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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Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

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Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson

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Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

“There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

“I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

“I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”


Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

“It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

“I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”