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SI FOR KIDS
At this time a year ago, European tour veterans were bemoaning the dearth of new talent on their circuit, especially when compared with the number of young players making a mark on the U.S. Tour. The old hands are no longer concerned. Not only did the kids from the Continent play a key role in Europe's Ryder Cup victoryThomas Bjorn (age 26), Darren Clarke (29), Ignacio Garrido (25) and Lee Westwood (24) accounted for six of 14 1/2 European pointsbut they also won several tournaments and climbed in the World Ranking. Westwood has come the furthest, winning three times, including a victory over Greg Norman at the Australian Open in November, and rising to 21st from 64th at this time last year.
Additionally, a group of fresh-faced Europeans who didn't make the Ryder Cup team also improved. During the week of the match in Valderrama, 26-year-old Gabriel Hjertstedt became the first Swede to win a PGA Tour event, the B.C. Open in Endicott, N.Y. Also, Ireland's Padraig Harrington (age 26) teamed with Paul McGinley (31) to win the World Cup in Kiawah Island, S.C., in November. Before the year was out, Westwood's soon-to-be brother-in-law, Andrew Coltart, a 27-year-old Scot, won the Australian PGA.
No one at last week's European tour opener in Thailand was surprised to see Coltart, Westwood and Germany's Alexander Cejka (age 27) tie for fourth and Harrington tie for eighth. "The standard of European golf rose considerably last year, thanks mainly to our young players," says Colin Montgomerie. "They've proven they can compete on the world stage."
Issue date: February 2, 1998
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