It’s Spieth vs. the world

Danny Lee, here lining up a putt on No. 13 Thursday, is one of a glut of international players challenging for this Masters. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

Danny Lee, here lining up a putt on No. 13 Thursday, is one of a glut of international players challenging for this Masters. (Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/TNS)

AUGUSTA – Jordan Spieth is atop the Masters leaderboard (no news there). But look at the rest of gathering of eagles – well, mostly birdies – and his presence there takes on a little more nationalistic bent.

Spieth this morning represents the Donald Trump Flight of the Masters. Then there’s the rest of the world.

Those within three shots of his first-round lead represent one of the most diverse collections of international talent imaginable.

There’s Korea/New Zealand (Danny Lee). Ireland (Shane Lowry). England (Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Justin Rose). Denmark (Soren Kjeldsen). Spain (Sergio Garcia).

Grow the game worldwide (one of the big mantras around here)? Seems like it’s doing OK without any help from the Augusta National leadership.

In 1961 Gary Player became the first international player to win the Masters. That breakthrough took a while to gain any momentum, but by the 1980s, the face of the Masters routinely became one lifted from a well-used passport (think Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo).

Shifts in global golfing power are cyclical. There can be no doubt that we are in an age where rooting interests are spread all around this world. A glimpse at the hand-turned boards of Augusta just emphasizes that, when it seems they held a golf tournament and a security council meeting broke out.

Since Player’s watershed win, five of the seven continents have staked a claim to the green jacket. That leaves only Asia, a rather well-populated hunk of territory. Lee is Korean-born, but a naturalized citizen of New Zealand. One way or another, should he actually win, he’d put a new country on the board of Masters champions.

And Antarctica. Somewhere an emperor penguin is working on hitting the high draw.

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