Imagine, just for a second, if a few moments in recent golf history had swung another direction. Imagine if Bubba Watson had beaten Martin Kaymer in a playoff at the PGA Championship. Imagine if the United States had been able to snag one more half-point and held onto the Ryder Cup last fall. Imagine if Tiger Woods had been able to hold off Graeme McDowell at last December's Chevron. Then we wouldn't be talking about how American golf has fallen from grace in the kind of tones usually reserved for terminal hospital patients. No, we'd be in the midst of a new American golf renaissance, a new era of golf dominance.
But none of those moments turned in the United States' favor, of course, and so now we're left with a state of affairs in which many observers fear that America's long reign as golf's big dog has come to an end. Take a look at the majors; the last American to win a major was Phil Mickelson at Augusta in early 2010. Only once since 1910 have all four majors been won in a year by non-Americans. Could this be the end of the line for American golf supremacy?
Of course not. Or, at least, not definitively. Sure, Woods departed the ranks of top-flight golf earlier than expected, and Mickelson has had trouble stringing together consistent victories; the two of them held the banner for so long that it's taken awhile for any Americans to catch up.
But take a look at the leaderboard at this week's British Open. Dustin Johnson is one stroke off the lead. Rickie Fowler is three strokes back, Lucas Glover four. At even par, where everyone still has a reasonable chance, you've got Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, and, checking in from wherever the heck he's been for the last year, Anthony Kim.
Playing well on Saturday at the British Open guarantees you only one thing: an after-dawn tee time for your United States viewership. As the swirling winds of early Saturday showed, it doesn't take much to slap a few extra strokes onto everyone's scorecard.
Can an American win this week at Royal St. George's? Sure, absolutely. But even if one doesn't, this is an effective demonstration of the fact that American golf is doing just fine.
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