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Australian men's golf in decline ?

So you thought Australian men's professional golf was in a healthy state, right?

Well think again, because an analysis of the world rankings shows that the overall standard of Australian golf in relation to the rest of the world has actually deteriorated over the past six years.

Consider that at the end of 1994, eight Australians were among the world's top 100 players, according to the rankings.

This included No.2 Greg Norman, who at the time was on his way back to top spot.

Now, only six Australians are in the top 100, with nobody in the top 25.

Going deeper into the rankings, there were 22 Australians in the top 200 at the end of '94, compared to 18 at present.

These figures don't reveal a dramatic difference, but they do shatter the myth that Australian golf is going from strength to strength.

And looking at the major championships, which is where performances count most, no Australian has won since Steve Elkington at the US PGA Championship in 1995.

Sure, Greg Norman, Craig Parry and Elkington have all had chances since then, but 17 majors have come and gone without an Australian victor.

Even worse, no Australian made the cut at last year's US PGA Championship, the first time that had happened in a major in some four decades.

And on the US Tour, where the best golf is played, only three Australians have won in the past six years - Norman, Elkington and Stuart Appleby.

Indeed, Appleby stands out as the lone overwhelming success story in this period.

Six years ago he was unranked, but now he is 27th, the best-placed Australian.

But look at his good mate Robert Allenby. He was ranked 48th at the end of '94, but now stands 108th, despite a promising start to the year.

Brett Ogle, Rodger Davis and Roger Mackay were also in the top 100 at the end of '94, but all are way below 200 now.

The rankings of Elkington, Craig Parry, Brad Hughes and Lucas Parsons remain much the same as they were six years ago.

Peter O'Malley has improved from 148th to 88th, but has pretty much plateaued the past few years, unable to rise any higher because of mediocre putting.

The other Australian to break into and remain in the top 100 in the past six years is Stephen Leaney, who at the end of '94 was outside the top 200.

Of course, with players from every continent except Antarctica in the top 100, golf is a true international sport, where it's impossible for any one country, even the US, to completely dominate.

But the fact remains that there's not much to show for all of Australia's junior development programs, both government-sponsored and private.

Then again, perhaps we should focus instead on women's golf, where Australia, in Karrie Webb, clearly has the world's best player.

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