WGC Events Should Be Global


Theyre called the World Golf Championships, but evidently theyve been a bit sidetracked in where they play. They attract golfers from around the world, true enough, but its overwhelmingly American in venue.
The exception is the World Cup, which is an oddity composed of two players from 24 countries, rather spottily represented by the golfing powers. Last year the U.S. had to go down to world No. 23 (the ninth highest American) to find someone who would play ' Stewart Cink. And he chose Zach Johnson as his partner. Not bad players, mind you, but hardly what you trot out there as the best your country can muster.
Anyway, the other three events ' the Accenture Match Play, the Bridgestone (formerly NEC) Invitational, and the American Express ' all are primarily U.S. tournaments and will be for the foreseeable future. The American Express is to be played in England this year, and it has bounced around to different countries in the past.
But the rest ' red, white and blue, baby. They tried to put the Match Play in Australia one year, but they slapped it right over the New Years holiday. Obviously, it flopped ' you remember Steve Strickers 2 and 1 win over Pierre Fulke, dont you?
The Match Play high-tailed it back to the U.S. the following year and thats where its stayed ever since. This fascination with America is wonderful for the U.S. - not so wonderful for the rest of the planet.
This week the Dubai Desert Classic is going on in the Middle East, and a couple of players were queried re: their views on this phenomenon. One was from South Africa ' Ernie Els. And the other was an American ' Mark OMeara. But both said it was a pity that the WGC powers have made the schedule so U.S.-heavy.
I think it's a bit crazy, Els said in a Dubai media conference. You know, why call it World Golf Championships if it's played in one country all the time? I thought that world championship events were to promote the game of golf around the world.
Hes exactly right, of course. But of course, there are a couple of other factors at work here ' one is American television, the other is the corporate sponsors of the WGC events. And, third, to a lesser degree, it must be taken into account how many American players will get up off their haunches and travel across the ocean.

I can understand from an American point of view that the money for these events are all out of American companies, conceded Els, and I'm sure those American companies sponsoring those events want it on primetime television on NBC, ABC or CBS; I can understand that. But to play it in one country is kind of strange.
Originally, these championships were meant to move more around the globe. But it was what it is, and what it is is a game controlled by American corporate sponsors and televised largely by the American networks. And if, for example, a tournament held in Australia or South Africa must be televised live when its the middle of the night in America, then not many eyeballs in America are going to see it. And tape-delay has never been a very good solution ' Americans already know what has happened in most instances. Gung-ho golf fans are going to watch it, but not many other people are.
So, admit it, everything is not going to be rosy for Americans when these events are played elsewhere. Thats what happens when Americans are interested in a game which has top world-ranked players from around the planet.
It's a global game now, explained OMeara. Maybe at one time 20 years ago or 25 years ago, the Americans tended to dominate the game. But that's not the case anymore. We've obviously seen that in the Ryder Cup, we've seen that in the Presidents Cup, we've seen the international flavor on the PGA Tour.
I mean, when I came on the (PGA) Tour 26 years ago, there were maybe two international players - not even that, I don't think - playing the PGA Tour full time. And now, you know, maybe almost a third of the players that are on the PGA Tour are international players.
So that is the tour that I think everybody wants to look at, and you know, it's a difficult thing, and probably a lot of pressure from the sponsors, this or that, from the primetime TV slot.
To change the trend, of course, will require a change in thinking by the corporate sponsors ' and that would probably sacrifice some potential revenues. Would American companies be willing to do that?
It would require a change in television networks ' would the networks be willing to sacrifice some viewers? That, too, would mean a sacrifice of revenue potential.
And, it would require a change in the attitudes of some top American golfers ' would they be willing to forego a few days sitting on their porch, all for the good of the game?
I doubt it, on any of the three points. But lets wait and see. If the good of the over-all game is the bottom line, its a no-brainer ' the WGC will move around a little more often. But if its the money ' and lets be honest, the only reason the sponsors are in this is for the money ' then its probably a losing proposition.
The odds are definitely against it ' the American cities are good, safe bets. And that, unfortunately, is probably where the vast majority of the World Championship events will stay. But it would be a pity. A world-class field, a world-class audience, deserves a world-class venue.
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