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Tiger's challengers

Henrik Stenson’s win at the Match Play on the weekend caused quite a flurry among [photopress:stenson.jpg,full,alignright]American golf writers. Is Stenson, who had never won in the U.S. before, now truly a Top 5 player in the world? Is he a contender to Woods? What about the suddenly resurgent Charles Howell, who has been a bust for several years, but now suddenly appears to be emerging as the player most expected?

Only a few years ago, while Tiger was winning majors, Stenson couldn’t break par and couldn’t find a fairway. He reworked his swing and has become a force — he hits a very long ball and sported some fine iron play on the weekend against another top grade young talent, Geoff Ogilvy. But Even Stenson had a hard time with the notion that he’s now among the best in the world:

“I think I’ve just established myself within the top 20, and then just recently moved into the top 10,” Stenson said. “I mean, I can’t say that I go straight out and say, ‘I should be No. 5 or No. 6 in the world.’ But obviously, that’s where I am at the moment.”

Who else is now on that list. According to AP’s Doug Ferguson, the list of young contenders now includes Stenson, Ogilvy, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald, Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman. You’ll note that none of those names is American, something Ferguson takes notice of as well:

Howell and Lucas Glover are the only Americans under 30 who are among the top 50 in the world, and while that might sound troubling, it’s time to stop looking at golf from a nationalistic perspective. (source)

And Glover, in my mind, isn’t in the same category as the names previous, though it now appears Howell might be.

Not everyone sees it this way — ESPN’s Jason Stobel questions whether Henrik Stenson, with one victory on the PGA Tour, can actually be considered among the best in the game. I think it is a legitimate question. After all, Stenson’s victory on the weekend vaulted him past Vijay Singh, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els. And I’m not certain he’s in that category of players — guys who have won majors – at least yet. He also vaulted ahead of Ogilvy, who won the Accenture last year, came in second this year, and won the U.S. Open inbetween. Who does that figure?

Regardless of whether Stenson is the real deal, or fades without capitalizing on his newfound position, it is clear non-American players are now dominating the sport. Seven of the Top 10 in the world rankings are from outside the U.S.

I guess thats a mark of the strength of the European Tour, said Stenson, who earned the clinching point for Europe in the Ryder Cup last September and earlier this month defeated Woods in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. America is a big country and golf is big, but its easy to look at tournaments within the United States and maybe forget a little bit about the rest of the world. (Source)

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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  • Let me count palyers touted as ‘Tiger’s challengers’ in the last 12-14 months after some successes.

    – Luke Donald
    – Paul Casey
    – Geoff Ogilvy
    – Stuart Appleby
    – Philly Mac

    Truly, until they beat Woods on Sunday in a major tournament where they both are in the last few groups, I do not think they are legitimate ‘Tiger’s challengers’.

    BTW, the only person who did it was Philly Mac at the Masters last year. Too bad people paid more attention to the 2-driver strategy than him beat Tiger. Even Tiger admitted post-tournament that he really wanted to win that one for his dad.

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