Small countries make Major impact

2011-07-30 19:06

Charl Schwartzel’s rise to a career high of ninth in the world rankings this week confirmed again the ­remarkable depth in world golf at the moment, and the possibility for more surprises in the Majors.

As good as Tiger Woods was for the game of golf, it can be argued that his absence is equally good at the moment.

Since Woods’ demise and amid the uncertainty surrounding his ­return, a whole host of new storylines have emerged.

This is nowhere more evident than in the Majors.

Three of the last six Major winners – Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke – hail from Northern Ireland, a country roughly the size of the US state of Indiana with a population of about 1.7?­million. That’s even less than the population of Tshwane.

And two of the last six Major ­winners are from South Africa – ­Louis Oosthuizen and Schwartzel – a country slightly less than twice
the size of Texas, but which has produced the most Major champions outside of the US since World War II.

The recent Major dominance of two such small countries is in stark contrast to that of the most dominant country in golf’s history, the US.

With Clarke’s victory in the Open Championship at Royal St George’s, there has not been a single American winner in the last six Majors.

Phil ­Mickelson’s Masters triumph last year is the lone recent Major win for the US, making it the golfing ­giant’s worst run in the Majors since 1934, when the Masters was launched.

This is also the first time since 1994 – the same year Tiger Woods became the youngest winner of the US Amateur tournament – that an American is not the holder of at least one of the four Majors.

Schwartzel is now the only South African ranked within the top 10 in the world, a title for so long held by Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, who have dropped to 25th and 20th ­respectively.

Schwartzel is also the only South African within the top 10 on the European Tour’s Race to Dubai rankings, currently holding second place.

This kind of performance hasn’t gone unnoticed.

The governing body of the Official World Golf Ranking ­announced this week that it will now ­be awarding points to the Sunshine Tour’s 54-hole tournaments.

This is a major recognition for what is traditionally known as the winter portion of the Sunshine Tour, and ­also a world first for tournaments shorter than 72 holes.

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