South Korean K.J. Choi and Japans Shigeki Marayuma), and ' gasp ' Paraguay (Carlos Franco)?
 
Darren Clarke from Northern Ireland got in the top 30 Sunday when he finished in a tie for fourth at the World Golf Championship American Express tournament. The Tour Championship was the first thing out of his mouth after his finish in Ireland.
 
Im disappointed I didnt win (the American Express) and then the Tour Championship, he said upon completing the tournament, before he knew that his money earned in the AmEx did indeed place him at No. 26 on the U.S. list.
 
I had a few things on my mind, said Clarke. Number 1, just trying to make the Tour Championship. I'm 33rd I think going into this week, and hopefully today this will jump me up a little bit. Whether I've got to go play another tournament or not (in the States) to see if I can get in, I'll take a look at that at the end of the day.

The Tour Championship obvious is very meaningful to Clarke, even if he has to come play at Disney or at Tampa to get in. He plays the European Tour primarily, but also has played enough PGA Tour events to qualify him for this circuit.
 
If I'm very close I will try, he said. Because I played it for the first time last year and it's one of the biggest and best tournaments in the world and I'd love to get in.
 
So, obviously, would a lot of international players. And there are a couple of ways to look at the sudden influx of them on the U.S. tour.
 
One is to bemoan the lack of top American talent on the American tour.
 
The other way, though, is to appreciate that golf, at last, has become a truly international game. And the worlds greatest collection of talent plays the PGA Tour. Could there be a greater compliment?
 
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