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PGA Tour dominating view of world golf

The logo is a spinning globe with colors that represent the six major golf tours. And the name of this marquee event is a dead giveaway: the World Golf Championships.

But be careful anytime "world'' is part of any golf title. It's still mainly about the PGA Tour.

Colin Montgomerie and Jumbo Ozaki are among the names on the international ballot for the World Golf Hall of Fame, but the first question about their credentials is that neither have won on the PGA Tour.

"You can't have a guy win over 100 tournaments and not be in the Hall of Fame,'' Nick Price said.

Results won't be released until April.

The focus this week is on the latest edition of the World Golf Championships, and it should look familiar. The Accenture Match Play Championship starts this week at La Costa Resort, the same, soggy course where it has been played every year but one since its debut in 1999.

You won't see flags flying from 17 countries at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic or Pebble Beach. The elite, 64-man field is the smallest on either side of the winners-only Mercedes Championships and season-ending Tour Championship. But it still feels like just another stop on the PGA Tour.

"That's because you don't go outside America very often,'' said Peter Lonard of Australia. "For the guys that play the U.S. tour every week, it possibly blends in. To the rest of the world, it's a shot to play against the top dogs.''

The rest of the world is outnumbered this week.

True, there are only 27 Americans in the field at La Costa. But the number swells to 55 when you include the foreign-born players who have taken up membership on the PGA Tour this year.

The purse is greater than anything overseas -- $7.5 million, with $1.3 million going to the guy who makes it through five matches. But the PGA Tour has two regular events worth at least $6 million, and others are not far behind.

For most players, they have gone from Pebble Beach or Riviera to La Costa, and the next stop is Doral or Honda.

"It does feel like part of the normal schedule,'' Charles Howell III said. "It's the last event on the West Coast Swing. It's still very big, and it's still a World Golf Championship. And obviously, everyone wants to do well. But a lot of these guys already play in America.''

Most of them won't have to travel very far this year.

All three WGC events that count toward official money will be played in the United States this year, just like they were in 2003 and probably will again in 2007.

The NEC Invitational has never been played abroad. Five of the first six have been played at Firestone, where it should remain. Not only is the tree-lined course a classic test, that WGC event replaced the old World Series of Golf, back when the world seemed much larger.

The American Express Championship will be played later this year in San Francisco. Plans are to continue alternating sites between the United States and Europe; it was in Ireland last year and goes to London in 2006.

Officials are looking at other sites for the Accenture Match Play, although it probably won't leave American shores. The last time they tried that, more than two dozen eligible players -- most of them Americans -- decided that Australia was too far to travel so close to the holidays.

Tiger Woods was among those who didn't go to Australia. He doesn't expect Match Play to move, in part because the format sends half the field home after one round.

"You could be there for one day,'' Woods said.

That's what Europeans face after flying through at least eight time zones to get to La Costa.

"But a lot of guys are playing on tour now, so that's the difference,'' Woods said. "Most of the guys in this event are playing our tour full time.''

And that's one reason this "world'' championship is starting to feel more like another stop on the PGA Tour.

The World Golf Hall of Fame was built about 25 miles away from PGA Tour headquarters and is perceived as a place for those who have made their mark on tour. Even when Isao Aoki was inducted in November, mentioned prominently was his victory in the 1983 Hawaiian Open, when he became the first Japanese player to win a PGA Tour event.

Ozaki won 112 times in his career, all but one of those in Japan. He never won a major -- three of them are played in the United States -- and he never won on the PGA Tour.

"If it's an American Hall of Fame, he wouldn't be in it,'' Lonard said. "But if it's a World Golf Hall of Fame, Jumbo belongs in it. To get in the Hall of Fame, you have to win a lot, but you have to bring something to the game. Jumbo was massive in Japan. Jumbo was everything to Japanese golf for 15 years. He's all anyone spoke about.''

Montgomerie has never taken up PGA Tour membership. He has never won a major, but he has won 34 times around the world, and he won the European Tour money title seven straight years competing against the likes of Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Ernie Els and a young Vijay Singh.

"That will never be done again,'' Price said. "He dominated that tour like no other man has.''

Ozaki and Montgomerie belong in the Hall of Fame, as long as it's about the world of golf, and not the PGA Tour.

Sometimes, those lines get blurred.


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