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US stars mired in record major win drought

Golf’s global growth, including a spot in the 2016 Olympics, has helped push the once-dominant American lineup to a record win drought of six major events entering next week’s PGA Championship.

Since the Masters began in 1934 as the newest of golf’s four major events, only in 1994 did a year pass without a US player taking at least one of the game’s most coveted crowns.


Tiger Woods

But 2011 could see another American shutout as South African Charl Schwartzel won the Masters while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy won the US Open and his compatriot Darren Clarke captured last month’s British Open.

Europeans dominate the world rankings too. England’s Luke Donald and Lee Westwood rank first and second followed by Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the 2010 PGA Championship winner, and American Steve Stricker edging McIlroy for fourth.

Injuries

Add Europe’s victory in last year’s Ryder Cup and it’s easy to see how even the return of former World No. 1 Tiger Woods from left knee and Achilles tendon injuries might not be enough to push a US player into a Sunday trophy ceremony.

“I just think the game has become so global,” Woods said. “Golf is just growing leaps and bounds globally. It’s been a flat market here in the States, but around the world it’s been tremendous to see.

“With the advent of us being in the Olympics, I think there is going to be a huge influx of countries that haven’t really taken up the game of golf are now going to be focused on it.” Woods warns that China might well follow the lead of Northern Ireland, which has produced three of the past six major winners. And China has a much larger pool of potential talent should the sport catch fire there.

Exploding

“I know China is just exploding over there,” Woods said. “I’ve been over there looking at some of the junior golf academies that they have and it’s phenomenal. They all have good swings.

“Extrapolate that out 15, 20 years from now, it’s going to be just amazing.”

Not since Phil Mickelson won last year’s Masters has an American won a golf major and the left-hander sees Asia as a region to be watched now that South Korean Yang Yong-Eun became the first Asian man to win a major at the 2009 PGA.

“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.

“I’m not worried about American golf. I think I’m more happy to see how strong international golf is. We’ve got players from all over the world winning the biggest events. That this only helps grow the game on an international level.

Young players

“I’m not worried as though we don’t have good young players coming up to represent America, because I think we do.”

Ben Curtis, the 2003 British Open winner, also sees Rickie Fowler and other young US talents as the tonic for competing with the new worldwide challenge.

“As far as American golf, it’s healthy,” Curtis said. “We’ve got a lot of great young players coming up. I think a few of them just need a little bit more experience. Like Rickie Fowler... he’s a great young player. He’s a good kid, and you hope one day he’ll get a couple victories under his belt.

“Once he wins one he could win 10.” There is also a sense that this is part of a cycle that will one day switch back around to see Americans back at the forefront of the majors.

AFP

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