Wednesday, June 15, 2011

U.S. Open preview

Recent stories both in newspaper sports sections and on television have focused on the reported sagging gap that has grown between American pro golfers and their counterparts from around the world. Going into this week's U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club outside Washington, D.C., London bookmakers have made Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, both from England, the favorites to win the tournament.
The bookies' choices lie largely in part on Donald being ranked No. 1 after his win at the BMW Championship in Wentworth, England, two weeks ago, and on Westwood sitting right behind him at No. 2.

The betting choices favor the Europeans because of their victories on the European and Asian tours, and their youthful stars who are in bloom, aided by the sudden fade-out of Tiger Woods. Players such as Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Paul Tracy and Louis Oosthuizen have stolen the spotlight from the Americans, at least in the short term.

But a closer look reveals that an argument can be made that the American home-growns are right there on the leader board with their foreign competitors, who seemed to have slipped since their thunderous coming out.


add American players: Of the 23 PGA tour events so far in 2011, U.S. players have won 18, including Bubba Watson and Mark Wilson, who have each won two tournaments. Phil Mickelson has won one tournament and he won the Masters last year. Dustin Johnson had a chance to win two majors last year, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. He went into the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach with a three-shot lead.

On the globe's side, Donald has won one tournament in the U.S. this year, a match play event in Arizona in Feb., and Westwood is winless on American courses in 2011. In fact, Westwood has won just two U.S. tournaments in his career, in 1998 and last year at the St. Jude Classic.

But, Donald and Westwood have been piling up the points in the world rankings overseas, in far off places such as South Korea, Malaysia, Australia, and stops on the PGA European tour.


add foreign players: Since Charl Schwartzel won the Masters in April, he has missed cuts and also failed to qualify for the BMW Championship. Rory McIlroy is still trying to find a win after his disastrous blowup in the final round of the Masters when he shot 80. Both Martin Kaymer of Germany and Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa have nearly disappeared off golf's radar after their wins in majors last year, Kaymer at the PGA Championship and Oosthuizen at the British Open.

And Graeme McDowell, who is the defending U.S. Open champion, has not hoisted any trophies on Sunday this year.

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