Questioning The U.S. Results Gap
There was, predictably, a great deal of
post-U.S Open discussion regarding what
has become of American pros in the global
game. Five consecutive majors have been
won by an international player, and the
alarm bells have sounded. Throw out Tiger
and Phil, and Americans have accounted
for just four of the past 30 major titles.
My concern is not Americans in general, but American kids ... pros under age
30. Two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis
Strange got me thinking during Sunday’s
Open radiocast when he asked: “Where
are the American 20-year-olds?” McIlroy,
Schwartzel, Kaymer and Oosthuizen are all
under the age of 30. Why aren’t our twen-tysomethings winning on the big stage?
It is undeniable that the U.S. has the
best junior system in the world. The American Junior Golf Association is the envy
of golf organizations around the world.
Its mission is to get kids into college on
scholarships via their performance on the
course. The AJGA is developing the next
generation, and doing an excellent job of it.
But that development slows over the
next four years. The youngsters are not
progressing; they are not developing better
skills. Largely, this is because the list of
schools and coaches who can take a very
talented junior and make him a better
player is very short.
Consider the last decade of Fred
Haskins award winners, a proxy for college
golf excellence. The only major champion
among the bunch is Graeme McDowell,
who you might recall grew up in Northern
Ireland. What have the rest of these play-
ers done? A few PGA Tour wins, but not
The step from NCAA champion to tour pro is a difficult one.
play, learning to hit golf shots, figuring out
how to survive on his own. He was developing a maturity and toughness beyond his
years. Fowler and his ilk may get there, but
typically not until after their 30th birthday.
This column has more questions than
answers. But lots of things have to change
... have to change if we want our best
young American pros to go head-to-head
with Rory and that bunch and win. l