Amer­i­cans on run in fi­nal ma­jor

Inside Golf - - Tournament Preview - DavidNew­bery

CAN an English­man break a 92-year US PGA Cham­pi­onship drought by win­ning at the Atlanta Ath­letic Club this month?

Eng­land’s Jim Barnes (1916 and 1919) was the first and last player from the Old Dart to achieve the feat.

Nick Faldo got as near as any­one to break­ing the jinx on English golfers in golf ’s mi­nor ma­jor.

The six-time ma­jor win­ner gave Eng­land a glim­mer of hope in 1992 when he fin­ished in a tie for sec­ond be­hind an­other Nick – Zim­babwe’s Nick Price.

In 1993, Faldo, who won three US Mas­ters and three Open Cham­pi­onships, came in third and in 1994 he fin­ished in a tie for fourth and that’s about as close as he got.

Cur­rently, there are four English­men ranked in the top-20 in the world and all want to make up for lost time and lift the Wana­maker Tro­phy.

At the time of writ­ing, Luke Don­ald and Lee West­wood are ranked num­ber one and two re­spec­tively while Paul Casey (15) and Ian Poul­ter (16) make up the quar­tet.

Add South African-born English­man Justin Rose (ranked 32 in the world) to the mix and you start to think 2011 could be the year of the English.

If you are a bet­ting man and think the Poms are too risky you may want to stick with the tried and tested Amer­i­cans.

His­tory tells us the Amer­i­cans have lifted the tro­phy 76 times (54 dif­fer­ent win­ners) while the rest of the world’s golfers have only made it to the podium 15 times.

But it seems the Amer­i­cans are start­ing to lose their mojo.

Tiger Woods (re­mem­ber him?) was the last Amer­i­can to win the ti­tle in 2007.

Ger­man Martin Kaymer was vic­to­ri­ous last year while Y.E. Yang (Korea) and Ir­ish­man Padraig Har­ring­ton were vic­to­ri­ous in 2009 and 2008 re­spec­tively.

In the past few years, the game has changed dra­mat­i­cally and now it’s a group of young Euro­peans, Aussies and South Africans who have the Amer­i­cans on the run.

US Open cham­pion Rory McIl­roy, US Mas­ters cham­pion Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Aus­tralian Ja­son Day are no longer in the Amer­i­cans’ rear-vi­sion mir­ror – they have caught up and are about to pull away.

North­ern Ire­land’s McIl­roy is well and truly over his US Mas­ters melt­down and it won’t be long be­fore he’s the num­ber one golfer in the world.

Both he and Day are ex­cite­ment ma­chines and will chal­lenge each other for many years to come.

While the Amer­i­cans have dom­i­nated the event, it’s the Aus­tralians who are next with four wins.

Big Jim Fer­rier got the ball rolling for Aus­tralia when he won in 1947. He passed the ba­ton to David Graham who won in 1979 and he was fol­lowed into the win­ner’s cir­cle by Wayne Grady (1990) and Steve Elkington (1995).

In 1986, the name that should have been on the tro­phy was Greg Nor­man’s.

In­stead, Bob Tway, that tall and se­vere Amer­i­can with a laid-back per­son­al­ity, ripped it from the Shark’s grasp when he holed a mem­o­rable bunker shot on the 72nd hole.

Nor­man had led from day one when he fired a 65, but he let him­self down with a fi­nal round 76.

In 1993, Nor­man came close again but was beaten in a play­off by Amer­i­can Paul Azinger and he, like Faldo, never re­ally chal­lenged again. So who will win this time? Since 1962 Gary Player (twice), Nick Price (twice), Vi­jay Singh (twice) David Graham, Grady, Elkington, Yang, Har­ring­ton and Kaymer have wrested the crown from the Amer­i­cans.

Kaymer, Har­ring­ton and Barnes, al­beit a long time ago, proved the Euro­peans can do it.

What of­ten beats them is the US’s sticky weather and that’s why the book­ies just may give some juicy odds on the Euro­peans – par­tic­u­larly the English.

The con­di­tions won’t worry Spa­niard Ser­gio Gar­cia, who is play­ing well again and could go one bet­ter than his sec­ond be­hind Tiger in 1999.

Ja­son Day is a Queens­lan­der so the hot weather won’t worry him and he will start as one of the favourites.

Of the rest of the Aussie con­tin­gent, Aaron Bad­de­ley looks the most likely as he has been mak­ing reg­u­lar ap­pear­ances on the leaderboards.

If he can hit more fair­ways and greens in reg­u­la­tion and keep his put­ter hot he could chal­lenge.

Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Robert Al­lenby and Stu­art Ap­pleby seem to be wa­ver­ing, though Scott did show some prom­ise at the re­cent Open Cham­pi­onship, fin­ish­ing T25.

Of­ten­times, an out­sider has a habit of sneak­ing up to win the US PGA Cham­pi­onship so per­haps tall Queens­lan­der John Sen­den could do a Rich Beem, Shaun Micheel or Mark Brooks.

He’s a ter­rific ball-striker who just needs to get the flat-stick work­ing for four days in Au­gust.

If you are look­ing for a spec­u­la­tor, pick Rory – Rory Sab­ba­tini.

If you are look­ing to put your hard earned on an Amer­i­can look for Matt Kuchar, Bubba Wat­son, Steve Stricker, Dustin John­son, Nick Wat­ney, Hunter Ma­han, Rickie Fowler, Brandt Snedeker or even aging David Toms, who won at the Atlanta Ath­letic Club 10 years ago.

Of course, Phil Mick­el­son is al­ways a chief threat. FOOT­NOTE: The 93nd US PGA Cham­pi­onship will be played at Atlanta Ath­letic Club in Ge­or­gia from Au­gust 11-14.

Matt Kuchar is one of many PGA Tour pro­fes­sion­als hop­ing to break Amer­ica’s three-year podium drought at the PGA Cham­pi­onship

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