Americans try to avoid record drought in majors

By Doug FergusonJune 14, 2011, 9:37 pm

BETHESDA, Md. – What began as an anomaly has turned into a troubling trend for American golf.

Graeme McDowell became the first European in 40 years to win the U.S. Open last summer at Pebble Beach. Perhaps more telling was that this was the first time in more than 100 years that no Americans finished among the top three in their national championship.

And that was just the start.

There were no Americans in the top three in the British Open a month later at St. Andrews. And for the first time in Masters history, international players occupied the first three places at Augusta National.

Is American golf on the ropes?

“Are you asking that because I’m the highest-ranked American?” Steve Stricker said Tuesday.

Stricker, a 44-year-old who didn’t even have a full PGA Tour card five years ago, won the Memorial two weeks ago and climbed to No. 4 in the world, making him the top-ranked American. He still lags well behind a pair of Englishmen, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, and Martin Kaymer of Germany.

But the world ranking tells only part of the story.

Americans have never gone more than four majors without winning one of them, and the U.S. Open at Congressional might be their best chance to avoid a record drought since this configuration of Grand Slam events began in 1934.

“I think this tournament will tell a lot,” Stricker said. “If an American can win here, maybe we can gain back some of that momentum. It seems to be pro-Europe every week, every major. It will be interesting this week to see what happens. I think we are on the ropes a little bit. Everybody sees it. Everybody talks about it.”

Based on recent times, history might not be on the side of the Stars & Stripes outside the nation’s capital.

Over the last 10 years, the U.S. Open is the one major where Americans have had the least amount of success. They have won only four times since 2001, with Tiger Woods capturing two of them. And he’s not even at Congressional this week, out with a bum left leg.

It was only four years ago when it seemed that Europeans couldn’t win a big one. Padraig Harrington preached patience, saying golf runs in cycles and Europe would get its due.

Ernie Els couldn’t agree more.

“Everything happens in cycles, and I can see it happening again now,” he said. “I remember back in the early ’90s, Europe was dominating like they are dominating now in the world rankings. They’ve definitely got the upper hand at the moment, and it will probably change again in the future.”

The trick is figuring who the future is for American golf.

Right behind Stricker in the world ranking is Phil Mickelson, the last American to win a major when he beat Westwood at The Masters last year. Mickelson turns 41 on Thursday, although he still thinks he has several years and more majors ahead of him.

Even so, Mickelson has been spending a lot of time lately trying to groom younger players, mostly for Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup matches, but also to get them sharp for majors.

He played Tuesday with Dustin Johnson, regarded by many as the most talented of the Americans under 30. Joining them were Jeff Overton and Hunter Mahan, whose three wins include a World Golf Championship at Firestone last year.

“I’m actually very encouraged with where our American golfers are, especially the young players,” Mickelson said. “We have a plethora of great players coming up. And I think at the forefront is a guy like Dustin Johnson.”

Johnson very easily could have won two majors last year, and this wouldn’t even be a discussion. He took a three-shot lead into the final round at Pebble Beach until a shot in the bushes and a shot onto the beach left him with an 82. Then came the PGA Championship, where he was not aware he was in a bunker and grounded his club, a two-shot penalty that knocked him out of a playoff.

Kaymer wound up beating Bubba Watson in the playoff.

Johnson is aware of the American drought, but only because he keeps getting asked about it.

“It’s not like we’re not trying or not playing well,” he said. “I think the American guys are playing really good. A lot of things have to go right to win a major. Obviously, the guys that have won the last four majors have played really good golf.”

Mahan knew the Americans had not won a major since Mickelson at the Masters. He was surprised to hear that only two Americans, Watson and Zach Johnson, have been in the top three at the last four majors.

“It’s the fashionable thing now to be European. Everyone is pumping that up,” Mahan said. “I don’t know about that. I think guys like Stricker, Matt Kuchar … I don’t see who’s playing better than those guys.”

Donald would be one of them, for sure. He brings 10 consecutive top 10s into the U.S. Open, which includes wins in the European Tour flagship event at Wentworth and his first WGC title at the Match Play Championship in Arizona. Westwood won consecutive tournaments overseas. Kaymer started his year with an eight-shot win against a strong field in Abu Dhabi that included Mickelson.

Along with the four majors, Europe also owns The Ryder Cup.

“I think the Ryder Cup has created a line there now that wasn’t there before,” Mahan said. “There’s a little bit more friction – maybe not friction, but there’s a little more to it now – and that’s good. The thing we need in golf are rivalries, but good rivalries.”

Perhaps the Americans getting shut out in the majors was inevitable.

Not until the world ranking became more accepted did international players get much access to the three American-based majors. When the ranking made its debut in 1986, only three Europeans played in the Masters that year.

With few exceptions, the PGA Tour attracts the best that each continent has to offer.

“It’s obvious that world golf as a whole has become so much stronger, and that international and European golf has become world class,” Mickelson said. “So although international golf has really taken off, American golf is still in very good shape.”

That might be easier to believe if one of them were holding the trophy on Sunday at Congressional.

 

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Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

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Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.


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Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.


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