CARNOUSTIE, SCOTLAND – Consider the striking contrast between the recent major championship winners in men’s tennis and men’s professional golf.
Each of the last eight tennis major championships have been won by men 30 years or older, most recently Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon, none of them Americans.
On the golf side, the last five major championships have been won by young Americans ranging from 24-year-old Jordan Spieth to 28-year-old Brooks Koepka.
What is it that has propelled the recent American domination in major championships?
Spieth points to deeper competition on the junior level as the main reason he and his contemporaries have had so much success.
“Maybe when it took five years to transition guys to into winning 10 or 15 years ago, it’s taking guys five months now,” Spieth said. “Therefore, whether it’s five times faster, 10 times faster, you’re that much quicker and well prepared for majors.
“So it’s kind of a natural transition into kind of fearless golf at the highest level. I think that’s what you’re seeing out of twentysomething-year-olds. The game is getting athletic but as far as the mental side of it, guys have been playing against better fields on better golf courses on the junior and amateur circuits. I imagine it will continue to be the same way it’s been.”
This being a Ryder Cup year and this being the Open Championship in Scotland, there’s a natural eye toward the matches in France in late September. That adds to the discussion around why the young Americans have been so successful in recent major championships.
“I don’t know what I’d put it down to other than the American boys in the world rankings and on the golf course are performing really, really well. The top end of American golf right now is incredibly strong,” Justin Rose said. “There’s a bit of a camaraderie amongst all of them. I know Brooks and Dustin (Johnson) are incredibly close, and you’ve got Rickie (Fowler) and Justin Thomas and Jordan as a group are all really close. It’s working really well for them. They’re spurring each other on.”
Rose pointed out that England’s Tommy Fleetwood came within one stroke of Koepka at the U.S. Open last month at Shinnecock Hills.
“So it’s not like we’re a mile behind. It’s just they’re on a great run right now, and there’s no reason why a European player shouldn’t come through this week,” Rose said.
Rose, it should be noted, is the second betting favorite behind Johnson according to William Hill betting shops with Rory McIlroy, Fleetwood and Jon Rahm among the top picks.
“Look, America, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s no other way to put it, than they have an exceptional bunch of players at the moment. I mean, it just happens so that it has been a run of American golfers that have won majors, but at the same time, they’ve generally been the best players in the world at the time that they’ve won them,” Fleetwood said.
“It will be nice to break that run. I know we’re all trying to do it. I mean, Europe and the rest of the world, there’s a lot of good players, but there’s a lot of good American players. It’s just one of them funny runs, I think, that’s on at the moment.
“You don’t really look at them as a nationality. You just look at them as players and people, and you can understand why they’re the ones winning the majors. But hopefully, it does end quickly.”