Stars in stripes eying Parisien procession

In case you missed it, the US cemented its place as rulers of the golf universe last week with an utter butt-kicking of Great Britain and Ireland in the Curtis Cup.

Tiger Woods lines up a putt on the 13th green during the second round of the US Open yesterday. Picture: Julio Cortez/AP

The final score in the women’s amateur version of the Ryder Cup had the Red, White and Blue claiming a 17-3 victory, and it wasn’t even that close.

But let’s skip debating whether GB&I could use an infusion of talent from the rest of Europe a la the Ryder Cup and skip to the greater significance: America’s cups runneth over.

The US is now in possession of the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the Solheim Cup, the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup.

When Patrick Reed slipped into the green jacket in April, it meant that you could wrap the American flag around all four of golf’s men’s majors.

The fifth major, you ask? The American flag was raised at TPC Sawgrass in May when Webb Simpson blitzed the field at The Players Championship. World No. 1? Sorry, Rory McIlroy’s No. 6 these days. Yes, it changed hands from Justin Thomas back to Dustin Johnson last week, but the flag remained stars and stripes. So, surely, this means that America, which claimed the Ryder Cup by a score of 17-11 in 2016 at Hazeltine Golf Club near Minneapolis, will be singing Yankee Doodle Dandy after it rolls to an easy victory in Paris later this year.

“It’s cool, I’ll say that, as an American, but it means nothing going to Paris,” US Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk said.

Nothing?

No surprise that Furyk would choose to downplay its significance. He knows his squad likely will be considered the favourite despite the fact that the last time an American squad won the Cup on foreign soil in 1993, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas were still in diapers.

To Rory McIlroy, it’s all cyclical and after a healthy run for European golf the Americans have simply hit their stride.

“It seemed every major someone from the island of Ireland turned up to, we were winning it. It doesn’t seem that long ago,” McIlroy said.

But that ignores the fact that there hasn’t been a stretch of American domination like this since the birth in 1957-58 of Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam formed the finest crop of golfers Europe has ever produced and the nucleus that turned the tide in the Ryder Cup beginning in the mid-1980s.

That was a rare overnight harvest second only to the extraordinary offering of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.

Another special group of Americans is just coming into its own, and it already has a nickname: the Class of 2011. That is a reference to its high school graduating year and it includes the likes of major winners Spieth, Thomas and promising talents such as Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger and Ollie Schniederjans. McIlroy also credits Tiger Woods for being a positive influence on the next generation of American stars.

“He’s become a friend of theirs. I think that’s been a huge part of all this. A lot of these guys have gotten to know Tiger,” McIlroy said.

“And being able to say, okay, this is what he does. And we mightn’t be able to achieve everything that he has, but you can at least try to do that. I think that’s been a huge thing for Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups, and them as individuals as well.”

Furyk’s squad potentially will have a wonderful mix of youth with experience and veteran leadership. Reed confirmed his status as Captain America in 2016 and pairs beautifully with Spieth, the Open champion. Brooks
Koepka, the reigning US Open champion, was a rookie the last time and Thomas, the PGA champion, will be a rookie in name only.

Add in the veteran leadership of Phil Mickelson, who won the WGC Mexico Championship in March, Johnson, the World No. 1, and a rejuvenated Bubba Watson, who has won twice this year, as well as Woods, who is attempting to be America’s first playing vice-captain, and the Americans look to be world-beaters, right?

“I don’t think it matters who’s won the majors and who held the last Ryder Cup,” said Spaniard Jon Rahm, who is projected to be a Ryder Cup rookie.

“We are going to France, which is European territory, and this is one week a year. You know, you just need to play good that week.

“We’ve seen many times people play the FedEx Cup, win the FedEx Cup and go on to Ryder Cup and play badly. We’ve seen many people win majors and go to the Ryder Cup and not perform well. At the end of the day, it’s about just that week.”

For all of its recent success, the US side isn’t buying into its status as the runaway favorite.

“They’ve got a lot of young talent that’s playing well, too,” Spieth said.

Spieth guessed that the American side is deeper on paper, but he knows that winning on foreign soil amid the cheers of Ole! Ole! Ole! will be no easy task.

“Playing over there with the numbers we heard on tickets that they’re going to have compared to us, that takes away any advantage that we would have,” Spieth said.

“It’s going to be harder for us to get this Ryder Cup than Americans to maintain all the major trophies, I would say.”

Only 106 days until we find out who hoists the Cup on September 30. Can’t wait.



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