PGA Tour Confidential: What's behind the Americans' early success, and can they keep it up?

PGA Tour Confidential: What’s behind the Americans’ early success, and can they keep it up?

Chad Campbell is one shot off the lead through two rounds at the Open.
Peter Morrison/AP

Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the Open Championship in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Do you think the Americans on the leaderboard are benefiting from lowered expectations and less pressure, or are they simply off to a good start?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Off to a good start. It’s not like the Americans can’t compete. Looking at the leader board, wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a U.S. winner. Tomorrow should tell the tale. The weather should help provide some separation.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I would hope that the American contingent doesn’t have lowered expectations. In fact, I would think it’s just the opposite. Give them credit for solid play. And keep an eye on Chad Campbell. He’s been close at the PGA and the Masters, and hailing from West Texas, he should feel right at home when the wind starts howling.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Right. In Chad Campbell’s case, links golf is probably the closest thing to playing where he grew up. The ground is hard, it’s so windy it makes your hair hurt, and the courses are brown. It’s almost funny he hasn’t won an Open already.

Godich: All that’s missing is a good old-fashioned dust storm.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Glover, Lehman and Love are all major champs. They belong. Mickelson, too. Chad Campbell has nearly won a Masters and PGA. With his piercing ball flight, Dustin Johnson is the longest player in the world into the wind. No flukes here.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: The Americans are just playing well. I don’t think they are impacted by expectations. Maybe Kuchar was, and that’s he was 11 over and way over the cut line.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: There’s probably some benefit to flying under the radar, especially for Mickelson, who’s not “PHIL!” but just another really good player to U.K. golf fans. Good point by Godich on Campbell in the wind.

Van Sickle: The Americans benefited from two days of surprisingly good weather. It didn’t blow 30 miles per hour like it was supposed to Thursday, and in fact the wind completely died later Thursday when Lucas Glover birdied in. On Friday morning, it was quiet again, warm and sunny. The more extreme the conditions are on a links course, the less likely American players are to do well.

Charlie Hanger, executive editor, I don’t think all the Americans are being helped by lowered expectations. To be lowered, they have to have been high at some point in the recent past, and I don’t think that’s the case for Glover, Campbell, Love, Lehman. But for Mickelson and Johnson, as Mike pointed out, I think it probably has helped to be less in the spotlight.

Alan Bastable, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Among the Yanks in serious contention, I like Glover. He’s proven he can win on tough courses (Quail Hollow, Bethpage Black), and he was born to keep it under the wind. Jay Haas once said that asking Glover to hit a low ball is “like asking a fish to hold its breath under water.”

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: It wasn’t that long ago that an American seemed to take home the claret jug yearly. Daly, Lehman, Leonard and O’Meara took four straight from ’95-’98. Curtis, Hamilton and Tiger swept from ’03-’06. Cink and Waston dueled in ’09. Whatever the expectations, the Yanks can play over there and win over there.

Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: The so-called American drought is over-hyped, and I doubt it’s something the players think about, with the exception of Phil, maybe. Lucas Glover has the perfect ball flight for links golf — a low draw that he hits under the wind. I’m surprised by his career record at the Open, which is mediocre at best. Maybe something clicked.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: I think they’ve benefitted from being forgotten about and/or written off. If the weather is as terrible as they say it’ll be Saturday, I think it’ll help Lehman. He’s got to feel he has an edge mentally, which is worth something.