The Wonderful World of Golf Keeps Expanding

Written by Charlie Epps on 01 May 2011.

Every year on Masters Sunday, golfers and non-golfers alike sit in front of their televisions for one reason: to see who's going to win the most popular golf tournament in the world, the Masters!

This past Masters provided all the drama and excitement that a golf fan can ever expect or want. On the back nine Sunday afternoon, five different players from five continents were tied for the lead. At one point late in the day, tied at 10-under par were Tiger Woods from North America; Angel Cabrera from South America; K.J. Choi from Asia; Adam Scott from Australia and the eventual winner, Charl Schwartzel from South Africa.

The millions who watched were surprised to see a little-known golf professional from South Africa birdie the last four holes at Augusta National to win. The last person to go 4-under on the last four holes at the Masters was Jack Nicklaus in 1986. He went eagle-birdie-birdie-par to win his 18th major championship. Of course, he is an American.

How times have changed.

In 2000-01, Tiger invented the "Tiger Slam," when he held all four major titles at the same time. Who would have thought 10 years later, all four majors would be held by international players? When you add in the Europeans' Ryder Cup victory last year, you have the five most important golf tournaments in the world won by non-Americans.

Could you see a team from China winning the NBA Finals? How about a German team winning the Super Bowl? The wide world of sports is here, as Jim McKay always said.

After the U.S. won 10 straight Ryder Cups from 1959-77 (they're played every two years, remember), the PGA of America changed the rules in 1979 because Great Britain and Ireland weren't competitive. The change was made to pit players from every country in Europe against the Americans.

Look what happened. Great Britain, Ireland and the Europeans dominate the Ryder Cup. Together they have won nine of past 13 Ryder Cups. If everything holds true, with the Presidents Cup being played in Australia this year, the International team should win the Presidents Cup, too.

As an aside, I'm already picking the young, Italian sensation, Matteo Manassero to win the 2012 Masters.

All of this is good for golf. It may not be the best news for fans of the U.S. players, but this trend is proof that the game has grown worldwide. We'll see even more evidence at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. For the first time since 1904, golf will be contested at the Olympics.

The LPGA has turned its attention to the Pacific Rim, mainly because of economic reasons but also because of the talent of the Korean and Japanese players. They're now dominating ladies' golf. Last year in Buenos Aires at the World Amateur Team Championships, the Korean amateurs ran away with the women's title. France won on the men's side.

By the way, the low amateur at the Masters this year was the reigning Asian Amateur Champion, Hideki Matsuyama.

This month is the PGA Tour's Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. International players have dominated there recently, winning six of the past 10 times. Three of the past four Masters champions have been foreigners. The past three PGA Champions are international players. They've even taken the spotlight at the U.S. Open—our country's national championship—with five of the past seven winners coming from outside of the U.S.

The bottom line is that while the "Tiger Era" has come and gone, so, too, has our country's dominance in this sport. It's not that the rest of the world has just caught up to us. It's that they've moved ahead.