Match Play Not a US Show Now


Time was when golf at the top level was primarily an American exercise. One needs only to look at the Ryder Cup from 1935 to 1985 for proof. During that long period, over 20 matches, the U.S. lost the Cup only one time.
Today? Well, its a little different now. Europe has won four of the last five Ryder Cups. And top-level golf is truly global. A glaring example of how the golf world has changed is reflected in this years WGC-Accenture Match Play field. This year, just 25 of the field of 64 were American.
Thats a far cry from the representation in the first Match Play field in 1999. That year, there were 40 of the 64 who were from the U.S., 39 the second year. As late as 2003, there were still more than half the field who were American.
This year, only seven first-round matches pitted Americans against each other, Englishman Ian Poulter, for one, says its not a case of Americans dumbing down. Its a case of the rest of the world ramping up.
There's no sliding for Americans, insisted Poulter. It's just that there are good golfers from around the world wanting to play good golf. And they're wanting to play on a couple of levels, and that would be the PGA Tour. It's a progression of the interest over the last ten years or so from Tiger playing good golf. Everybody wants to play, everybody wants to compete against him.
That, of course, is one reason. The Tiger Effect has been felt worldwide. But there is another factor, says American David Toms, and it involves the relative ages that a young man begins his professional career. An international player begins to play for pay at a younger age.
'A lot of times they're turning professional when a lot of our American players would just be entering college, said Toms. Our young players are playing against other college players for four or five years and then playing mini-tours and trying to earn their way out.
'A lot of the foreign players, they jump into professional golf right away, they start professional right away. They're playing all over the world. And by the time that they're still a young guy, they've been playing professional golf for a long time.
Of course, college golf does a lot to prepare its players for the tour. But college golf is a team game, whereas tour golf is every man for himself.
It's a different environment, said Toms. You're still in school. You don't learn to manage your life. You have somebody doing that for you; you just show up and play golf.
And I think these guys (the internationals) just know. They're more seasoned, they know how it all works, more so than the young American player does.
Well, maybe he has something there. Of the 25 Americans who started at the Match Play, 15 were 35 years of age or older.
And the internationals are zooming to the front. Scotlands Colin Montgomerie, who himself spent four years in college at Houston Baptist University, has noticed it.
I think we had a particularly good year the last two years, especially in Europe, where a lot of the young guys and a lot of guys that had potential have now come through, he said.
But it's one thing showing potential - it's another thing proving it. And we've got a lot of guys that have come through into that top 64, if you like, and deservedly so. They've played very well worldwide and deserve the ranking points they've achieved and all the players deserve this spot here.
Golf, said South Africas Retief Goosen, is worldwide game. But I play worldwide golf. I play Australia and Asia, and even the tournaments I won in Asia, I had to play some of my best golf to win. And that shows on the stage over here. It doesn't matter where you play in the world now, the guys are knocking in very low scores. And you need to play your best golf.
And it's nice to see that the PGA Tour is sort of becoming an international tour. It's more and more international players getting on to it now and it shows in world golf how strong it's getting.
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