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'World' Golf Championships anchored in U.S.

MARANA, Arizona (AP) — This being an election year in the United States, a popular question seemed appropriate for golf's most seasoned politician.

Are the World Golf Championships better off than they were 10 years ago?

"I think they've matured," PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said before flying out to the high desert to celebrate the 10th year of this lucrative series. "There's more history, more stuff to talk about, more memories. That's true with any tournament."

Maybe that's the problem.

The longer the "World" Golf Championships are anchored in America, the more they look like any other tournament. As more PGA Tour events keep raising their standards, the more they rival WGC events that were meant to be special.

"I don't see them moving forward," Adam Scott said, an opinion shared by many of his peers. "It's not different for the money. They're not playing them on great golf courses. It's just another event. They've lost some of the luster they once had."

Given a full menu of great tournaments, British Open champion Padraig Harrington is skipping the next one at Doral.

"I don't think I would have 10 years ago," he said.

The WGCs have brought together players from around the world, and that's never a bad thing. It also doesn't hurt that their history and highlights revolve around the world's No. 1 player.

The entrance to Dove Mountain, where the Accenture Match Play Championship is being held for the second straight year, is lined with banners of past WGC winners, two champions for each wooden post. Each post has at least one photo of Tiger Woods, which only makes sense. In the 26 tournaments, Woods has won 14 times and earned more than $18.5 million.

His highlight reel from the WGCs alone is substantive, both as victor and victim.

Woods won in the dark by 11 shots at Firestone, where fans flicked their lighters as if they were at a rock concert. And speaking of rock concerts, could anything top the energy in San Francisco when Woods and John Daly squared off in a playoff?

There was Darren Clarke going through cigars as easily as he smoked Woods in the Match Play final at La Costa in 2000.

Woods hit three perfect shots and made triple bogey on the 17th hole at Valderrama, but still managed to get into a playoff and beat Miguel Angel Jimenez as the Spanish Civil Guard stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the 18th fairway in the event of chaos.

Even so, the memories are outweighed by "more stuff to talk about," and it goes back to what Scott said.

How do they move forward when they don't appear to be moving anywhere at all?

"It would be great if, like their name, they actually were held around the world," Lee Westwood said. "It's a disgrace. You might as well call them the World Golf Championships of America. They're just like any regular U.S. tour event. It's a good way for getting players to come to the states more regularly. But they're not World Golf Championships."

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