Monday, June 27, 2011

Without Tiger Woods can American golfers rally at The Open?

The latest headlines read, "Tiger Woods out of AT&T National". Notah Begay has postponed his charity event until the former number one recovers and is now suggesting that Woods may also step away from the British Open. Although American PGA Tour golfers, without Tiger Woods in the field, are winning their share of weekly events, they have handed over the last five majors to European Tour golfers, leaving American "grinders" shaking their heads in disbelief.

PGA Tour golfers like Nick Watney are fed up and tired with their sub-par level of play, saying that it's time for Americans "to step up.”

Scott Verplank, being "very honest and very American" plainly stated, "It’s just that Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and those guys are playing better than us.”

Even Steve Stricker is disappointed with his inability to win majors, stating after the 2011 U.S. Open, "These major championships are kind of new to me. I’m going in with kind of low expectations." 

With Stricker (etal) not expecting to mount much of a contest, he surely won't.

Without Tiger Woods in the field challenging the level of play, the PGA Tour is undergoing major restructuring, stating on their website, "nearly one-third of 2011 TOUR winners are first-timers."

Has the lack of one popular (almost super-human) golfer, the level of play and the sport itself been depleted as Ed Berliner states, "falling in popularity behind billiards, MMA, and the Wii version of "Duke Nukem: Guns & Gusto at Augusta”? If so, are Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy the only golfers who can save it?

Fans need a hero who can delight and excite the crowd...and they want to cheer on a "likeable guy".

Being "very American" myself, allow me to mention two players who have made waves in golf this weekend.

Nineteen-year-old Patrick Cantlay took low amateur honors at the 2011 U.S. Open and shot a course record of 60 during the Travelers Championship, the lowest round ever for an amateur on the PGA Tour. He's young, collegiate and the future of the sport.

Nationwide Tour golfer Eric Compton, has overcome two heart transplants to win this week's Mexico Open. Enough said, as this golfer already has the fans "hearts."

The Americans are out there grinding (even if a Swede did win this week), as a group they just have to band together, raise their collective expectations, step out of the shadow of Tiger Woods and prove their mettle. New faces are constantly emerging: whether it be from the PGA Tour or European Tour, one golfer will eventually come forward to take over where Tiger Woods left off: it has happened before, it will happen again.

Having said that, golf is becoming more of a global sport with each event won on either side of the pond. Many European Tour golfers have studied/bought property, played golf in the U.S.A. and conversely, PGA Tour players like Mickelson have shown up to play in events such as the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Fans should cheer their favorite player (as they did with Tiger Woods) and not where he or she heralds from in order to get the most out of the game.

But, since fans still 'root for the home team', will an American PGA Tour golfer playing in The Open capture the Claret Jug and end the drought? If so, will his name be quoted in numerous articles as the next Tiger Woods?

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