The success of international players at The Players Championship over the years is well-known.
That continued Friday as 11 of the top 18 golfers on the leaderboard were born outside the United States.
It’s not just a handful of countries that are producing the top players. Six countries are represented among the 11 international contenders headed into this weekend’s play. Three of the golfers have ties to England: Lee Westwood, Justin Rose and Brian Davis. Geoff Ogilvy, Matt Jones and John Senden are Australian, and Kevin Na and Sang-Moon Bae hail from South Korea. The remaining three non-U.S. golfers are current leader Martin Kaymer (Germany), Sergio Garcia (Spain) and Charl Schwartzel (South Africa).
Until Matt Kuchar edged Ben Curtis (England) and three others by two strokes to win The Players title in 2012, international players had put together a four-year run in which they captured the crystal trophy. Garcia started it in 2008 and was followed the following three years by Henrik Stenson (Sweden), Tim Clark (South Africa) and K.J. Choi (South Korea).
Ogilvy thinks the international vs. American concept is overplayed.
“I think it’s too hard to read too much into that these days. I mean, the Tour is pretty international these days,” said Ogilvy, whose 5-under 139 score left him in a 10-way tie for ninth place. “Most of those internationals in contention probably live in Florida.
“It’s hard to read too much into it now. Maybe 20 or 30 years ago [you could], but now it’s a pretty international tour. There’s a few guys who only play a few tournaments a year over here, but guys like Westwood have been coming here a pretty long time. Twenty years ago maybe, but now it’s to be expected in a field like this.”
The golfers Ogilvy referred to may play a lot here and some may indeed live here, but a number of them are still considered European players. Seven of the top international players are currently European Ryder Cup contenders — Garcia, Rose, Westwood and Stenson, along with Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Graeme McDowell (NIR) and Joost Luiten (Netherlands).
McDowell offered an explanation as to why some European Ryder Cup contenders are playing so well.
“When you’ve got the top 50 in the world being exempt here, and that being the main reason why you’ve got a lot of European players here, good players are going to play well on tough golf courses, so no other real reason for that,” said McDowell, who followed up his opening-round 69 with a 71 for a 140 total and a tie for 19th place.