Check the board, its littered with more flags than the Small World exhibit at Walt Disney World Resort and more vowels than anyone on Jeopardy could afford. Among Thursdays highlights was a Singh not named Vijay, a Louis not named Armstrong and a Marksaeng named Prayad.
This may not be what Greg Norman had in mind when he hatched his world tour concept, but its not too bad, particularly if one carries a passport from any other country than the United States. Among the top 13 after Day 1 at Doral were players from India, South Africa, Thailand, Australia, Ireland, Colombia, England and Argentina. That crew also included three Americans within two shots of the lead, but this day was about the global village.
Alongside international staple Retief Goosen was Jeev M. Singh, whose 7-under 65 featured just a single bogey, and Marksaeng. All total, the 80-man CA Championship field features 20 different countries, some of which are hardly the golf hotbeds weve come to expect.
Some of the global reach is a byproduct of the increased popularity that followed in the wake of Tiger Woods 1997 Masters victory. Some has to do with the global evolution of the game.
With the European Tour the guys are starting to work harder because everybody sees the Race for Dubai, said Louis Oosthuizen, who is tied for ninth at 5 under. When you come to a world event its like a second major.
Within the World Golf Championships many observers see a glimpse of where the game might be headed. Just one of the Elite Eight players at last months WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship were from the United States.
Of the 31 WGCs that have been played, 15 have been won by Woods. Seven of the remaining 16 have gone to international players, including three to Australias Geoff Ogilvy.
And if the wave of young talent is any indication, the WGC hardware, unlike the WGC venues which are played exclusively in the United States, will be cashing more frequent flyer miles in the future.
Among the young wave who have made moves at the WGCs this year are Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson (England); Andres Romero (Argentina) and Northern Irelands Rory McIlroy, billed by many Europes next world beater.
McIlroy was a big hit at the Match Player, where he advanced to the quarterfinals, and he tied for 13th in his first stroke play event in the United States as a pro. On Thursday, he quietly went for 68 for a share of 14th and will be back in the United States to play in Houston and the Masters. After that, however, McIlroy will likely make his way as an international player for the foreseeable future.
He will probably try to take up (PGA) Tour membership in 2011, said McIlroys manager Chubby Chandler. Theres no rush. In three years he will only be 21. But the rules are different for Rory. Besides, in two years who knows what the landscape will be like. In two years the European Tour and the Race for Dubai might be the biggest thing.
Judging by the leaderboard at Doral, that change may be coming sooner than expected.