American Professional Golf Dominance Coming to End?
The Bob Hope Classic had only two of the top thirty golfers in the world participate (and only six of the top fifty). To me, that is more of a red flag that American golfers may be losing significant ground to golfers elsewhere than the fact that Europeans are ranked one and two in the world (for the first time since Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer back in 1993). It seems that the best players in the world are choosing the European Tour over a PGA Tour staple on the surface, but the reality is that appearance fees have their desired effect.
Martin Kaymer won his ninth event in one-hundred tries at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship to pass Tiger Woods for number two in the world and is poised to overtake Bernhard Langer as the greatest West German golfer in history by the end of the 2011 season. That is my first prediction for 2011. Why? Kaymer is only one major win behind Langer and will undoubtedly win at least one more major this year.
Whether Dustin Johnson knew what he was stepping into or not last August, Kaymer was going to win on American soil at some point anyway. The question is who is the hottest golfer on the planet right now? It may be a dead heat between Kaymer and Charl Schwartzel, who will win one of the other majors this year (another prediction). Particularly watch him pull an Oosthuizen at the Open Championship in July.
So is American professional golf an also ran to the rest of the world? Every now and then the debate pops up and I am not so sure it is valid based on the sheer numbers of American golfers versus everyone else. Others have spent lots of ink (and cyberspace) discussing the up and coming golfers we have on this side of the world such as Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Bubba Watson, and others.
But there is also that group of American golfers who have been around close to a decade and have proven themselves that may further American golf on a more international level. Jonathan Byrd has won two straight events and five overall on the PGA Tour. Zach Johnson already won a major and proven himself to be a worthy Ryder Cupper as has Hunter Mahan. Matt Kuchar may just use his 2010 experience to vault into a list of major winners. He did win the 1997 U. S. Amateur.
There are plenty of other young Americans such as Nick Watney, Sean O’Hair, and Ryan Moore (another former U. S. Am winner) who can break out as a major winner. One who needs to perform this year is Anthony Kim. It wasn’t long ago that the world anointed him as Tiger’s new foil, yet he has been AWOL for too long, despite fighting injuries. A less familiar name who will win his first event this year is Kevin Na. In four years, he has won over $9,000,000.00 and finished second last year at the Arnold Palmer Invitational en route to more than $2 million in winnings. He will win this year.
That said, here is yet another prediction for 2011: Tiger Woods will win a major this year without fail to continue his pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’ career major record. Aside from Mahan’s missed putt and Graeme McDowell’s make last fall at the K Club in Wales, Tiger’s utter dismantling of Francesco Molinari was another subtle hint that Tiger will return with a vengeance very soon.
I don’t think that American professional golf is on a downslide at all. It is just the natural tides of nature that requires change. That is what we are witnessing right now on the world stage. Granted, the foreign contingent is dominating the top slots of the world golf rankings now. Sooner than later, the Americans will take hold of some of those spots. The talent level is just too deep. Nonetheless, the European contingent is as strong as I have seen in my lifetime and will have a major influence on the 2011 season. These guys are good.
About Richard: Richard Mandell runs Richard Mandell Golf Architecture in Pinehurst, North Carolina (www.golf-architecture.com). Educated as a Landscape Architect at the University of Georgia (he is licensed in both North and South Carolina), Richard has close to two decades’ experience in designing new golf courses and renovating existing ones. Richard may also be the only golf architect in the world who is a certified arborist. He co-hosts a weekly golf radio talk show in Pinehurst and continues to teach a class on Golf Architecture at North Carolina State University which he started in 1997. Mr. Mandell also wrote the award-winning book, Pinehurst ~ Home of American Golf - The Evolution of a Legend (International Network of Golf Book of the Year – 2007).
Richard Mandell has been a Golf Content Creator for the Washington Times Communities since October 20, 2008