Who will end the US domination of the majors?
In the Friday Fourball this week: Alex Perry, James Savage, Steve Carroll and Keel Timmins take it turns to ask each other all the questions you didn’t think you wanted answered…
Alex: With Patrick Reed’s Masters victory, all four major titles are held by Americans for the first time since 2004. Who do you think will end the run of US domination and at which major?
James: Rory McIlroy is still the most likely major winner for me. Although I like the look of Fleetwood at Carnoustie seeing as he’s in the form of his life and is the course record holder. But with Rahm, Rose, Stenson, Garcia – there’s no shortage of contenders.
Steve: If Jon Rahm can keep his temper under control then it’s surely only a matter of time before he breaks his duck. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t contend at Carnoustie. We know he can play links golf.
Keel: That streak will definitely end this year. There are few better players in tough conditions than Justin Rose – that’s why I think he’ll win at Shinnecock Hills, a course that is likely to play very difficult. If not, look for Tommy Fleetwood to win the Open. He’s hit the frame in a few big events in the last year, and this will present the perfect opportunity for him to get off the mark. He shot the course record at Carnoustie only last year.
James: Does it really matter who holds the majors going into a Ryder Cup?
Steve: No. I read all this stuff about the Americans having an advantage because they hold all the majors and I scoff. It doesn’t matter who has got the trophies. It’s about who performs better over three days in France.
Keel: No. You can’t look back at just four events spread over the year to get an idea of who is going to win a team event at the end of the season. There are far more important factors: the players’ form heading into the week, the suitability of the golf course to each team (does it suit ball strikers or putters?), home advantage, team spirit/morale.
Alex: My friend I play tennis against has beaten me once in about three years – and it definitely plays on his mind every time we step on the court. It must be similar at the highest level. If Reed and Rory go toe-to-toe at Le Golf National, the American is already 2-up in terms of psychological advantage.
Steve: When Rory blew the Masters in 2011, he came back and won the US Open a few weeks later. Will his disappointment this time drive him on again?
Keel: We all know that Rory can go from playing terribly to playing incredibly in the matter of a week, so you can never rule him out. But at the moment, I just don’t think he’s playing well enough. When he won at Bay Hill a few weeks ago, everyone was saying that ‘Rory’s back’. Simply, if it wasn’t for the best putting performance of his career, he wouldn’t have won. If you try to force things in golf, it rarely works, and that’s why I don’t think he’ll win a major this year.
Alex: His disappointment over the past four years doesn’t seem to have driven him on in the next major. I’m starting to get a bit concerned that it’s all starting to get to him a bit. I truly hope I’m wrong. I said after his 2011 meltdown that if he just wins one Green Jacket, the floodgates will open and he’ll win several. I still believe that.
James: I really hope it does. It’s been four years now since he last won any major and it must be starting to weigh him down – not just at Augusta. Rory got his tactics spot on at The Masters – until the final round where he didn’t put his foot down and make it happen. Hopefully he’ll go for the jugular in all four rounds at Shinnecock.
Keel: Imagine a final Sunday pairing of Patrick Reed and someone like Ian Poulter at the Open Championship, where Reed has the majority of the backing from the crowd. It wouldn’t happen, would it? So why did Rory McIlroy – someone that ruffled American feathers in the last Ryder Cup – get bigger support than Reed on Sunday?
Alex: In individual sports, is so much more common to support the player rather than nationality. For me it was as much about McIlroy’s status as a firm fan favourite on both sides of the Atlantic as it was Reed’s, shall we say, questionable past.
James: It was a combination of Reed not being very popular and McIlroy being probably the second most popular golfer to Tiger. No one other than Rory, and maybe Spieth, has threatened Tiger-esque greatness in the last five or six years. McIlroy is actually quite vulnerable – he’s generally honest and genuine. He makes mistakes like normal people and that’s why he’s one of the most popular players in the game.
Steve: We’ve also got to remember that McIlroy was going for the career grand slam. Given only five golfers have ever achieved that landmark, it’s only natural that many of the crowd may have wanted to see a piece of history made.