Monday, November 15, 2010

Where in the world are top golfers this week?

In the 1970s, into the 1980s and even through the 1990s, I thought golf had one very strong advantage over tennis.

While tennis might have its top three players playing in three different tournaments around the world in a given week, you always knew the top golfers in the world would be playing in the same field in that week's PGA Tour event.

Sure, a few of the top players might take a week off, and there was always talk of where one of the great international players might be playing around the world that weekend. But for the most part, the game's best players played week in and week out on the PGA Tour. It was easy to compare and contrast those golfers playing on the same course.

But the golf world of the 1970s and 1980s doesn't exist anymore. and for proof of that, just look at this weekend's tournaments.

Tiger Woods is playing in the Australian Masters, part of the Australasian Tour. Sergio Garcia, Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy are also in that field.

A couple of thousand miles away, Phil Mickelson is playing in the Barclays Singapore Open, an event on the European Tour. Adam Scott, Ian Poulter and U.S. Open Champion Graeme McDowell are in that field.

Down in Orlando, Fla., the PGA Tour is conducting its Children's Miracle Network tournament, the last official event of its season. Before you call it a tournament of lesser lights on the tour, remember that Vijay Singh, Rickie Fowler and J.B. Holmes are in the field.

So to keep track of the game's best players, you need to have one eye on Orlando, one on Singapore and one on Melbourne.
Golfers globetrotting

And don't look for things to get any easier in the coming year. The No. 1 player in the world, England's Lee Westwood, will not be a PGA Tour member next year. Neither will PGA champion Martin Kaymer of Germany or young gun sensation Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland. They will play most of their golf in Europe, though they can be counted on to play 10 or so events each in the United States.

We also know that Mickelson and likely a few other of the game's top players will be in Abu Dhabi the week that the PGA Tour comes to La Quinta for the Bob Hope Classic.

And so it goes. People like to talk about how globalization makes the world a little smaller and brings the world closer together. But in professional golf, globalization seems to be scattering the game's best players to the four corners of the Earth.

The answer of how to get the game's top players together again rather than only passing each other in airports seems simple. Somewhere out there is a blueprint for a world tour. The foundation for such a tour already exists with four majors and four world golf championships set on most players schedules. Add two to four more events around the globe and you've got a 10-to-12 event tour that would showcase the game's top players in the same place about once a month.

It's an obvious answer to the problem of the top 10 golfers in the world scattering to play in three different places. Otherwise, we'll have more weeks of needing to keep one eye on Orlando, one on Singapore and one on Melbourne.

Larry Bohannan covers golf for The Desert Sun. His columns appear Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at (760) 778-4633.

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