Masters highlights growing pains of global golf

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JACKSONVILLE, FLA. (AP) - Masters champion Charl Schwartzel first showed his potential on a big stage last year in the World Golf Championship at Doral when he went toe-to-toe with Ernie Els until losing ground at the end.

As the two South Africans shook hands on the 18th green, Els took note of the $850,000 that Schwartzel received as runner-up and said to his protege, “Congratulations. That’s your tour card for the U.S.”

Schwartzel became a PGA Tour member this year, as did U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen. For all the talk about Americans being without a major for the first time in 17 years, their tour remains as strong as ever.

With few exceptions _ including Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the top two players in the world ranking _ the U.S. tour continues to attract the best from all over the world.

That much appears to be lost on the commissioner of the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.

“The internationals now hold the power in golf,” Gareth Tindall said Tuesday in announcing a new World Golf Championship for South Africa. “For how long, we don’t know.”

Part of Tindall was speaking from national pride, and rightfully so.

South Africans historically have had to travel the most and the greatest distance to develop their games on a worldwide scale. Yet they now have won two of the last three majors, and they have five major champions in the last nine years, a list that includes Els, Retief Goosen and Trevor Immelman.

All of them are PGA Tour members now, but it’s important to remember where they started. So when PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem says it’s good for golf that other tours are strong, that’s because it makes his tour even stronger.

There is speculation that a new WGC for South Africa was the product of a compromise.

The global schedule in golf is getting so crowded that the South African Open was placed during the same week as the Presidents Cup in Australia. This became a problem when five South Africans occupied the first six spots in the Presidents Cup standing _ all five placing among the top 10 in their national open, with Els as the defending champion.

That led to threats the South Africans wouldn’t play the Presidents Cup.

Some questions remained unanswered.

The Presidents Cup announced its dates _ Nov. 17-20 _ more than a year before the South African Open said it would be played the same time. Why would the South African Open take that spot on the schedule unless it knew it could use that to its advantage in trying to land a World Golf Championship?

Els was furious in January when he learned of the conflict. Why wouldn’t South Africa have spoken to him first?

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