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Where have the rivalries gone?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer had a natural rivalry as they played through the 1960s and 1970s.

Earlier in the current era, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were pitted against each other as rivals. And there have been plenty of others, but where are they now?

The biggest rivalry I can think of is the United States versus Europe, in the Ryder Cup. That has been a little one-sided lately since the Europeans have won four of the last five cups.

Rivalries provide a little spark and can help boost television ratings, but why have they flamed out? Part of it, is that the top players do not remain as dominant as long as they once did.

Sergio Garcia, at one time, looked to be a natural rival for Woods and Mickelson, but the Spaniard's game has fizzled. Garcia has just one top-10 finish this season and that came at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, where he took fourth place.

Another European, Ian Poulter, has run up a 5-2 record in two Ryder Cup appearances, but his win that Match Play Championship was his first on American soil.

The 20-something Americans (Dustin Johnson, Sean O'Hair, Anthony Kim, et al) are more friends than rivals.

The tide began to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when more Europeans started coming to the States to play college golf. That helped players from both tours to become more familiar with each other before they joined either the PGA Tour or European Tour.

Among some of the Europeans that played college golf in states include Luke Donald (Northwestern), U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (Alabama-Birmingham) and Pablo Martin (Oklahoma State).

It is tough to build a rivalry against someone when you play with him in college.

What the tour needs is a brash new player, who speaks his mind all the time and calls out other golfers.

My wish to become the new, 'hot' rivalry would pit the 25-year-old Kim, a former Oklahoma Sooner, against 21-year-old Rickie Fowler, who played his golf at Oklahoma State.

Those two are young golfers with lots of game and plenty of hype. Can it happen? Sure. The pessimist in me says once they get paired together on their first Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team, that rivalry would fizzle.

Maybe I am overlooking a more natural rivalry that will provide a little spark for the next few years. Who those combatants might be eludes me as the 2010 campaign winds to a close.

MONEY RACES DOWN TO THE WIRE

The PGA, European and LPGA Tours are down to the last few events of the 2010 season and that means the race for players to keep their playing privileges is coming to a close.

This week's Children's Miracle Network Classic on the PGA Tour is the final event. Woody Austin, Michael Allen and Troy Matteson are the final three players inside the top-125 on the PGA Tour money list entering this week.

Matteson won last year, so his card for 2011 is secure. However, Austin and Allen are playing at Disney World in hopes of earning enough money to keep their tour card for next season.

Among those outside the top 125 entering the week were Bob Estes, Scott McCarron, Tom Pernice, Jr., two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen and Matt Every.

Pernice has a fallback plan, the Champions Tour. He split his time between the tours this year. Every is playing for the first time in three months after being suspended by the tour. He was arrested earlier in the year for possession of marijuana, but denies the charges.

Every started the week ranked No. 158 and needs to get inside at least the top 150 to keep conditional playing status for 2011.

The European Tour has two full field events left, including this week's Singapore Open. The top 115 in the Race to Dubai will keep their cards for next year.

Francois Delamontagne, Markus Brier, Sion E. Bebb and Jose-Filipe Lima are among those on the outside looking in.

The LPGA Tour is the toughest for players to keep their status for 2011. Only the top-80 on the money list keep their tour cards for next year.

The LPGA Tour Championship, scheduled for Dec. 2-5, is the final full-field event. It will also be the first full-field event since the Navistar LPGA Classic, which was Oct. 1-4.

Among those outside the top 80 entering this week's Lorena Ochoa Invitational were Jane Park, eight-time LPGA Tour winners Rachel Hetherington and Mi Hyun Kim, four-time champion Lorie Kane, Paige Mackenzie, Laura Diaz and 2004 Kraft Nabisco Championship winner Grace Park.

MINI-TIDBITS

- One interesting side note to the race to get in the top-125 on the PGA Tour money list. Troy Merritt enters the week at No. 121 on the money list. He also leads the Kodak Challenge by a stroke. He could win the Kodak Challenge and lose his tour card if he has a bad week. Players must play 18 of the 30 Kodak Challenge holes to be eligible to win. Merritt leads Aaron Baddeley and Rickie Fowler by one shot in the challenge.

- A non-golf note to wrap up the column, happy Veterans Day to all who served in the military.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

Follow Kevin Currie on Twitter and Facebook.

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