The remarkable decline of American golf?

From Arnold Palmer on, the United States was the utterly dominant force in golf. In the men’s game, from 1960 to 1978, the four majors were more often than not all won by Americans. Every single major championship played in the United States bar one was won by an American or by US-based South African Gary Player. If there was any threat at all, it came in the main from Southern Africa or Australasia. The Americans dominated every single Ryder Cup during the period but for the tied match in 1969.

In 1980, Seve backed up his Open Championship victory with a win at the Masters Tournament, the first Continental European to win majors for generations. This was followed by German Bernard Langer, and then by the first UK major win for fifteen years through Anglo-Scot Sandy Lyle. Suddenly the combined European team was winning Ryder Cups too, even away from home. UK players won four Masters Tournaments in a row; further Spaniards and Germans won majors; countries with only sporadic past major victories (New Zealand, Argentina, Fiji) or none at all (Korea, Canada) began producing major champions at all. From mid-2010 to late 2011 six majors passed without a single American winner (admittedly three of them were won astonishingly by different players from little Northern Ireland); the Americans also slumped to five Ryder Cup defeats out of six. Englishman Justin Rose’s US Open victory means all four majors are, for the first time, held by golfers from different parts of the Commonwealth. The last American winner, Webb Simpson, was challenged in the main by a Northern Irishman; South African Ernie Els’ main challenger was an Australian; Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy’s two Englishmen; Australian Adam Scott’s an Argentine; even Phil Mickelson had to share second place behind Rose with another Australian. The United States – the prosperous, golf-mad country of over 300 million people which hosts most of the majors in the first place – is not just struggling to win majors; it cannot even generally challenge for them. This in fact applies to the women’s game as well. And without the outstandingly exceptional Tiger Woods, this century’s record would even be much worse.

What has happened?

I suspect it is more that the rest of the world has caught up than that the Americans have really declined. However, if this can happen in golf, can it not equally well happen in everything?

Over to you…!

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2 thoughts on “The remarkable decline of American golf?

  1. Tony Wilson says:

    America has been in sporting decline…tennis is another example. But overall decline? Two theories; we’re getting increasingly unhealthy with ever rising obesity and expensive healthcare; also the majority of Americans are getting poorer with incomes static or falling in real terms since around 1980 for all but the richest 5-10%, so people have to work longer hours to make up. Maybe if America did more to look after it’s people and not it’s corporations it would be more successful, it’s still full of great people.

    • Great post.

      It’s obviously ludicrous to link the decline with a country’s golfing fortunes with the decline of its civilization. However, your points are very interesting and do indicate at least a hint of decline in what still remains, clearly, an awesome country (any sense of the word!)

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