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.
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 behind 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 is their last 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”
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.