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Players Unfamiliar with One Another at Doral

2007 WGC CA ChampionshipMIAMI -- They call this a World Golf Championship. It looks more like freshman orientation.
No one waits until finishing a round to shake hands. Whether on the putting green, the practice range or in the locker room, introductions are in order -- a lot of them. Players spend most of their time looking at names on badges and golf bags to figure out who these guys are and how they got a spot in the CA Championship.
The 73-man field at Doral comes from 17 countries, not unlike a regular PGA TOUR event. But most PGA TOUR events don't always get Prom Meesawat.
This is nothing new at a World Golf Championship. It's been going on since the series began in 1999, when this tournament was held at Valderrama in Spain and featured Richard Kaplan and Kzuhiko Hosokawa.
'I bet I don't know 20 percent of the guys here,' Paul Goydos said.
No sooner did the words leave his lips Tuesday afternoon than Goydos followed with a message that Americans need to hear.
These guys don't know you, either.
Charl Schwartzel, one of nine South Africans at Doral, was asked what he knew about Bob Hope Classic winner Charley Hoffman.
'Not much,' he said. 'He's got long hair.'
What about Mark Wilson? He won the Honda Classic two weeks ago after taking a bizarre two-shot penalty, then making par putts of 50 feet and 30 feet before outlasting three others in a playoff.
'I don't know Mark Wilson,' he said, almost embarrassed.
When his interview ended, Schwartzel was so curious he whispered to a couple of reporters, 'Does he have dark hair and dark skin?'
Sorry, Charl.
That would be Dean Wilson of Hawaii.
What makes the CA Championship more unusual than the other two WGC events is it goes beyond the top 50 in the world ranking and rewards players by the most consistent measure -- money -- on their respective tours.
That's how Meesawat got into his first WGC event. The 22-year-old Thai finished third on the Asian Tour Order of Merit last year and captured his first victory at the SK Telecom Open, where Michelle Wie made the cut playing against men. Also in the field that week was K.J. Choi and Jeev Milka Singh (no relation to that other Singh).
They call Meesawat 'Big Dolphin' because of his burly physique and because he grew up in the coastal town of Hua Hin. He won the Junior World Championship twice at Torrey Pines and wanted to come to America earlier except Vijay Singh talked him into turning pro and sticking to the Asian Tour.
Meesawat knows Tiger Woods. Think he would even recognize Tom Pernice Jr.?
Y.E. Yang has been a talking point the last few weeks, mostly among Americans wondering how he got into the top 50 in the world. Those same guys have never done what Yang did in Shanghai last November -- win a tournament that included Woods, Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson and Retief Goosen.
The son of vegetable farmers in South Korea, Yang was 19 when a friend offered him a job on a driving range for minimum wage and a roof over his head. When he finally picked up a club, he practiced for three months before playing his first round and shot 101. He practiced for another month and shot 81.
A decade later, he took down Tiger.
'You put the fishing pole in the water,' Yang said, demonstrating, 'and sometimes you catch a big fish.'
This will be his sixth tournament in the United States, not enough to know much about Arron Oberholser, much less recognize him.
Goydos was honest enough to say he didn't know much about Anthony Wall, a 31-year-old from England.
'But me not recognizing somebody certainly doesn't mean he's not a great player,' Goydos said. 'I'm pretty sure Anthony Wall doesn't know who Paul Goydos is, and a big piece of me hopes he doesn't -- for his sake. That would mean he spends too much time watching golf.'
One problem with the World Golf Championships is they're all played in the United States, and that isn't likely to change. The title sponsors footing the bill for the $8 million purse get more return when the tournament -- and TV coverage -- has an American base.
Maybe this wouldn't feel like freshman orientation if more Americans traveled the world.
'I think it's the Ryder Cup syndrome from about six years ago,' Goydos said. 'Who are these guys that keep beating us? Well, they're pretty good players, aren't they?'
Hennie Otto led the first round of the '03 British Open at Royal St. George's and wound up in a tie for 10th. Joe Durant has never finished higher than a tie for 24th in a major, in the '01 U.S. Open at Southern Hills.
Strangely enough, Schwartzel made news for not coming to a WGC event. He made the 64-man field for the Accenture Match Play Championship but skipped it to play the final tournament in South Africa so he could become the first South African to win the Order of Merit three times. That got him into Doral, the Memorial, the British Open and the Bridgestone Invitational.
That's four more chances to get to know Mark Wilson.
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