Global golf marks Masters

2011-04-08 16:41
Rory McIlroy (AFP)
Augusta - The Masters second day leaderboard greeting fans on Friday morning was clear testament to the credo that golf has truly gone global.

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Nine international players were among the 13 players in the top 10, including the top four and joint leaders Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland and Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Only four are Americans and they do not include star turns like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

The globalisation of the game is nothing new of course having started with the resurgence of European golf in the 1980s and continuing with the growth of the game in Asia over the last decade.

But seldom on US soil has it been so evident as it was here on Thursday and the prospects of another "international" winner of the Masters here on Sunday, after Argentina's Angel Cabrera in 2009 and Trevor Immelman of South Africa in 2008, have never been higher.

Part of the reason for that is down to the undoubted mystique of the Masters which sees most players familiar with the course and its particular demands even before they get here.

Joint first round leaders McIlroy and Quiros agreed that they both grew up with Georgia and the Masters very much on their minds.

"The first one I really remember was '96 when (Nick) Faldo won, and then I could nearly tell you every shot Tiger hit in '97. Yeah and every one since," said 21-year-old McIlroy who is competing in his third Masters.

The 28-year-old Quiros is also at Augusta National for the third time, but his 65 on Thursday was the first time he had succeeded in getting to grips with the course he first spied from afar.

"I was talking with my caddie about it, walking up the 18th hole," he said.

"It looks like I was playing on the Sunday afternoon in the leading group. I mean it was a very nice feeling because normally I'm watching this situation through the TV sitting on the sofa."

For Korean pair Yang Yong-Eun and K.J. Choi, who were setting out on Friday tied for third place, the familiarity with the course comes from the fact that some layouts back home are clearly taken from the Augusta National blueprint.

"Back in 1999 when I won the Korean Open at Seoul Country Club, this course has the same aura and same atmosphere as Seoul Country club.

"There are a lot of tall pine trees over there. The greens are firm, really protected, surrounded by pine trees. And even the winds can get gusty here. It's like a stadium so to speak."

For compatriot Yang the realisation that one day he could win at Augusta National came with his shock win in the 2009 USPGA, when he became the first Asian to win a major.

"Winning a major is not a privilege, but more of an honour really and with that honour comes a lot of confidence," he said.

"So coming into the Masters it's no longer a dream for you and it does wonders for you once you know that it's something that you can grasp." The Masters second day leaderboard greeting fans here on Friday morning was clear testament to the credo that golf has truly gone global.

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