Australian Golfers `Down Under' Par

Article excerpt

PONTE VEDRA BEACH -- For an indication of the current state of

Australian golf, look no farther than the leaderboard of The

Players Championship.

Steve Elkington is on top in a bid to win the title he captured

from behind in 1991. Craig Parry, the diminutive but muscular

ball of energy, is only three shots back.

And lurking behind with the games to make late runs are 1994

Players champion Greg Norman and Stuart Appleby, who won the

Honda Classic and finished second in the Bay Hill Invitational

in the past two weeks.

Aussie Rules, indeed.

With Norman and Elkington remaining among the most dangerous

players in the world, Parry coming off five consistent years on

the PGA Tour in which he has finished between 43rd and 65th on

the money list and Appleby bursting on the scene with his Honda

triumph, Australians are showing the form that made them among

the formidable international golfers to play in America -- and

the world -- in the early 1990s.

"There aren't quite as many of us playing as well as back

then," said Parry. "I think those were the best years for

Australian golf. It really was quite good, wasn't it? But it

looks like we may be getting back to having that many good

players."

When the 1990s began, the Aussies were seemingly everywhere,

winning championships with muscular drives off the tee, precise

iron play and nerves of steel on the greens. At one point,

during 1991, 13 Australian golfers were among the top 100

players in the world rankings.

During the first three years of this decade, Norman and Ian

Baker-Finch won British Opens, and Wayne Grady won a PGA

Championship. …