Euros on way to lofty heights in golf


2009 European TourWe could wake up Monday morning with three Europeans atop the world rankings.

We could see Germany’s Martin Kaymer as the new No. 1, the sixth European to gain the top spot in the 25-year history of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Jay Townsend won’t be stunned if it happens.

Townsend is a European Yank.

No American is more plugged into the European Tour than Townsend, who played the tour for more than a decade before becoming a European Tour broadcaster. With the Euro Tour’s rise in prominence, many of you are hearing more and more from Townsend as you tune into the overseas’ telecasts on Golf Channel. Townsend is hired out by European Tour Productions and also works major championships for BBC5.

“There’s a lot of pride over there in the success the European Tour’s having now,” said Townsend, who makes his home in Tequesta, Fla. “I think they’ve felt like they were looked down upon as the proverbial red-headed step child for a long time, and they’re certainly enjoying this.”

If Paul Casey finishes first or second at the Commercialbank Qatar Masters this week, the Euros have a shot to hold down the top three spots in next week’s rankings. Casey will move up to No. 3 with a top-2 performance as long as Phil Mickelson doesn’t finish among the top 3 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and as long as Steve Stricker doesn’t win in Qatar.

There will be more beaming in Europe if Lee Westwood, Kaymer and Casey hold the top three spots.

Townsend is seeing European golf come full circle.

Back in ’84, after leaving the University of Florida and turning pro, Townsend advanced through European Tour Q-School to earn his card. He was witness to the rise of Europe’s Big Five with Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam making their marks. Townsend’s best finish was second behind Sam Torrance at the ’93 Catalonia Open.

When the first Official World Golf Ranking was released in ‘86, three Europeans topped the chart. Langer was No. 1, Ballesteros No. 2 and Lyle No. 3.

Townsend likes the talent rising once more in the European ranks, but don’t ask him to compare today’s players to the Big Five.

“It’s too early in the day, if you want to put it that way, to compare them,” Townsend said.

The Big Five combined to win 16 major championships. Today’s European contingent holds five major championship titles. Kaymer and Graeme McDowell have one apiece and Padraig Harrington has three.

If today’s European contingent goes on to rival the Big Five, Townsend won’t be surprised by that, either.

He’s seen it all in international golf over two decades, including a monkey steal his golf ball once in a tournament in Sun City, South Africa, in the mid ‘90s.

Actually, Townsend didn’t really see the heist. After he and his playing partners hit their shots onto the green, they came around a bend to discover their balls were gone.

“One of the caddies saw a pack of monkeys in a tree by the green, and they had our golf balls,” Townsend said.

How do you get a golf ball back from a monkey? You dig some more balls out of your bag and throw them into the tree.

“They threw the balls back at us,” Townsend said. “But they had been chewing on them. The balls were marked up.”

There’s an unpredictable element to the European Tour and its journeys to exotic locales that's always appealed to Townsend. With European Tour golf on the rise, Americans are sure to hear more of the wild twists and turns the pros there endure on their way to increasingly loftier heights in the game.