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Golf History 1961 - Today: The Global Game

The record books do not lie and Scottish Golf, though healthy at home, was faring ill abroad. The game had become truly global with players from Taiwan and Japan threatening for major honours. The Swedes were gathering amateur honours throughout Europe and there seemed no end to the talent emerging from Spain.

American Golf had come into maturity with a vengeance in the form of Arnold Palmer. Palmer played the game as it should be played - with verve and a swashbuckling style. Palmer was of course idolised in his own country but he found real appreciation in the discerning crowds that lined the links fairways of the Open Championship. Together with Tip Anderson, his St Andrews caddie, Palmer was lord of every links he surveyed.

In Palmers absence in 1964, Tip Anderson carried the bag of Tony Lema through the most testing gales on the Old Course. It was Lema's win more than any other event that put paid to the excuse that the game had changed and that the new form of golf required only an accurate lofted shot to a soft pulpy green - a shot at which the Americans were clearly adept. The leader board of the '64 Open showed that Jack Nicklaus and plenty more US stars could play the chip-and-run under the wind as well as any that had gone before and as well as any of the home bred players.

The reason for the Scottish golfing hiatus during this period may be simply statistical, as the game had grown to the extent that the numbers now playing in every developed country dwarfed the numbers playing in Scotland. There is no doubt that the game itself had changed with the new courses that were being built throughout the world. American architects led by Robert Trent Jones were building courses that were both long and difficult. Greens were soft and holding in contrast to the hard running greens of the links. The grassy fairways presented another type of problem as the ball sat up on the lush grasses and required club contact quite different to that on the tight lies of the links. Possibly of greater significance was the early adoption in the US of the 'big ball' - the 1.66-inch ball that required a different strike and made for greater control.

Great exponents of the game poured out of the US and the US Tour was becoming a multi-million dollar industry with even mediocre golfers, grossing millions of dollars not only through tournament play but also through commercial endorsements. Tip Anderson was still caddying at home in St Andrews when he attained celebrity status in the US without ever setting foot outside the British Isles, backing Palmer in a beer commercial. Television coverage ensured star-status for many players and the American College System, to their credit, acted as a virtual conveyor belt of talent.

Following the foundation of the European Tour and the opening of the Ryder Cup to European players, sponsorship grew and European golf blossomed into a money market comparable to that of the US tour. One final ingredient was required however - a star with the charisma of a Palmer and the appeal of a Nicklaus. And so as they say, a star was born. 1979 saw a smiling young genius becoming the first Spaniard to win the Open, with Jack Nicklaus coming second in the race for the Claret Jug for a record seventh time - Seve had arrived on the world scene.

The 1980's began with Seve Ballesteros becoming the first European to win the Masters and at 23 years old, the then youngest champion. Nicklaus however, continued his remarkable career with his fifth double-major year, winning his fourth US Open and fifth PGA title. Seve won his second Masters title in 1983 and the following season, he collected his second Open Championship when finishing two strokes ahead of Bernhard Langer and Tom Watson, who was attempting to equal Harry Vardon's record of six Open Championship successes.