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  • Alistair Tait

Hail the American Golf Championships

And the United States leads the series 57-29, leaving the rest of the world with a lot of catching up to do. Most experts predict it will never happen.

No, these are not matches won and lost in the Presidents Cup. That’s the score in the World Golf Championships, as in the number of times the USA has hosted a WGC compared to the rest of the world. Take it down to individual countries, and it computes as USA 57, China 12, Mexico 5, Spain 3, Ireland 2, with Argentina, Australia, Barbados, England, Japan, Malaysia and Portugal coming at one appearance apiece.

World Golf Championships, huh?

No surprise this week’s WGC is coming from the home of the brave and the land of the free tee as the world’s best tee it up in Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas. Just another stop on the PGA Tour.

The Match Play is the second of three WGCs in the U.S. this year. It follows last month’s Workaday Championship at the Concession, and precedes the FedEx St Jude Invitational in August. The sole outlier comes in October with the HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

China has at least managed to do well out of a series of tournaments that was supposed to be held more around the world than just the US of A. Remember when they were launched? Then European Tour chief executive Ken Schofield wrote:

“Now the new World Golf Championships, organised by the International Federation of PGA Tours and launched in 1999, will impact professional golf globally and fulfil the stated desire of many players to compete against each other more often.”

The latter half of that sentence is true if players from the rest of the world are willing to travel to the United States. Thankfully they are, while the opposite is perhaps not so. That was obvious when Australia held its only WGC, the 2001 Accenture Match Play Championship.

Steve Stricker (pictured) triumphed in that event, one of 34 Americans in the 64-man field. Wait a minute, three sentences ago you inferred Americans didn’t like to travel now you’re saying those who pledge allegiance to the red, white and blue made up the majority of the 2001 field? True, but getting the top players to travel Down Under was like trying to get Dustin Johnson to play in the Olympic Games.

That 2001 event was notable because the top Americans bailed. No Tiger Woods, no David Duval, no Phil Mickelson, no Davis Love III… One reason perhaps why it’s the only WGC Match Play to be held outside the U.S. It led Australian Stuart Appleby to quip:

Americans travel like prawns on a hot day.”

Appleby’s humour didn’t go down well on the PGA Tour, but there was truth in his words.

And why would the top Americans travel to Australia, or Spain, or Malaysia or Tuktoyaktuk? As the Australian later told Golf Digest:

“There's so much over here, so many opportunities, why would you go around the world to play golf? If Australia had offered me what America has, I wouldn't have left home, either.

Same goes for the top Europeans or South Africans.

Nowadays the top Americans can guarantee big appearance fees when they leave U.S. shores, so why would they be enticed to do so when they can’t command those fees? Besides, they play for so much money week in week out on the PGA Tour there’s no reason to pack their passports. Most don’t even have to get them renewed.

The top 29 players in last week’s Honda Classic earned over $50,000. Forty five competitors earned over that mark in the previous week’s Players, with 30 taking home over $100k.

American Beau Hossler finished 125th on last year’s PGA Tour money list and made $658,088. The top 125 players keep their cards for the following year. Imagine being the worst in your line of work and clearing over $650k per year? And you don’t even have to leave home!

Yes please.

The WGCs are a victim of the PGA Tour's success. As long as that circuit is paying out eye-watering sums then the top Americans – and top international players based in the U.S. – will be quite happy to stay at home, which means other countries aren’t going to get much of a look in for future WGCs.

Maybe they should be called the American Golf Championships?

#JustSaying: “Never bet anyone you meet on the first tee who has a deep suntan, a 1-iron in his bag, and squinty eyes.” Dave Marr

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1 Comment

Mar 28, 2021

When it comes to WGC's, scheduling is everything. I believe the Americans proved they would show up outside of the US (at least most of them) as evidenced by Europe WGC's in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2004 & 2006. But if I recall correctly, problem with those was sponsorship dissatisfaction with the lack of viewership. Because of the time zone shift, international viewership was supposed to make up for the loss of viewers in the US. But that never materialized.

As for the poor turnout for the match play in Australia... Again that was awful scheduling. Had it been coupled with a Presidents Cup or something (or even used this new round robin format)... It could have worked. A bunch weren…

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