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Maybe it's time to stop bashing the Americans and just say that golf is a truly international game.

Maybe not.The PGA Championship opens at Southern Hills Country Club on Thursday with the United States facing its first shutout in the four major championships since the Masters was created in 1934.

With three majors gone, the winners this year were Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain in the Masters, Ernie Els of South Africa in the U.S. Open and Nick Price of Zimbabwe in the British Open.

Yes, Americans have lost their lock on the major championships. And, yes the winners' list this year on the PGA Tour reads more like a Who's That than a Who's Who.

But no other country is dominating the game, either. Winners are coming from all over the globe.

Maybe what it all all adds up to is this:

Golf HAS become a truly international game, but the Americans STILL should be bashed.

"American golf is getting hammered," said Paul Azinger, the defending PGA champion just returning to competition after a year sidelined with cancer. "It's tiring listening to that. We are all golfers. Some are born in South Africa, some are born in America. I think it's a wonderful thing that there is so much competition."

Competition there is. Consider this:

Seven of the last nine major championships have been won by non-Americans. Six of those seven foreign winners have been different people from six different countries.

Beyond Price, Els and Olazabal, there was Greg Norman of Australia in the 1993 British Open, Bernhard Langer of Germany in the 1993 Masters and Nick Faldo of England in the 1992 British Open.

The only American winners in that stretch back to the '92 British Open were Azinger, in last year's PGA, and Lee Janzen, in last year's U.S. Open.

Price was the only repeat winner, taking the 1992 PGA along with this year's British Open.

Clearly, the foreign players have shown an astonishing depth. It's THEM against US and the THEMS from just about anywhere have shown they can beat US.

"Everyone wants to beat the Americans because the Americans have always been the best, whether in sports or war," Azinger said. "`Anyone from just about anywhere could win."

In fact, the anyones from just about anywhere in the United States have shown they can win on the PGA Tour.

Consider this:

The only multiple winner on the PGA Tour this year is Price, who has three tour wins plus the British Open.

Going into the Buick Open, seven PGA Tour events since the third week of March were claimed by first-time winners.

Jot down these names:

Loren Roberts, Mike Springer, Mike Heinen, Neal Lancaster, Tom Lehman, Brian Henninger and Dicky Pride.

Are you betting on any of them this week in the PGA?

Likely not.

The first names to go in the office pools are still Price, Norman, Faldo, maybe Els, Olazabal and Langer.

When it comes time to list American contenders, who do we name? Tom Watson, 44 and a non-winner since 1987; Fuzzy Zoeller, 42 and a non-winner since 1986; Raymond Floyd, 51, Hale Irwin, 49, Tom Kite, 44, and Ben Crenshaw, 42.

Among the young studs, Janzen has been inconsistent since winning the U.S. Open in 1993; Fred Couples took the Masters in 1992 and appeared to be among the best in the world before a messy divorce distracted him and a back injury shelved him.

And Azinger, winner of three tournaments in 1993, including the PGA, in the top-three 10 times - the most since Watson in 1980 - and possessor of at least one victory each year since 1987, had his run at greatness slowed by cancer late last year.

Watson says the foreign domination is partly a cyclical thing.

"We are just in an era now where players from overseas have won more majors," he said.

But Watson also thinks American golfers have become less competitive for two reasons: Easy entries and easy earnings.

"It might have to do with the all-exempt tour," Watson said. "It doesn't promote the competition the old tour did. Monday qualifying was a big character builder."

And then there is money.

"I truly believe that money corrupts desire," said Watson, who is the only American to finish in the top 10 in all three major championships this year.

"Not only in golf but in pro sports everywhere, and in business," he said. "Some of the fear of not having it goes away. When that fear leaves you, your desire probably weakens," Watson said.

"If you didn't finish in the top 30 money winners when I first came on the tour, you probably weren't breaking even."

Going into the Buick Open, Janzen was in 30th place on this year's money list and had already won $359,295. And 127 players had won more than $100,000 for the year.

Now the question is this: Can these wealthy Americans win more than money? Can they win a tournament that counts and salvage the year by keeping the PGA championship here?