Tour De Force The European tour lacks big names but not serious games

May 24, 1998

No matter how many Ryder Cups and Masters titles Europeans win,
the European tour gets dissed and dismissed on this side of the
Atlantic. "Their tour doesn't come close to ours in any
department," Mark Calcavecchia said in 1989, voicing a view
still shared by most American players.

Today, though, the numbers tell a different story. Not only are
Euro tourists the statistical equals of their U.S. counterparts,
but they also surpass the PGA Tour's best in five of six major
stat categories. (The chart below shows the numbers of the two
tours' leaders, with tour averages in parentheses.)

"The European tour has become much stronger than American fans
realize, especially among the better players," says CBS golf
announcer Peter Oosterhuis, who covered the Euros in 1996 and
'97 for the Golf Channel. Americans know Colin Montgomerie, Jose
Maria Olazabal and Lee Westwood but may not have heard of such
young stars as Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Andrew Coltart,
Padraig Harrington, Per Haugsrud, Per-Ulrik Johansson (above)
and Paul McGinley, who are among the biggest names on the tour
across the pond.

The Euro tour's liftoff has been fueled by lavishly funded
national junior development programs, many of them modeled on
Sweden's system, which is represented by 24 male European tour
pros as well as the LPGA's Helen Alfredsson, Liselotte Neumann
and Annika Sorenstam. Another factor in the Europeans' favor,
oddly enough, is their tour's notoriously ragged courses.
"Playing under such poor conditions prepares them for anything,"
says Oosterhuis. "They can hit all the shots, and they have
superb short games."

Europe's deepening talent reservoir has the Continent's old
guard sounding almost smug. "Our tour is the strongest it has
been since I came out here," says Montgomerie, a former critic
of conditions on the circuit he has long dominated. "It's a
positive time indeed for the European tour."

COLOR PHOTO: BOB MARTIN [Per-Ulrik Johansson golfing]

European Tour PGA Tour

Scoring Jose Maria Olazabal Tiger Woods
68.96 (72.27) 69.41 (71.41)

Greens in Regulation Alex Cejka Steve Flesch
80.3% (67.8%) 71.7% (64.3%)

Putts per Greens John Bickerton David Duval
in Regulation 1.688 (1.810) 1.707 (1.779)

Sand Saves Peter O'Malley Esteban Toledo
100% (53.1%) 71.2% (51.5%)

Driving Distance Emanuele Canonica John Daly
294.3 (265.1) 297.4 (269.3)

Driving Accuracy Van Phillips Fred Funk
81.7% (65.4%) 81.1% (70.2%) 258

FAST FROSH

Se Ri Pak went five months without finishing better than 11th in
an LPGA event, but her first top 10 showing was a win in a
major. Pak's victory at last week's LPGA Championship invites
comparison with the first-year achievements of the game's best
players. Here are 10 notable rookie seasons.

MONEY TOP 10S WINS

Nancy Lopez, '78 $161,235 14 9
Karrie Webb, '96 1,002,000 17 4
Jack Nicklaus, '62 61,869 16 3
Laura Davies, '88 160,382 3 2
Tiger Woods, '96 790,594 5 2
Arnold Palmer, '55 7,958 8 1
Fred Couples, '81 78,939 4 0
David Duval, '95 881,436 8 0
Mark O'Meara, '81 76,063 4 0
Annika Sorenstam, '94 127,451 3 0

OPEN SEASON

European players have won seven of the last 11 Masters but are 0
for 27 in the U.S. Open since Tony Jacklin's triumph in 1970 at
Hazeltine. Here are the best Euro finishers in the '90s.

YEAR FINISH PLAYER

1990 3rd Nick Faldo
1991 8th Jose Maria Olazabal
1992 3rd Colin Montgomerie
1993 16th Barry Lane
1994 2nd Colin Montgomerie
1995 13th Mark Roe
1996 10th Colin Montgomerie
1997 2nd Colin Montgomerie

THE NUMBER

258
Senior Events played since Larry Ziegler, the winner at last
week's Saint Luke's Classic, had won a tournament.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)