David Hearn lines up a putt in the Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club in Humble, Texas, where he finished tied for sixth. ((Michael Cohen/Getty Images) )

Follow men's professional touring golf and you can't escape the lack of results by Canadian players.

This marks the third year where there really hasn't been a lot to get excited about, with David Hearn's T6 in the Houston Open the lone result to raise an eyebrow this season (the malaise extends further back for women, but that's a discussion for another time).

Analyzing why, though, requires a few more layers of the proverbial onion to be peeled back.

First, Canada presently has six golfers holding some form of PGA Tour membership. That's not a bad number, and only the group of men that included Dave Barr, Dan Halldorson and Richard Zokol in the 1980s can rival it.

There has also been a spike in amateur golfers, though the country has had its share going back decades, so it's not as if Canada is hacking away in the wilderness.

Which begs the question: is it now harder to make the PGA Tour and stay than it was in bygone eras?

Your humble scribbler sent emails to a handful of golf people to ask them that precise question. All but one responded and there seemed to be universal agreement — yes, it is definitely more difficult.

There was one notable dissenter in Globe and Mail golf columnist Lorne Rubenstein.

"I don't think it's harder to stay on the PGA Tour than years ago," he replied. "The Top 125 players on the money list retain their full exemptions now.

"Only the Top 60 did way back when. That's the bottom line.

"It's impossible to say for sure whether fields are deeper these days. But there are twice as many spots available, which has to mean something."

Yet the others agreed with the assertion that it was more difficult. 

"There's no question that it's never been harder to get to the PGA Tour than right now," said SCOREGolf editor Bob Weeks, who has been plying his trade for close to three decades and, along with Rubenstein, is generally considered this country's most respected golf journalist.

"The number of talented players coming out of college or national development programs is overwhelming. So many players are so good at a young age that it's just a matter of numbers. And even getting to the PGA Tour is no guarantee that you'll stay there."

Other golf figures — Golf Canada chief development officer Jeff Thompson, Canadian Tour commissioner Rick Janes and Zokol — all agreed while offering different perspectives.

Thompson said that part of Golf Canada's plan is to target men in the Top 25 in the amateur world ranking (Top 40 for women) and try and provide for them the type of multi-dimensional guidance required to help young Canadians get started on the long and arduous road.

For his part, Janes rightly pointed out that looming changes to the qualifying process will likely make getting to the PGA Tour that much tougher.

"Getting to the PGA Tour and staying there is [now] a process more than ever," Janes said. "There is so much talent in the world of golf today and at an increasingly younger age.

"We are not likely to see many journeymen on the PGA Tour in the coming years. It will be reserved for all but the very best."

'Psychology of game improvement'

Zokol offered an astute analysis that could go a long way to explain why not only Canadians, but many young players from other countries, including the U.S., find it tougher.

For Zokol, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, it's the six inches between a player's ears is the problem. In other words, the surge in player numbers hasn't been accompanied by a similar spike in mentally preparing players to compete.

"The growth in the game during the Tiger Woods era has increased the amount of people playing the game and the [elite] players have grown exponentially," Zokol said in a follow-up conversation. "At the same time, there has been zero increase in the psychology of game improvement."

Perhaps not everyone will agree with Zokol — sports psychologists pervade pro tournament ranges almost as much as equipment reps — but he certainly makes valid points concerning public perception of what it takes to make the PGA Tour. He takes even greater exception to those people who surround certain young players and fuel false expectations.

Zokol thinks expectations have become out of whack with reality.

"We never had any of that when I was coming up," he said of agents, certain media, even some golf parents, among others.

"What is not realized now is that winning in amateur and college golf and getting through the qualifying school is really only the beginning."

Zokol said it's now too easy for players and those that surround them to project into the future about success and earnings and the like, when, in fact, golf requires staying in the here and now more than most sports.

"That's why you see Fred Couples still doing it now [at 51 years old]," Zokol said. "No one has a sense of the here and now more than Freddie Couples … and he's been that way since he was 17.

"The second you start thinking about the future in this game … you have no chance."

Canadian Content

Six Canadians have full-time status on the PGA Tour, with Graham DeLaet injured. Here is how the other five have fared in 2011:

 David Hearn  8  5  $309,603  98
 Stephen Ames   8  6  $290,572  101
 Matt McQuillan  7   1  $12,705  228
 Mike Weir  9  1  $10,788  235
 Chris Baryla   7  0  $0  N/A