Recent major championships have been drowned in a sea of red, white and blue.
America has always been home to a deep talent pool and many of the game’s biggest names. A scroll down the world rankings will reveal a bevy of stars and stripes, with U.S.-born players occupying 10 of the top 14 spots in the latest standings.
But the dominance has reached major proportions, the likes of which we haven’t seen in nearly 40 years. Americans have won nine of the last 10 major championships, a run that dates back to the 2017 U.S. Open with last year’s Open at Carnoustie the lone outlier when Italy’s Francesco Molinari lifted the Claret Jug.
Other than that it’s been a remarkable run for top Americans in the biggest events, with this week at Royal Portrush presenting the opportunity for all four majors to return States-side within the same calendar year. That’s a feat that wasn’t even accomplished when Tiger Woods was scooping up trophies by the handful.
In fact you have to go all the way back to 1982 for the last time Americans went 4-for-4, a year that included two major titles for Tom Watson as well as a Masters win for Craig Stadler and a PGA title for Raymond Floyd.
“I like that trend,” said Gary Woodland, whose victory last month at Pebble Beach made his the latest name added to a list of recent major champions that also includes Woods, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Patrick Reed.
Of course, a large portion of that recent dominance can be put at the feet of Brooks Koepka, who has racked up four majors as a country of one. Koepka has finished first or second in four straight majors, beaten over that span only by Woods Augusta National and Woodland at Pebble Beach.
“I have no idea,” Koepka said when asked to explain the recent trend in favor of the Americans. “I mean, I’m sure we’ve gone through a spell where it hasn’t been that way. Everything goes in trends, I think. And I’m sure in a few years it will go the other way, that’s just how it is.”
But this is the major whose participant list and roster of champions both take on a rather global dynamic. Americans have captured only four of the 12 Opens since Woods’ third title back in 2006, with Jordan Spieth’s 2017 title sandwiched between a pair of Europeans. Molinari and 2016 Champion Golfer of the Year Henrik Stenson are among a decorated and determined group of international stars hoping to bring the American streak to a grinding halt this week as Royal Portrush returns to the spotlight.
“The boys are pretty good, there’s no doubt,” said Justin Rose. “I think that the aggressive style of golf that they’ve been playing has sort of contributed to that. Brooks had a fair few of those, so he’s obviously been on an awesome run."
“Everything goes in trends, I think. And I'm sure in a few years it will go the other way. That's just how it is. ” BROOKS KOEPKA
The American talent pool extends beyond simply Koepka, with Woodland’s breakthrough a testament to just how many players are on the cusp of a major moment of their own. Consider that this run for the U.S. hasn’t included maiden titles for the likes of Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau or Matt Kuchar, all of whom have had opportunities and currently find themselves inside the top 15 in the world.
But the Dunluce Links is sure to present a stern test, and it’s likely one that will level the playing field given the lack of course knowledge most of the field brings with them to Northern Ireland. This week will be about becoming a quick study, and then embracing the various ups and downs each player is sure to face across 72 holes of links play on a demanding layout.
The Americans will start play Thursday on the cusp of a clean calendar sweep, with a variety of stars having bottled up both form and clutch performance over the better part of the last three years. But with every ebb comes a flow, and the Europeans are keen to keep the Claret Jug on this side of the Atlantic for another year while bringing the recent U.S. streak to a grinding halt.
“I could have easily won the last time out at Pebble. Rory (McIlroy) is a threat whenever he wants,” Rose said. “So, yeah, it’s a cycle. That’s a nice run, and hopefully it’s coming to an end.”