Americans look to snap winless streak in majors

By Associated PressJuly 13, 2011, 5:19 pm

SANDWICH, England - Tiger Woods is back home, nursing a sore leg. The rest of American golf isn’t doing so well, either.

The U.S. is mired in its longest drought of the modern Grand Slam era, having gone five straight majors without a victory.

Phil Mickelson was the last American to capture a title, more than a year ago at the 2010 Masters. Since then, it’s been two golfers from Northern Ireland (Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell), two from South Africa (Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen) and one from Germany (Martin Kaymer).

While players from all over the world describe the U.S. slump as nothing more than cyclical, Nick Watney concedes that it’s getting a bit bothersome.

“You never want to hear you’re inferior,” he said Wednesday.

Coming into the British Open, Europeans hold the top four spots in the world rankings. Steve Stricker is the highest American at No. 5.

With Woods sidelined by an injury, the 22-year-old McIlroy is a solid favorite to follow up his eight-stroke victory at the U.S. Open with another major title at Royal St. George’s. The bookies also like a pair of Englishmen who happen to be 1-2 in the world rankings, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.

The Americans?

Just an afterthought on the eve of the opening round.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not such a big deal. In 40 years time, it will look like a blip,” said Padraig Harrington of Ireland, a three-time major winner. “But when you look at the smaller picture, it’s easy to say that Europe has become dominant in golf - until you remember that two of those majors were won by South Africans. They’re a strong country, too. And I think the next few majors might be won by the Australians.”

As in many sports, from basketball to tennis to swimming, the rest of the world has sliced into America’s once-commanding position. Golf is no different, with 24 nations represented at this seaside course in southern England.

Some of them, it would seem, have only tapped into their potential.

“Certainly we all expect that in the next couple of decades, Asia is going to have a very strong presence in the game of golf,” Mickelson said.

But for all the talk about this being more about the rest of the world catching up than the Americans falling off, it’s clear the most recent generation of U.S. golfers has yet to fulfill its potential.

Remember all the fresh young faces on the team that stunned Europe in the 2008 Ryder Cup, 20-somethings such as Anthony Kim and Hunter Mahan and J.B. Holmes? None of them has broken through in a major, and Kim might be the most mystifying of all.

Tapped to be the next great American player, Kim has yet to recapture his swing since thumb surgery and only got into the British Open as an alternate.

Another batch of youngsters has shown potential, led by 27-year-old Dustin Johnson.

He was leading by three strokes going to the final round of last year’s U.S. Open, but an 82 opened the door for McDowell’s win. At the final major of 2010, Johnson missed out on a playoff at the PGA Championship when assessed a two-stroke penalty for not realizing he was in a bunker when he grounded his club. Kaymer went on to beat another American, Bubba Watson.

“We’ve got a lot of great young players coming up,” said Ben Curtis, who won the last British Open played at Royal St. George’s in 2003. “A few of them just need a little bit more experience.”

Only one other time since the Masters began in 1934 have the Americans gone even four straight majors without a win. That was 1994, when the Americans were shut out by Zimbabwe’s Nick Price (British Open, PGA Championship), South Africa’s Ernie Els (U.S. Open) and Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain).

That year capped another glorious era for golfers beyond America’s shores. Over a five-year span beginning in 1990, non-U.S. golfers won 13 out of 20 majors.

All over the world, there were impressionable youngsters who would mature into today’s champions.

“When you grow up watching guys from your country win majors, it’s reasonable to believe that you can win majors when you grow up,” Harrington said.

These days, the most hyped of the young Americans is 22-year-old Rickie Fowler, who already has played in the Ryder Cup and was the PGA Tour’s rookie of the year in 2010.

But he’s yet to win on Tour and hasn’t finished higher than 14th in a major - a resume that pales alongside McIlroy, who’s about 5 months younger and already has been at the top of the leaderboard in all four majors.

“Everybody is different. Like Rickie Fowler, for example. Is he putting too much pressure on himself? Maybe,” Curtis said. “He’s a great young player, he’s a good kid and you hope one day he’ll get a couple of victories under his belt. Once he wins one, he could win 10.”

McIlroy brushed off any talk about American golf being in decline, even as he seems poised to take over the leading role from a seemingly fading Woods, who hasn’t won a major since capturing his 14th title more than three years ago. The former No. 1 has been plagued by injuries on the course and scandal in his personal life.

“American golf isn’t as bad as everyone is making it out to be,” said McIlroy, who will play with Fowler in the first two rounds of the Open. “These things go in cycles. I think there could be a stage in the next year or couple years where you’re saying, ‘Why hasn’t a European won?”’

The American with the best hope of ending the major-less streak would appear to be 44-year-old Stricker, who won the Memorial last month and is coming off another victory at the John Deere Classic last weekend.

