JOHNS CREEK, Georgia, (Reuters) – After an unprecedented run of six successive majors without a winner from the United States, leading American golfers are hoping the PGA Championship ends the barren run — even if bookmakers think it unlikely.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy is the favourite for this year’s tournament while Britain’s world number one Luke Donald is second-favourite alongside compatriot Lee Westwood.
To add to the sense that the tournament, formed by and for the U.S.’s professionals, is becoming the property of international players, Germany’s Martin Kaymer enters today’s first round as the defending champion.
No American has won the PGA since Tiger Woods in 2007 with Ireland’s Padraig Harrington and South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun victorious in 2008 and 2009. There has, however, been little soul-searching or agonising in the U.S. golf fraternity where the consensus is that success in the sport goes in cycles and that the increased globalisation of the game makes more winners from around the globe inevitable. “I think it says a lot about the international players,” says David Toms, PGA Championship winner in 2001, the last time the tournament was held at The Atlanta Athletic Club.
“I know there are a lot of good, young American players that are just waiting to get that first big event and go on to bigger and better things. I don’t think it is a lack of American talent It’s just, well, how many foreign players are there?
“The odds are one of them is going to have the chance to win,” he said.
Another factor, highlighted by the emergence of Japan’s 19-year-old Ryo Ishikawa and 18-year-old Italian Matteo Manassero, is that foreign players are getting professional experience much earlier than Americans who usually go through college before turning pro.
“Overseas it is different. Guys are turning pro at a very young age and getting way more experience than we ever had playing professional golf and they’re better earlier than even my generation,” said Woods, who at 21 became the youngest man win the U.S. Masters.
Also, the days when European players would come to the U.S. with little experience of the very different conditions have long since gone with the PGA Tour itself now attracting performers from all over the globe on a regular basis.