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World Tour, as long as it's in the USA

Eight months ago, Jeff Maggert chipped in on the 38th hole to win the Match Play at La Costa Resort in a dynamic start to the inaugural World Golf Championship series.

Maybe it should have stopped there.

The final WGC event of the year will be played this week at Valderrama, and already some wise guys are suggesting the acronym should stand for, ``Who's Gonna Come?''

Not David Duval. He's fishing in Idaho.

Not Mark O'Meara. The way he's playing, he figures it would be a waste of time.

Fred Couples, Steve Stricker and Lee Janzen are also staying home this week, and Davis Love III nearly joined them.

The absence of seven players from the top 50 in the world rankings -- all are American-based except for Jumbo Ozaki, who rarely leaves Japan -- suggests one glaring problem.

A world tour is a great idea, as long as it's not played all over the world.

``They have their reasons. They're all different,'' said Tiger Woods, whose presence takes some of the sting out of so many no-shows.

But there is clearly some animosity at Valderrama.

``I hope he catches a couple of big ones,'' Darren Clarke said of Duval.

Lee Westwood also sounded put off Tuesday by the fact European players were willing to go to the United States -- twice -- only to see so many Americans refuse to come to their party in this vacation spot along the Mediterranean.

Westwood believes the WGC events can become prestigious, a notch below the major championships, once the kinks are worked out of them.

``They obviously need some fine-tuning,'' Westwood said, ``or people wouldn't be pulling out, would they?''

The concept for the WGC was to bring together the best players from all over the world. If that wasn't enticing enough, the purses were raised to astronomical levels, at least by European standards, with $1 million going to the winner from a $5 million purse.

But tour officials decided each WGC event should have its own identity, which is only a smaller part of the problem. The larger issue is moving the events around the world and around the calendar.

The first Match Play Championship, played the last week in February near San Diego, was a huge success. Maggert and Andrew Magee didn't provide the marquee matchup in the finals, but their golf was brilliant.

The NEC Invitational, a stroke-play tournament with a match-play field, turned out to be an indirect payment for those who made the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup. The 41-man field left out several players from the top 41 in the world rankings, but included Greg Turner (No. 82) and Frank Nobilo, who finished 155th on the PGA Tour money list.

And the next NEC could have some real no-namers.

The European tour recently announced that its ``Ryder Cup'' team will feature the top 12 on its money list next August. It's possible, although unlikely, that Colin Montgomerie could be ranked No. 3 in the world and not go to the WGC event if he gets off to a slow start next year.

As for the American Express Championship, the biggest problem is the time (end of the year) and place (Spain).

The idea was to cap a blockbuster year with a bang. What it could get is a fizzle, unless Woods goes out in style by becoming the first player since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win four straight tournaments.

Americans have little incentive to come to Europe after a long, taxing year. And the high U.S. purses have produced seven players who already have won at least $2 million -- about the same amount as Colin Montgomerie in his record-setting season.

Of course, Europeans weren't thrilled about going to California for the Match Play the last week of February with a lot of rust and not much sleep. Five Europeans were knocked out in the first round and faced a long flight home.

What to do?

One idea is to package the WGC around the majors. Move the Match Play to a few weeks after the Masters, and the American Express earlier in the year, perhaps in the weeks before or after the British Open.

``The only problem with that would be ... there's too many big events together,'' Woods said. ``I don't know where you could place this event. I think you need to let this play out for a few years and then take a look at it.''

No one doubts that golf has gone global. The trick now is for the tours to figure out how to get everyone in the same place at the right time, because money isn't enough.