He just hasn’t broken through in a major, despite top-10 finishes in all four of the biggest events.

“Steve Stricker seems to be winning every other week,” said Davis Love III, who will be captain of the U.S. team at next year’s Ryder Cup. “Americans have been winning a lot of big tournaments lately - just not the majors.”

Of course, those are the wins that everyone remembers.

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Bjorn adds four Ryder Cup veterans as vice captains

By Will GrayMay 22, 2018, 1:05 pm

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn has added a quartet of vice captains for the biennial matches this fall in Paris.

Bjorn had already named Robert Karlsson as his first assistant, and he announced Tuesday at the BMW PGA Championship that his group of advisors will also include major champions Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, and former world No. 1s Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

Westwood is among Europe's most decorated Ryder Cup players, and his addition in this role signals he likely won't participate as a player in the matches for the first time since 1995. The Englishman has spoken openly about his desire to captain the European squad at Whistling Straits in 2020, but he's been quiet on the course in recent months, with a missed secondary cut at the Houston Open his only start since mid-February.

Harrington is seen as another possible captain for the 2020 matches, and he'll don an earpiece for the third straight Ryder Cup, having represented Europe as a player on six straight teams from 1999-2010.

Donald played on four Ryder Cup teams from 2004-12, with the Europeans winning each time he was on the roster. This will mark his first stint as a vice captain, as Donald announced last month that he would be sidelined indefinitely while recovering from a back injury.

At age 38, McDowell will be the youngest vice captain in the room, having holed the winning putt eight years ago at Celtic Manor. He won the French Open in both 2013 and 2014 at Le Golf National, site of this year's matches, and will also be making his debut as a vice captain.

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Bidder pays $50,000 to caddie for Woods

By Grill Room TeamMay 22, 2018, 12:28 pm

Someone has paid $50,000 to caddie for Tiger Woods at this year’s Hero World Challenge.

An unnamed bidder paid for the opportunity at an auction Saturday night at Tiger Jam, where monies are raised to support the Tiger Woods Foundation.

The Hero World Challenge will be contested Nov. 29-Dec. in Albany, Bahamas. The pro-am is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 28.

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NCAA DI Women's Champ.: Scoring, TV times

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 22, 2018, 11:28 am

The NCAA Division I Women's Golf Championship is underway at Kartsen Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.

After three days of stroke play, eight teams have advanced to the match-play portion of the championship. Quarterfinals and semifinals will be contested on Tuesday, with the finals being held on Wednesday. Golf Channel is airing the action live.

Wake Forest junior Jennifer Kupcho won the individual title. Click here for live action, beginning at 4 p.m. ET.


TV Times (all times ET):

11AM-conclusion: Match-play quarterfinals (Click here to watch live)
4-8PM: Match-play semifinals

4-8PM: Match-play finals

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Arizona grabs last spot with eagle putt, playoff win

By Ryan LavnerMay 22, 2018, 3:18 am

STILLWATER, Okla. – With her team freefalling in the standings, Arizona coach Laura Ianello was down to her last stroke.

The Wildcats began the final round of the NCAA Championship in third place, but they were 19 over par for the day, and outside the top-8 cut line, with only one player left on the course.

Bianca Pagdaganan had transferred from Gonzaga to compete for NCAA titles, and on the 17th hole Ianello told her that she needed to play “the best two holes of your life” to keep the dream alive.

She made par on 17, then hit a 185-yard 6-iron out of a divot to 30 feet. Not knowing where she stood on the final green, Pagdaganan felt an eerie calm over the ball. Sure enough, she buried the eagle putt, setting off a raucous celebration and sending the Wildcats into a play-five, count-four team playoff with Baylor at 33 over par.

Their match-play spot wasn’t yet secure, but Ianello still broke down in tears.

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Team scoring

NCAA Women’s DI Championship: Individual scoring

“Bianca is such an inspiration for all of us,” she said. “She’s the kind of kid that you want to root for, to have good things happen to.”

Arizona prevailed on the second playoff hole. As the 8 seed, the Wildcats will play top-seeded UCLA in the quarterfinals Tuesday at Karsten Creek.

Though the finish had plenty of drama, no teams played their way into the coveted top 8 on the final day of stroke-play qualifying.

Baylor came closest. The Bears barely advanced past regionals after a mysterious stomach virus affected several players and coaches. They competed in the final round with just four healthy players.

On Monday, Gurleen Kaur put Baylor in position to advance, shooting 68, but the Bears lost by three strokes on the second extra hole.

Arkansas finished one shot shy of the team playoff. The second-ranked Razorbacks, who entered NCAAs as one of the pre-tournament favorites, having won seven times, including their first SEC title, couldn’t overcome a 308-300 start and finished 10th. Player of the Year favorite Maria Fassi finished her week at 19 over par and counted only two rounds toward the team total.