I have nothing but admiration for the current coterie of international golfers. Rory McIlroy’s performance last weekend in the U.S. Open underscored how widely golfing talent is spread around the globe. McIlroy’s victory is to be applauded and admired. From what I can see he is a stout fellow, well met — as are Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Angel Cabrera, Y.E. Yang, Trevor Immelman and Padraig Harrington, international players who have won 12 of the last 18 major golf tournaments. The success of these and other international players is indicative of how U.S. golfers no longer dominate the major tournaments. In the 2011 U.S. Open, only two Americans, Kevin Chappel and Robert Garagus, cracked the top 10 finishers.
The increase in talented international golfers has made the game more interesting and more competitive. I think it shows how fantastic Tiger Wood’s performances have been. From 1971 through 1978, of the 32 major tournaments played, 29 were won by Americans — South Africa’s Gary Player broke through three times. The top U.S. players of that era did not have to contend with the sheer numbers of talented international players we see today.
As for the U.S. Open, international players have won six of the past 10 tournaments. Of the four American victories, Tiger won twice. As in so many areas of life, when things are not going as well as we perceive they should, it becomes incumbent to take charge of the situation. To that end I have begun my own personal crusade to take back the U.S. Open. Needless to say, the odds are stacked against me. The greatest obstacle I face is not being a golfer. I wrote a column once describing my record round at Pebble Beach in 1991. I shot 128. However, not to be discouraged, I did a little better on the back nine. That was the last time I played golf until two weeks ago, when I was in Los Angeles and my friend, Cliff Berry, invited me to play a par-3 course with him. I didn’t do very well. On one hole I hooked an 8-iron over a 20 foot high fence and sent my golf ball screaming off the wall of a condo adjacent to the course. An irate woman came onto her balcony shaking her fist at me.
“What on earth were you aiming at,” she yelled.
Thinking quickly, I said: “I was aiming at you.”
“Me,” she said, obviously baffled.
“Yes, how else was I going to meet you?”
The situation diffused, she could only shake her head in a completely nonplussed manner.
“Go work on your game,” she said before returning to her condo.
So last week I began taking her advice and implementing my plan to recapture our national golf tournament. I bought my first set of new golf clubs. This is no small thing for a guy who figured the more shots he hit made the greens fees more cost effective. My round at Pebble cost me a little more than $2 per stroke. It costs a par shooter almost $7 a shot.
I have the clubs, and now I’ve begun to hit balls at a driving range. I’m not quite ready to play a round and contend with trees, sand and water. I know you’re saying that if guys like Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Steve Sticker and Jim Furyk let the pressure get to them, how will I be able to handle it. Listen, Bubba, I was a commission salesman for 30 years. That meant I was unemployed every day until I made that first sale. That’s pressure. Wes Heffernan, who finished last of all the golfers who made the cut at the Open, got a check for $16,539. All he did was hang around until the end. There were many times I did that and still came home with $16,539 less than Mr. Heffernan.
Some will say I am too old to accomplish my goal. Oh yeah? Once when Lee Trevino thought he was too old to compete, his wife said to him: “Those clubs don’t know how old you are.” My new golf clubs think I’m not old enough to vote.
Others may say my displeasure with the decline in American dominance of the Open is rooted in xenophobia. Not so. I have no problem with international players winning major tournaments. However, I am sure the Brits will be at sixes and sevens if one of their own doesn’t win at Royal St. George this year, so I don’t think my nationalism is misplaced.
It will be a while before I can step onto to a championship golf course and hold my own with low-handicappers. So for the present, Rory’s Open title is secure. But a year from now, when he defends at the Olympic Club’s Lake Course near San Francisco, he may be looking at the old guy standing on the 18th tee with an eight shot lead wondering who that Yank on Medicare is.
I’m bringing the Open trophy back to the states where it belongs.