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World tournaments, all hosted in the USA

They're called the World Golf Championships, but the fifth season of the Federation of PGA Tours series of elite events has been an all-American show.

However, PGA Tour officials insist that the 2003 season was an aberration of scheduling, and that the year 2005 and beyond will see more international venues worked into the four-tournament WGC rotation.

The third WGC event, the American Express Championship, begins today at the Capital City Club's Crabapple Course, north of Atlanta. The Accenture Match Play was held in February at the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., and the NEC Invitational was played in August at the Firestone Golf and Country Club in Akron, Ohio.

In November, the final WGC event, the EMC World Cup (a two-man team event for unofficial money), will be played at the Ocean Course in Kiawah Island, S.C. -- which means that not only were all four events in the U.S. this year, but three were in the Eastern Time Zone.

Since the tournaments were created as a result of a federation of six professional tours worldwide, 12 of the 19 by the end of this season will have been played or scheduled in the U.S. (the 2001 American Express Championship in St. Louis was canceled because of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11). The NEC has never been played outside of the U.S. and the Accenture Match Play has gone to another country only once, Australia in 2001.

Mike Bodney, the Tour's senior vice-president of championship management, said a 2-2 split of events in the U.S. and overseas is difficult, given that the six tours in the federation have schedules that overlap.

"We have to consider all six tours, which cover most of the world, into consideration," Bodney said yesterday. "It's very difficult to say you'll always have two in the U.S. and two in other countries."

Bodney also pointed out that the Tour has been able to schedule two WGC events overseas in one year in 2000 and 2002, will do so again in 2004 and 2006. Sites in China, Japan, South African and England are under consideration.

Some foreign players grumbled when the 2003 schedule was released. But most accept the fact that tournament sponsors such as American Express and Accenture are likely to want the tournaments in the U.S. in most years. Plus, television coverage is driven by U.S. ratings.

"The year they took the Match Play to Australia didn't produce very good TV back in the U.S.," said Stuart Appleby, a native of that country. "Sure, you'd like to see some of the events played in as many different countries as possible, but you have to go where the TV and the sponsors want you."

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