As former US presidential candidate John McCain might put it, here’s some ‘straight talk’ regarding how golf has changed over the past few years:
– Prior to last weekend, three major trophies had never resided in Europe at the same time.
– Between 1995-2006, Americans took the Open Championship ten times. After Rory McIlroy’s Hoylake triumph, they’ve now won one of the last five.
– Between 1928-2003, non-Americans took the US Open seven times. They’ve won eight of 11 since.
– Only once before in the history of the Ryder Cup has there been no home US Open winner during the two years in between tournaments.
At the end of that single cycle in 2006, USA lost at the K Club by 18-and-a-half points to nine-and-a-half.
– Between 1958-2003, non-Americans took the US PGA Championship eight times. They’ve now won five of the last seven.
– No American is currently ranked among the top five players in the world, unlike four Europeans.
– The Masters has been plundered by the rest of the world for some time, but the fact that only four home-team golfers have won it since 1996 still feels significant.
– Europe have won seven of the last nine Ryder Cups, including each of the last four when hosting.
The simple, obvious and necessary conclusion to draw from these points is not whether Paul McGinley’s men will justify 3/5 odds and win the inter-continental trophy again, but by how many.
USA’s 7/4 price looks too bad to be true considering their recent travails, especially seeing as the Gleneagles showpiece should be far from their greatest concern.
Tiger Woods looks likely to miss the Ryder Cup, despite captain Tom Watson’s doubtful insistence that he will pick the 14-time major-winning phenomenon if he’s fit, but his fierce individualism has always inhibited his ability to play in a team.
The 38-year-old will be no loss should he not make it to Scotland, but the negative impact Tiger’s half-decade from hell has had on US Golf is only too palpable.
If there’s no way back for Tiger, which may well be the case given his clear physical distress and psychological discomfort, a new golfing messiah will be fully ordained on the altar of the great god Nike.
The fact that a European will fill the void, albeit one that’s well-liked over the Atlantic, should make stateside golf fans shudder in their plus-fours.
A brief glance at the fate of US tennis over the last decade or so provides a useful cautionary tale to its sporting brother.
Between 1989-2003, Americans won 27 men’s Grand Slam titles. Since then, their male competitors have returned from the season’s four biggest events with nothing but losers’ money and the odd good story.
Admittedly, it’s not all bad news.
Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson have flown the famous Star-Spangled Banner in adversity over the last few campaigns, with four majors between them, while Jordan Spieth’s second at Augusta in April suggests we should expect great things from the 21-year-old.
Furthermore, if Rickie Fowler can fulfil his undoubted potential and go toe-to-toe with McIlroy at the majors – which would include winning one very soon – then maybe he can be the man that saves US golf from slipping into a similar death-spiral.
Either way, Watson’s side wouldn’t be good value to win next month at twice their current price, with a narrow loss looking like the best result they can possibly hope for.