'The Americans are dominating': Can anyone stop the US completing their first Grand Slam since 1982?




 

The last time the United States won all four majors in the same season, Tiger Woods was eight years old, Brooks Koepka was seven years from being born and America had not been beaten in the Ryder Cup for a quarter of a century.

If one considers that in 1982, the first CD player was released in Japan it is obvious that these were different times. However, the clock could easily turn back this week and Uncle Sam could be Uncle Slam once again.

Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland and whoever is crowned Champion Golfer of the Year would be emulating Craig Stadler, Tom Watson (x2) and Ray Floyd.

Yet if one year could be dismissed as a fluke, the stats would reveal a wider trend. Back in the early eighties, the mighty US golf machine enjoyed a streak of winning 11 from 12 majors and 16 from 20 and that was only largely kept down by Seve Ballesteros collecting a hat-trick in that timeframe.

Another American winner here would make it 10 winners out of the last 11 majors and 15 out of the last 20, representing quite the turnaround given that it was only eight years ago when Darren Clarke's Open breakthrough ensured that the US had gone six majors without a winner.

Francesco Molinari is the current non-American to hold a major trophy and he recognises the urgency in ending the hegemony. "Physiologically they have some bombers, they definitely seem to have a lot of young talent coming through," the Italian said.

"It is up to we Europeans to win more but I think there are a few young European players like Tommy [Fleetwood] and Jon Rahm who are major-winners in waiting. And there is a lot of other potential in Europe as well. I believe it is cyclical. There could be a European run pretty soon."

Justin Rose concurs, but also believes there might be something in the manner in which these fearless Americans attack the course. "There was Francesco and I could have won [the US Open] at Pebble Beach and Rory is a threat whenever he wants to be - so yeah, it's a cycle," he said. "But there is a bit of camaraderie amongst all of those Americans and it's working really well for them. They're spurring each other on. The European Ryder Cup team is looking strong but we are not winning the big events. The Americans are dominating and it would be lovely to turn that around.

"But, come one, their boys are pretty good, there is no doubt about that. I think that the aggressive style of golf they've been playing has contributed to the run. Obviously Brooks has had a fair few of those of those major wins. Never mind America, Brooks is on an awesome streak on his own."

Indeed, with four wins in his last nine majors, Koepka could be a one-man country in terms of raising the flag. Yet is there more to it than quality of individual? Justin Thomas sees something deeper and suggests that it is not only American versus European, South African or Australian but, more importantly, American versus American.

"It is a very unique group of us," the former world No 1 said. "Obviously, we want to beat each other's brains in. I never want to lose to any of my friends, especially my best friends. As weird as it is, sometimes it's harder losing to your closest friends than it is to someone you don't even know."

As far as Paul McGinley, the 2014 Ryder Cup captain, is concerned this is the central factor. "What is always underestimated, is the importance and relevance of peer pressure," he said. "It's amazing when you get someone igniting things in a group, that members of that group you go 'bom, bom, bom' and then three or four things happen in the same way.

"So Thomas matched his friend Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed did the same, Brooks looked at that trio and thought 'if they can do it so can I - but better', while Woodland would have looked at Brooks, a similar shape with a similar game, and knew that it was possible.

"It happened in Ireland, Padraig [Harrington] opened the door and all of a sudden every Irish guy apart from me started to win majors. The same happened across Europe when Rory was dominating. Justin won around that time, as did Martin [Kaymer] and then Danny [Willett] and Henrik [Stenson].

"So it just needs someone to trigger it, whether it is Rory getting back on the major track or what. I wouldn't be too worried and wouldn't get too caught up in it. As we proved in France in the Ryder Cup last year, European golf has never been better. Never mind as a unit, that as a bunch of individuals was the best team we've ever had out and I think it will be even better in America next year. Just needs someone to act as the spark."

And if they fail to, how long could it go? From 1974 to 1977, American players won 13 consecutive majors and their era in the eighties was only ended by Balleteros heralding the emergence of the big five - Seve, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyke, Bernard Langer and Ian Woosnam.

Woodland fears Mcilroy could be about to call a similar pause. "I like that trend, it's good," he said. "But there are a lot of Europeans and players from all over the world. Rory, obviously this is a huge week for him. I anticipate there will be some fireworks out there for him this week."

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