International golfers reap harvest of U.S. championships

In case you haven’t noticed, an increasing number of our big-time golf championships have been slipping away across the seas.

Of course, that was the trend in the early years of professional golf in the USA. Scots and Brits came over in droves in the 20th century, when we were neophytes, and it wasn’t until 1911 that one of our native-born lads was able to capture the national championship, John McDermott. When a mere caddie, Francis Ouimet, whipped both of England’s best, the great Harry Vardon — whose grip you might use — and Ted Ray, in 1914, that set a golfing rage across our states.

Lately, though, those pertinent intruders have been stealing off with some of our most precious titles, brought brusquely to mind when Henrik Stenson, a Swede, won The Players Championship, right behind Sergio Garcia, who took the prize home to Spain a year ago.

If you’ll begin checking down the list from 1994, seven of the 15 U.S. Open championships have crossed the seas. It began with Ernie Els at Oakmont, when the South African won in a playoff over Loren Roberts and Colin Montgomerie, poor fellow, who has never been able to strike winning chord over here.

Well, with that an uncomfortable trend began developing. Els won again three years later at Congressional, and again his victim was Montgomerie.

In 2001, Retief Goosen, the implacable South African, beat Mark Brooks in a playoff at Southern Hills. And three years later, on the crusty course that nobody else could play, Goosen won again at Shinnecock Hills. By now, the surge was on. Our next international national champion was Michael Campbell of New Zealand. On another of America’s classic courses, Pinehurst No. 2, Campbell took Tiger Woods by two strokes in 2005.
Nothing good has happened to Campbell on this side of the pond since, including this past week, when he withdrew in the middle of the first round in The Players at Ponte Vedra Beach. But the overseas surge never wavered.

When Phil Mickelson imploded at Winged Foot in 2006, Geoff Ogilvy of Australia stepped in and picked up the pieces. Then a year later, at Oakmont again, Angel Cabrera of Argentina survived a tough field on a tough, tough course. The same Cabrera who would win the Masters last month in a playoff, the first wearer of the Green Jacket who had to deal with the media through an interpreter.

So, since 2003, when Jim Furyk won at Olympia Fields, until Tiger Woods played through pain and beat Rocco Mediate at Torrey Pines last year, no native son won our Open. The last native winner of the Masters was Zach Johnson in 2007. In between Johnson and Cabrera, the winner was Trevor Immelman of South Africa, who has dropped out of sight since.

That’s just part of the disappearance of the native son from the lineup of champions. Our present PGA Champion is Padraig Harrington, son of an Irish police officer. Present Fed Ex champion is Vijay Singh, native of Fiji, and present Tour Championship titlist is Camilo Villegas of Colombia. For that matter, five of the past eight Tour Championship winners have come from other countries.

That is stretching the borders, somewhat, for Mike Weir, Tour Championship winner in 2001, is Canadian by birth, but Brigham Young by education, and long a resident of Utah. But, nativity is what it is, where you were born, and our homebreds are not fighting off the invasion with impressive valor.

12 comments Add your comment

Song G

May 14th, 2009
8:50 pm

and………??? What’s your point? Does it matter? Does it indicate anything one way or another? Is there a deeper issue this trend is indicative of? Or is this another “boy the old days sure were great and these days sure are strange” column?


May 15th, 2009
7:12 am

Song G — You really come across as an Ahole. Too bad we don’t have retro-active birth control.

Dawg Daddy

May 15th, 2009
8:01 am

Furman: Maybe American players needs to quit whining, man up and play better golf. We’re all about competition, right?


May 15th, 2009
10:36 am

I’ve said it many times, but many of these trends began with the All-exempt tour in the USA. American players are not toughened by weekly qualifying and are perfectly content with big endorsements and mediocre finishes each week. That does not prepare them for playoffs, Ryder Cup pressure or Major Championship intensity.

Song G

May 15th, 2009
3:32 pm

good job Boots! You’re a winner!

kevin clarke, member pga of AMERICA

May 15th, 2009
11:29 pm

furman, please retire, or choose to not write about golf, you are not relevant at all…what is your point, golf has never been more relevant as a ressult of tiger woods, the most relevant athlete in the world, whom is an american!…golf is relevant world wide, because of players such as henrik stenson, padraig harrington, angel cabrera…the nfl wishes it could be as relevant world wide as professional golf…stay away from golf you hack!…give your cronies another “relevant story” about bobby dodd and grant field!!…and, be sure to include general neyland!


May 16th, 2009
6:29 pm

Gotta give it to ya’ Furman, you stirred it up this week . . .

Mustard Green

May 20th, 2009
8:24 pm

Excellent column. Some people just get angry because every golf article isn’t about their boy Tiger. He has not been making his usual number of lucky putts this year (except Bay Hill). Thus, he’s not at the center of the golf world. Get over it! I’m sure he’ll play well at the US Open as he’s had plenty of practice from the rough this year.


May 22nd, 2009
12:17 pm

Mustard Green, sorry you can’t stand it that golf is only relevant these days because of Tiger, but that’s a fact. There isn’t a player out there who can touch him. Lucky putts? Try effort genius, he has more desire than every single PGA player combined.


May 25th, 2009
10:16 pm

Does this guy write more than one column a month?

Furman's righ

May 28th, 2009
8:46 am

but we've got Anthony Kim...

May 28th, 2009
12:41 pm


For a golf geek such as myself there is nothing better than waking up early Saturday and Sunday morning to live coverage of the European PGA Tour on The Golf Channel.

Renton Laidlaw’s familiar voice and hilarious quips are a major part of that experience and he will be sadly missed when he steps aside someday.

Granted, it’s not the PGA Tour (American) but it’s pro golf at its finest, nonetheless.

Sergio Garcia recently inferred that the European Tour is “catching up” with its American counterpart, but it’s my contention that it already has.

Just examine the list of winners of golf’s four major tournaments for the past 5 or 6 years.

For what do we owe this phenomenon?

PGA tour players are not as hungry. They’re actually a little spoiled.

PGA tour players are waited on hand and foot.

They always play in perfect or near perfect weather on immaculately groomed courses.

Tiger’s presence has vaulted purses into the stratosphere such that PGA Tour players who don’t even finish high enough on the money list to keep their playing privileges still earn over a million dollars per season in prize money.

PGA Tour players don’t need passports, VISA’s or immunizations for Yellow Fever and Hepatitis.

PGA Tour players have foul weather gear in their bags at all times but their’s collects dust.

Most PGA Tour players leave the country only during the off-season when they are on vacation.

European PGA Tour players, however, are more like us.

They carry their own bags and rent their own cars for the week.

They play on greens that are akin to those at that one muni in your town that actually has a competent greenskeeper with an appropriate budget and not the fabled East Lake Golf Club.

Their purses are not half as big as those stateside.

And to see a European tour player playing in foul weather gear is more the rule than the exception.

I know that hindsight is 20/20 but PGA Tour players not named Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson have NO shot when seasoned, battle-tested, champion European Tour pros suddenly appear in their rear-view mirrors.