Ryder Cup heroes must bring form to majors

Tommy Fleetwood: Europe's next golfing superstar? Photo credit: Golf Canada (via Flickr)

By John Jones

There were jubilant scenes over the weekend as Thomas Bjorn’s European team cruised to a terrific 17½ – 10½ victory over the United States.

The emphatic win marked Europe’s sixth successive Ryder Cup triumph, with their American counterparts only winning the tournament once since the turn of the millennium, despite fielding golfing superstars such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Jim Furyk.

However, whilst this consistent Ryder Cup success is obviously no bad thing for the European game, it appears that the same dominance has not yet been transferred to the continent’s individual form, with American golfers seemingly, more often than not, occupying top spot in the majors.

The numbers don’t lie. The past three winners of the PGA Championship have been American, and, since 2000, over half of the British and US Open Championships have been from the USA. Even with the triumphs of Danny Willet and Sergio Garcia at the 2016 and 2017 Masters, the last twenty green jacket winners have been predominantly American, with Texan Patrick Reed emerging victorious at Augusta this year.

But why is this the case? An obvious factor is home advantage – three of the four majors are played in the USA, granting players such as Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Bubba Watson familiar courses and passionate home crowds to play in front of.

Correspondingly, the British Open, the one major played outside of America, has seen a number of European winners in recent years, with victories for Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Francesco Molinari sandwiched between American wins. However, this cannot be the sole reason for the puzzling trend.

Golf is a truly international sport, and players frequent courses all over the world in various tournaments, and those with long careers are certainly no strangers to the major courses, whilst European golf fans often travel across the globe to show their support.

To the casual observer, it may seem that the personalities of many American golfers – arrogant, loud, brash – directly conflict with what the sport of golf demands, whilst quieter, more unassuming European golfers must possess the personal discipline and cool head to succeed.

However, this has not been the case, save for Danny Willet’s unbelievable victory over a crumbled Jordan Spieth at Augusta two years ago. It seems that the swagger and attitude of the USA’s talent has not held them back at all, with the media pressure that they carry only spurring them on, inflating their belief that they truly are the greatest in their field. And perhaps that is Europe’s problem; we don’t have a true golfing superstar on par with Woods or Spieth. McIlroy, Rose and Garcia have all been consistent performers over the year, but attention only really falls to them at tournament time – somebody needs to assume this iconic role.

Following the weekend’s victory, captain Bjorn has a few ideas about the likely contenders. Tommy Fleetwood, who contributed four points to Team Europe’s impressive 17½ point haul, is at the top of his list.

The long-haired 27-year-old is breaking the mould as a youthful, funny and chilled-out golfer, and, after coming second to Koepka in this year’s US Open, looks certain to achieve success in the majors for years to come. Spaniard Jon Rahm has also had a rapid rise to fame, climbing from 766th to second in the world rankings over just two years, and placing fourth at this year’s Masters.

Whoever this new superstar will be, there is belief that he is already out there, and following Molinari’s Open victory this year, a full-blown European golfing revolution could be just around the corner.

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