The field for the Masters included a like number of Americans and foreigners a year ago, but in 2009 there are decidedly more foreigners (55) than Americans (41) playing. Christoper Clarey in the New York Times wonders whether this is less an aberration than the direction the game is headed. Clarey writes:
"This is the year that the sport will make its most serious attempt in a century to rejoin the Olympics, when its representatives — Woods perhaps among them — lobby the International Olympic Committee for a spot in the 2016 Games. This is the year that the European Tour's far-flung season will end not in Spain or anywhere else on the European Continent but in the sands and theme parks of Dubai with a $10 million tournament that will also help determine who gets what percentage of a $10 million bonus pool.
"Though the prize money is still listed in dollars, the message is clear. The U.S. Tour might remain the world leader with its hyper-groomed courses, consistently lucrative paydays and season-long access to Woods (major knee surgeries excepted), but it is not the only gateway to serious golfing wealth and credibility."
If indeed here is a seismic shift occurring, the man most responsible is America's own, Tiger Woods, according to Trevor Immelman, the Masters' defending champion. "The beauty of Tiger Woods is that he's been able to transcend our sport and affect sportsmen all over the world," Immelman said. "Tiger's been able to reach all over the globe and inspire young kids, show them that it's OK to have big dreams and go ahead and chase them."
-- John Strege