A talented flock of hungry Americans are to swoop into Scotland for next week’s The Open, ready to continue their recent dominance of major championships.
Americans have won golf’s past five majors and there is a high likelihood that No. 6 is in the offing at Carnoustie, given the recent form of the country’s best players, who have youth on their side.
Europe still has about as many players as the US ranked among the top 20 in the world, but the Americans on average are younger, nearly all of them likely to get better over the next few years.
Of the seven top-ranked US players, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed are all in their 20s, with only No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 11 Bubba Watson clocking in over 30.
So is the current dominance an aberration that will soon return to the mean or a sign of the times and of things to come?
“I think it is more than a trend,” said New Zealander Frank Nobilo, who finished equal 18th at The Open at Carnoustie in 1999. “Most of the best players under 30 currently are American. It is probably more reminiscent of the dominance of Americans in the 1970s, even though the style of golf they play is totally different.”
Nobilo said that the two most recent non-American major winners — Henrik Stenson at the 2016 Open and Sergio Garcia at the 2017 Masters — were aged 40 and 37 respectively.
“America has just been fortunate, these kids the same age, competing against each other in college, seeing each other win, piggybacking on each other,” Nobilo said.
It is not just America’s youngsters — headed by defending champion Spieth — who are expected to be a formidable presence at Carnoustie, with Phil Mickelson, 48, and Tiger Woods, 42, also in contention.
Carnoustie is where American Ben Hogan won the 1953 Open in his only appearance, completing the career Grand Slam of all four modern majors.
He also won all three majors he played that year.
American great Tom Watson also won there in 1975, the first of five Open victories, which showed that one did not need to be a naturally low-ball hitter to master links golf.
“Watson proved you could hit the ball [high] through the air, hit it solid and do extremely well,” Nobilo said, adding that recent Opens had been played on relatively soft courses.
“We haven’t seen a burnt, dry Open since Hoylake” in 2006, he said. “What sort of Carnoustie are you going to get? The course has so many different characters.”
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