A competition better than the Ryder Cup

DUBLIN, Ohio (AP) — The Memorial has come a long way since its inception three decades ago, mostly because the players have traveled a long way to get here. They come from every continent where golf is played, representing 15 countries.

Then again, it's like that just about every week on the PGA Tour.

That's good news for Tim Finchem, commissioner of the richest and most powerful golf tour in the world.

It is becoming a problem for George O'Grady, commissioner of a European Tour that is losing its players, if not its identity.

The Wales Open this week has but one of the top 10 players in the world — Retief Goosen — and four of the top 50. Most of the European-born stars are at Muirfield Village, from Luke Donald to Paul Casey, from Sergio Garcia to Jose Maria Olazabal. The Irish Open wasn't much better, coming one week after The Players Championship.

"We're not in conflict with the PGA Tour," O'Grady said last week at the BMW Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour. "The PGA Tour opened their doors to the best golfers in the world, made them welcome."

And those players gladly walked through the door.

That's worth keeping in mind during a U.S.-Europe competition that is becoming far more compelling than the Ryder Cup.

Golf has never been more global, but that takes on different meaning depending on the tour. The European Tour is global because of where it goes, a schedule that touches five continents. The PGA Tour is global because of the players it gets.

The PGA Tour, clearly, is the rising tide in golf. The question is whether it is lifting all ships, or drowning them.

Vijay Singh stirred the pot last week at Wentworth when he said the BMW Championship was "even bigger" than The Players Championship. Singh went on to say he was saddened that Europeans had no trouble traveling to Sawgrass for The Players, but hardly any Americans bothered coming over to Wentworth.

"I would like to see a lot more Americans coming over and trying to play this tournament," Singh said.

What he conveniently failed to explain was why it was only the third time in the last 10 years he played the BMW Championship if he had such strong feelings for the tournament. And perhaps the simple explanation why Europeans come to The Players Championship is that most of them are joint members of the European and PGA tours.

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