Colin Montgomerie finished tied for 15th at Carnoustie in 1999.
PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images
Monday, January 23, 2012

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — The European golf writers met Tuesday night and celebrated their great Ryder Cup team again and again, "Ole, Ole, Ole," and all that. But golf is an individual sport, so let's review the numbers since Paul Lawrie backed into the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie.

Since that ridiculous day, the total number of majors won by Americans is 21. The total number of majors won by Europeans is 0.

"I think 'shock' is not the word," Lawrie said of the drought at his press conference Tuesday. "I think it's amazing that's been that long."

Of course Americans have an unfair advantage named Tiger Woods, but the total number of majors won by South Africans is three. Europe: still 0. And it doesn't stop there. Since Lawrie won in '99, we've seen majors won by a Canadian (Mike Weir, '03 Masters), an Australian (Geoff Ogilvy, '06 U.S. Open), a New Zealander (Michael Campbell, '05 U.S. Open), a Fijian (Vijay Singh, '00 Masters, '04 PGA) and an Argentine (Angel Cabrera, '07 U.S. Open).

Europe: still zero.

"Obviously you look in the Ryder Cups and stuff, that validates that we have a core of very strong players," Luke Donald said earlier this week. "We've really dominated it the last 10 to 15 years. Somehow we've got to transition that to individual players."

Over the last eight years Europe has been outplayed in the majors 1-0 by a Kiss fan (Shaun Micheel), and 2-0 by Midwesterners (Todd Hamilton and Zach Johnson). It doesn't even help the Euros to include the Players, a borderline major, although it does pad the totals for Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

"I think whoever is the first European to win a major, I'd like to be that guy tomorrow," said Englishman Paul Casey after completing his third round at the U.S. Open at Oakmont last month. He was right in the mix after a 66 on Friday.

"I think the floodgates will open," Casey continued, "because there is enough talent and guys have been working hard enough. And you've seen the international number of players increase over the past few years. The British press and especially the European press are gagging for it; they can't wait. So hopefully we can pull it off tomorrow."

Casey shot 76 and finished T10. Who's gagging now?

The plight of Scotsman Colin Montgomerie at Winged Foot last summer spoke volumes. After making a 60-foot putt on the 17th hole and blinking back tears at being on the verge of victory, Monty laced his tee shot down the fairway of the 18th hole just 171 yards from the green. Then he fanned his approach shot short and right of the green, strafed his ball four more times and carded a double-bogey.

"You wonder sometimes why you put yourself through this," Montgomerie said, but he wasn't the only Euro goat. Needing three closing pars to win, Ireland's Padraig Harrington came nowhere near getting them. In the next two months Spain's Sergio Garcia and England's Donald played their way into the final group at the British Open and PGA Championship, respectively, only to melt in the searing presence of Woods.

England's Nick Faldo was a towering presence in the British Open and the Masters, as was Seve Ballesteros, the Arnold Palmer of Europe, who announced his retirement in an emotional press conference here Monday. "I think through his good golf the European tour got a lot of respect," Donald said.

And thanks to various major mishaps the European tour is losing it. Cruising to a likely victory in the 2003 British Open, Dane Thomas Bjorn hit into a greenside bunker on the par-3 16th hole and left his ball in the trap twice, making double-bogey to all but hand the title to a grateful Ben Curtis. Bjorn's only solace was that he didn't fail math. Welshman Ian Woosnam was leading in the final round of the 2001 British Open when he was penalized for having 15 clubs in his bag, one too many, after his caddie Miles Byrne forgot to remove an extra driver.

Bjorn shot a third-round 63 at the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, but, sigh, chased it with a 72 and tied for second behind Phil Mickelson. But the Dane could be great again, maybe this week. So could Montgomerie, who won two weeks ago and tied for 15th at Carnoustie in 1999. Casey seems especially ripe to win a major; Garcia, a bit overripe, perhaps; Donald, who knows.

"We've proved in the Ryder Cup that there are a lot of good players out there," Harrington said at his press conference Tuesday. "It's just a question of that little breakthrough."

Maybe, but domino theories always sound good. There's also the one about an object in motion staying in motion, spinning wheels continuing to spin. Seve isn't coming back, and neither is Nick Faldo. Germany's Bernhard Langer is past his prime, as is Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal. It's been 31 majors and too many opportunities lost since Lawrie's surprise. It's time for a Euro to cope, not mope, when left to his own devices, just one man and his ball against the course, golf in its most elemental form. We're waiting.

 

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