The Internationalization of Professional Golf

Doug Ferguson, writing for the AP, has a terrific column that I found at ABC News, “The Not-So-New but Expanding World of Golf.” In it, he shares vignettes from across all the big tours about how routine it is now for players from around the world to just pick up and commute to another part of it.

Professional golf has already germinated and then blossomed in all of the regional tours around the globe: the PGA Tour, the European Tour, the Asian Tour, the Australasian Tour, the Japanese Tour, the Sunshine Tour in South Africa, et al. But they were all tours unto themselves; there was little cross-pollination save for stars from those tours coming to the U.S. based on world rankings, etc.

The European Tour was really the first to expand off its continent and travel as a whole. Name a place on the earth and it almost seems that the European Tour has put on a show there: Southeast Asia, China, South Africa, Dubai and this week, Turkey. They had Tiger Woods standing on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, hitting balls off a makeshift tee from Asia to Europe. 

The point of Ferguson’s piece is that golf has already spread across the globe. Maybe now it’s time to consider moving one of golf’s majors, the PGA Championship, to rotating, international venues.

Ferguson points out a number of golf’s logistical and political questions that make this a tricky proposition, but concludes that it’s worth keeping in the back of everyone’s mind as time marches on.

All of this had resonance for me as I tried to cover the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai from my home in Scottsdale. Being in the western-most time zone in the continental U.S. (until Day Light Savings pushed us back into the Mountain time zone — we don’t change our clocks in Arizona), it was a little easier for me. The broadcast on The Golf Channel started at 8 pm and finished at 1 am each day, so it wasn’t too much of an adjustment to watch it.

But because I don’t just write about what happen from a balls and clubs point of view, it was a little disjointed for me. Because I’m writing about cause and not effect, I have to wait for each day’s player transcripts to be released to the internet. On a good day, they tell us why what happened happened, I think the most interesting perspective on players’ performances.

Each day’s transcripts are released in one block. So — this can get confusing — I watched  Saturday’s play Friday night, but didn’t get any transcripts until Sunday morning, my time.

So I’m emailing the Tour media center in Shanghai asking for help in expediting the transcripts, but it was the middle of the night and my contact was sound asleep completely unaware of the problem. By the time he would have been, it was the middle of the night in New York, home base for the transcript company.

I watched Sunday’s final round Saturday night hoping that Saturday’s transcripts would catch up — Graeme McDowell shot a 62 to get back in it — before I went to bed. No such luck. But they were there Sunday morning and Sunday’s were in by the time we got back from brunch. So way off my normal “midnightish” posting time, I was able to get a post out late Sunday afternoon.

That was just for a simple, one-horse blog. Can you imagine what whole organizations round the world were going through?

But I must admit that it was captivating watching the scenarios unfold on the Sheshan International Golf Club course. The homes were reminiscent of similar ones you would find on the finer streets in Paris. The sun didn’t get out much and they had some very hazy air because it was so still.

And because it was so still, you could hear a dog barking in China.

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2 Responses to The Internationalization of Professional Golf

  1. Nick says:

    Bill, I hope the US based players would be signed up to this as there is an opinion from the outside (I’m from the UK), they’re poor travelers. Apparently Matt Kuchar had twelve refusals as a partner for the World Cup before he got to Streelman. And Kuchar’s a nice guy?!

    I think there would need to be a big commercial reason to go outside the US. The NFL games in London have fitted in with US timezones as does the Open, but as you say Asia is a night-shift. Outside of the US we are used to late nights/early mornings, Ashes cricket starts in a few weeks and that’s a midnight start but I wonder if Americans would go along with it.

    It’s a great idea to me, giving Australia or South Africa a major only seems fair given the players that have come out those countries but I’m not sure if the PGA would give up a crown jewel like that!

    • Bill Rand says:

      Ferguson wasn’t sure the PGA would surrender a crown jewel either, Nick. It was speculative and, while it might be tempted to travel, it would never give up control. As he pointed out, now that HSBC is a PGA Tour event and doing very well with it, why shouldn’t they get first crack at an international major? And then what are the implications for the Commissioner’s beloved, The Players Championship? All part of the politics I alluded to, so I don’t see it happening very soon. But the thinkers all seem to want to do something.

      As to the US players being poor travelers, HSBC was so well received by the changes this year, it will be hard for those who didn’t go this year to continue to skip it, particularly given that it is a WGC event, kicks off the new earlier season on Tour now and is a small-field chance for a win.

      Not to mention that guys like Poulter, McDowell, Rory, Donald, Westwood, et al, have set the example of rocketing around the world, doing well and I would say are largely responsible for the US travelers we do have now.