While We Were Sleeping

Is it just me, or did everybody else miss the fact that what used to be the doddering European Tour is now a world-class, world tour? Because I now follow most of the main tours in search of material for my posts, I just woke up to this fact. I mean, I kinda knew it, but I didn’t realize how deep and rich it had become until I researched this post.

I can remember in the early days of the Golf Channel when they didn’t yet have their broadcast deals with the PGA Tour, the Champions Tour or the LPGA Tour. But it was still interesting because it was new and all things golf. I was talking to a teaching pro and asked if he watched and he immediately replied, “The only live golf they have on there is the European Tour. Why would I want to watch that?”

And everybody pretty much felt that way because all of the images from the broadcast seemed to be from cold, uninviting European venues. The players were always in sweaters, blowing on their hands to keep them warm and rain seemed to be routine rather than the exception. Plus, a small thing, due to transmitting the images in real time around the world, they apparently had to do it in lower resolutions or with compression or something like that. The result was that every ball in the air looked like a rotating, striped range ball and created just another cheesy aspect to the tour. The PGA Tour balls remained solid white in the air!

So while we were busy with our adoration and admiration of the PGA Tour in our time zones, the European Tour was busy extending the brand in theirs. Their season-ending tour championship is next week and is titled the Dubai World Championship and is played in the United Arab Emirates. This week they’re in Hong Kong. Last week they were in Singapore. They have four season-opening tournaments in South Africa. They go to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and Qatar. The Avantha Masters is played in New Delhi, India. They are also in Malaysia, Morocco, China, Korea, the Czech Republic and the Maderia Islands off the coast of Africa (technically it’s Portuguese, but it’s out in the Atlantic 600 miles from Lisbon!). This year’s complete schedule is here.

And I think we were also lulled by difficulty the Europeans had in winning in the United States. In his heyday, Colin Montgomery won the European Tour Order of Merit (the money title) seven years in a row; an incredible accomplishment. But every year he came over here to try to win one of the majors, his doughy body, sour scowls and petulance made him an easy target for fan distain and in some cases, inexcusable taunting. He became the perfect poster boy for European Tour failure. And if he couldn’t win here, why would we expect that anybody he dominated over there could?

All that’s changed now. In this year alone, Englishman, Ian Poulter won the World Match Play Championship in Tucson; South African, Ernie Els, won the WGC in Miami; South African, Tim Clark won The Players Championship in Florida; Northern Ireland’s, Graeme McDowell, won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and German, Martin Kaymer, won the PGA Championship in Wisconsin. When you throw in South African, Louis Oosthuizen’s win at the British Open and Italian, Francesco Molinari’s win at the WGC in Shanghai, the only “really big” tournaments Americans won were Phil Mickelson at the Masters and Hunter Mahan at the WGC in Akron.

For some, this state of affairs would lead to incessant handwringing. But, since I am a champion of excellence wherever we find it, I say, “Hooray for the human spirit, hooray for golf and hooray for these world-class players.”

It’s been a long time coming and hopefully, just as the Americans raised the bar for the Europeans, so too the bar will now be raised for the Americans. As consciousness rises in one place, it lifts consciousness around the world. We could be moving into a Golden Age. Aren’t you glad you’re alive to see it?

Golf is a good thing.

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