PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA | In a game of statistics, here is one that may have escaped your attention but is no less significant for all that. European golf has been on the crest of a wave for some time with victories in seven of the past nine Ryder Cups and one European or another regularly winning major championships and tournaments on the PGA Tour. At last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in Orlando, Fla., came one of the most startling scoreboards ever from a European point of view. Europeans, led by the winner, the Open champion, Francesco Molinari of Italy, filled six of the first nine places.
But here is a “but” and it is a big but. Since the Players Championship started in 1974, only one man from the four countries that make up Britain and Ireland has triumphed in an event that some refer to as the fifth most important championship in golf and others might term the most important annual event to be held in Florida.
His name? Alexander Walter Barr Lyle, otherwise known as Sandy. And his victory came in 1987, 32 years ago.
Men from Britain and Ireland have won major championships in the U.S. and made significant impressions on the professional game in America for decades now. Think of Augusta and the victories in the Masters by Lyle (1988), Englishmen Sir Nick Faldo (1989, 1990 and 1996) and Danny Willett (2016) and Wales’s Ian Woosnam (1991).
Pádraig Harrington and Rory McIlroy have so far won the PGA three times: Harrington in 2008 and McIlro...
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