U.S. Open, Minus the U.S.

Talented young players, like Justin Rose, are giving Europe more chances to win elusive major titles.
Jim Rogash/Getty

OAKMONT, Pa. — Justin Rose had just put the finishing touches on his second straight 71 when he was asked about the likelihood of a European winning the U.S. Open for the first time since Tony Jacklin in 1970.

"The odds are beginning to stack up [in our favor]," Rose said, and he was right. Fellow Brit Paul Casey had just fired a 4-under 66, the low round of the Open, to get to three-over for the tournament. Nick Dougherty of England was the only player under par (until he made double-bogey on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole). Sweden's Niclas Fasth and Peter Hanson and Spain's Pablo Martin were on page one of the leaderboard.

If you added Argentina's Angel Cabrera, Australia's Aaron Baddeley and Trinidad and Tobago's Stephen Ames, that left only four Americans among the top 11 midway through the second round — Olin Browne, David Toms, Bubba Watson and Tiger Woods. There were only 11 American flags to be found among the top 28 players.

The results of group 17 said it all. While Rose was in the thick of it at two-over for the tournament, the same was not true for his American playing partners and fellow 20-something future stars: Charles Howell III (nine over) and Sean O'Hair (13 over). This U.S. Open is looking about as "U.S." as the last one. Among the top 20 finishers at Winged Foot were but six Americans: Jim Furyk, Phil Mickelson, Jeff Sluman, Steve Stricker, David Duval and Arron Oberholser.

In other words, the PGA is now officially the NBA, where a Frenchman, a Dutchman, two Argentines, a Slovak and a big guy from the U.S. Virgin Islands led the San Antonio Spurs to the championship Thursday night.

We're beginning to understand that American golf isn't what it once was. We know that an Australian can break through and win our national championship. The only question left is, can a European?

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