It seems the World Golf Championships aren’t so worldly.
Thanks in no small part to Tiger Woods – who accounts for nine – Americans have won 14 of 19 WGC tournaments contested by individuals. The United States has won the World Cup once in five tries since that venerable team event came under the WGC umbrella.
The results should come as no surprise, if only because Americans have enjoyed a home-field advantage in the WGC series. That’s not exactly what Greg Norman had in mind in 1994, when he first proposed a “World Tour.” Tim Finchem, in only his sixth month as PGA Tour commissioner, aggressively used his organization’s conflicting event release rules to quash Norman’s idea.
Not that Finchem didn’t see merit in the Shark’s plan. Two years later, the International Federation of PGA Tours was born, and the WGC series began in 1999.
The Federation consists of the PGA Tour, PGA European Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia, Sunshine Tour (South Africa) and Asian Tour. Thus far, the Sunshine and Asian tours remain unrepresented on the WGC calendar.
The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship has left American soil only once, making an ill-fated visit to Australia in 2001. Only 36 of the top 64 in the Official World Golf Ranking bothered to make the trip Down Under the week after Christmas. The Match Play returned to Southern California the following year, and it’s not likely to leave the southwest United States anytime soon.
A new sponsorship deal with the Bridgestone Corp. will keep what formerly was the WGC-NEC Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio, which has hosted the WGC-NEC every year except 2002, when it made a cameo appearance at Sahalee Country Club near Seattle. The World Series of Golf was played at Firestone from 1962 until the WGC series was launched in 1999, and the Bridgestone alliance calls for the tournament to remain there at least until 2010.
The WGC-American Express Championship has traveled sparingly. Two of the five tournaments have been played in Spain, and two in Ireland. The 2001 American Express slated for St. Louis was canceled because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The United States was host in 2003; this year’s event is slated for Oct. 6-9 in San Francisco. It rotates to England in 2006.
Among the WGC foursome, only the World Cup has been truly global, going to Argentina, Japan, Mexico, the United States and Spain, with this year’s version (Nov. 17-20) in Portugal. The World Cup has been around since 1953 (it was called the Canada Cup through 1966), and joined the WGC fold in 2000.
It’s no secret that Finchem calls the shots not only for the PGA Tour, but for the International Federation of PGA Tours, as well. If scheduling of the WGC series is any indication, the commissioner appears more intent on enriching his tour than on growing worldwide interest in golf.
In the age of globalization, that’s a short-sighted power play.