Greg Norman was ahead of his time.

You may recall his campaign to introduce a world golf tour during the mid-’90s was met with heavy resistance by Tim Finchem and the US PGA Tour. Apparently the proposed 10-event swing around the globe would have violated all the rules of player logistics, and when US PGA Tour players were threatened with suspensions if they took part, the concept was quickly put on the scrapheap. Norman and Finchem held successful peace talks and nothing more was said about the matter.

Now, some 20 years later, there was no escaping the irony when Finchem told media at the World Cup of Golf in Melbourne that he plans to open an office Down Under in response to the rapid growth of the sport in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We are positioning staff here in Australia full-time and that will give us an opportunity to work more closely with golf organisations in Australia to see if there’s anything more we can do,” said Finchem, who will retire as US PGA Tour commissioner on January 1.

On the surface it sounds fantastic: the richest and most powerful body in the sport wanting to lend a hand in these times of need. With a Presidents Cup and another World Cup slated for the Melbourne sandbelt within the next five to six years, there’s no question Australia is a hotbed for international golf and one the US PGA Tour wants to service. But let’s not be naïve – this is about more than just helping out a little brother.

“It’s been quite evident for a while now that the US PGA Tour is on a mission to rule golf around the globe,” said one insider who commentates at various international tournaments. “This push into Australia is another step in that process and before too long I think we’ll see the European Tour fall into the US PGA Tour and we’ll have a few second-tier tours all operating under the US PGA Tour umbrella.”

With the US PGA Tour already launching tournaments in China, Malaysia and South Korea, not to mention its control of the Canadian and Latino American tours, Australia seems a natural fit in its expansion plans.

“A world tour now seems inevitable,” says our insider. “It’s not the first time they’ve set up camp here in Australia but one feels this time, it’s permanent.”

But Finchem made it clear there were no immediate plans to co-sanction any Australian tournaments to the US PGA Tour. “You have to make that happen,” Finchem said of the huge prizemoney US PGA Tour events command.

A company that, according to its most recent tax report in 2011, turned over more than $1 billion in revenue, would surely be willing to throw some greenbacks our way in its push for global domination?

“But really its a scheduling issue in terms of we are basically wall-to-wall,” Finchem added.

Well, he’s right about that one – the US PGA Tour schedule is wall-to-wall thanks to Finchem’s new wraparound calendar that effectively killed golf’s “off-season” and with it Australia’s chance to attract more big names Down Under for our summer of golf. How much longer can we keep attracting Jordan Spieth to our shores?

The US PGA Tour can and inevitably will change all that by adding an Australian stopover on its schedule because the players are all for it. We have the best tournament courses in the world and when you combine that with a US PGA Tour purse, FedEx Cup and world ranking points, you have one shiny carrot to dangle.

“It’s an amazing country and the golf courses obviously have extremely good reputations,” Scottish world No.18 Russell Knox told media at the World Cup of Golf. “If you’re going to sit on a plane for 12 hours (to play in Asia), well 16, another four’s not going to kill you.”

But Finchem remained non-committal for now.

“We certainly aren’t saying we will not play co-sanctioned events or some kind of event here,” Finchem said. “We’re always open to looking at everything, it’s just in the immediate future I think it would be tough.”

Tough to admit Norman was right, perhaps?

How’s this for a thought? Move China’s WGC event to Melbourne, wedge it in between the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship and watch the big names come Down Under.

There’s no denying Finchem will go down as one of the great sports administrators of his time. If you were to look at his KPIs for golf in America, he has hit them all with flying colours. Yet what legacy he leaves on the sport internationally may well hinge on how far in the US PGA Tour can dig its heels in Australia.

Brad Clifton
Editor-in-Chief @bradcliffo