Is This the Year for the Euros

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Sergio Garcia wasnt born the last time a European player won the U.S. Open. He was still about 10 years in the making when Tony Jacklin won at Hazeltine in 1970. And even Jacklin wasnt born when the last European prior to him won the Open ' Tommy Armour in 1927.
 
Garcia is at a loss for words when trying to explain why this is ' why the men that comprise his native continent cannot conquer this American major.
 
In fact, he doesnt really offer an explanation.
 
I dont know, is the extent of the 24-year-old Spaniards answer. Truth be told, this type of history doesnt really interest him. And why should it? At his age youre not really worried about the failures of others in the past, just the possibility of achievement by yourself in the future.
 
But there is European history in the U.S. Open. And its not pretty.
 
Over the last decade, Europeans as a whole have barely been competitive in the U.S. Open, let alone contended for the title.
 
From 1994 to 1999 no more than one European-born player finished inside the top 10 each year. And with the exception of Colin Montgomerie, who lost in a playoff in 94 and finished one back in 97, no European came within four strokes of the winner during that time frame.
 
Four Europeans managed to crack the top 10 in 2000, but none got within 14 shots of runaway champion Tiger Woods.
 
After getting shut out of the top 10 in 2001, three Europeans made it on the inside in 02, and another three in 03.
 
Maybe theyre getting closer. Maybe its because many of the top European players are more active in the U.S. With the advent of the World Golf Championships ' an anomaly in name since most of the WGC events are contested in the U.S. ' in 1999, Europes best have had greater opportunity and more incentive to make the cross-continental trip.
 
Last year, Fredrik Jacobson, Justin Rose and Padraig Harrington finished inside the top 10 at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields. All set a career high in U.S. starts that year, as well; and all should equal or surpass those Stateside totals in 04.
 
I believe it does help, yes, Rose said of the correlation to playing in America and major success. Thats why I played a long run before the Masters (where he held the 36-hole lead), and thats why Im playing (in the U.S.) right before the U.S. Open.
 
Jesper Parnevik has been a PGA Tour regular since 1994, and has all-but abandoned his native European Tour. Still, his extensive play on this side of the Atlantic hasnt translated to achievement in the U.S. Open, where he has zero top-10s in seven starts. Hes not in the field this year, as he failed to qualify.
 
By contrast, he has a pair of runner-up finishes in the British Open, as well as three other top-10s.
 
He says the explanation is simple: fairways vs. flair.
 
When you come from Europe, were more used to more aggressive style of play, go for the pins ' its not as penalizing over there. And then you go to the U.S. Open and hit one bad shot and triple bogey. You go, Wow! What just happened here? Parnevik said.
 
The only thing I miss in a U.S. Open is it completely takes away your imagination. Because if you miss (the fairway) you can just chop it out ' theres nothing you can do about it. You cant create anything if you miss a shot. No flamboyant golfer has a chance to win anymore.
 
Maybe this year, at Shinnecock, will be different.
 
Parnevik shares a growing belief among many that this may be the end to the Europeans 33-year winless drought in the seasons second major.
 
After all, Shinnecock is not the traditional tree-lined Open layout, but rather a links-style venue where the elements will factor the way they do in the British Open.
 
It could possibly be suited for Europeans more so than a normal U.S. Open course, Rose said of Shinnecock. But saying that, we havent done particularly well in the (British) Open either.
 
Very true.
 
While Europeans have failed to taste victory in the U.S. Open, Americans continue to drink freely from the Claret Jug. Theyve won seven of the last nine British Opens, while only one European has won since 1992.
 
That one European was Paul Lawrie in 1999. In fact, his Open triumph was the last major victory for any European ' in any major.
 
I don't think there's a problem with it, said Harrington, who has five career top-10 finishes in major championships, including three in the last four years at the U.S. Open.
 
I think these things go in cycles. I think we have plenty of good, young players. And who knows, in another three or four, five years' time, we could be winning plenty of majors.
 
But not everyone believes that such a run will start this week, just because Shinnecock has a different visual appeal than an Olympia Fields or Bethpage or Southern Hills.
 
What makes you think they're going to come in and win at Shinnecock? Just because it's a links golf course doesn't mean a European player is going to win. It's who plays the best golf, Vijay Singh said.

I don't think they play that many links courses, anyway. Some of them are members of a links golf course maybe, but Shinnecock is a totally different golf course. They're going to have rough, and at normal links courses, they don't have that much rough. Greens are going to be rolling at 12 or 13, and at the British Open, the greens are rolling at 9. Those are the factors involved.

I don't see any advantages on the European side.
 
Harrington validated Singh's point Tuesday when he said that he is more accustomed to playing stadium-style courses than links-style. He has even altered his game to be able to hit higher approach shots into these types of greens, as opposed to the low-boring bullets he used to hit back home in Ireland.
 
This is the third time in the last 19 years that Shinnecock has hosted a U.S. Open. It first did so in 1986, when Bernhard Langer and Seve Ballesteros were among those battling for No. 1 in the newly-formed Sony Ranking (now the Official World Golf Ranking), and players like Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam were nearing their prime.
 
Langer, however, was the only European to finish in the top 20 that week.
 
In 1995, when the Open returned to Shinnecock, Mark Roe (T13) was the only European to finish in the top 20, despite the fact that five Europeans comprised the top 12 on the world ranking.
 
Now, there are only two Europeans among the top 12 on the OWGR: Harrington at No. 7 and Garcia at No. 10.
 
We don't have the players that we had in the early to late '80s,' Harrington said. 'We don't have that at the moment. That's why we don't have players in the top 10 or top 5, realistically. We have to play better, particularly in the majors.
 
They dont have Seve and Sandy and Woosie anymore. Faldo, Olazabal and Langer are still capable of competing in an occasional major; though, winning one isnt as likely. And even the great Montgomerie is watching the sun set on his major opportunities.
 
But they do have Garcia and Harrington and Clarke. And Jacobson and Bjorn and Rose. And even Cejka and Casey and Donald.
 
'I think the future is bright for European golf,' Harrington said. 'If a European player doesn't win this week, it's not going to lessen anything about the European golf.
 
'I see some good years ahead for European golfers. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow or Sunday. It can happen -- it will happen in the next few years, there's a lot of good players out there.'
 
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