10 May 2012

Americans Gunning for Sawgrass Glory

When Phil Mickelson holed the winning putt to win the Players Championship in 2007 no one would have predicted that the next four winners of the historic tournament would be players from outside the US. However since then there have been two European winners (Garcia, Stenson), a South African (Tim Clark) and the first ever Asian winner in KJ Choi. But this year there appear to be many Americans who are ready to buck the trend.

2001 champion and 14-time major winner Tiger Woods is in the field hoping to hunt down a second PGA win of the year. After his much-publicised slump he is appearing to be finding his feet again, winning the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier this season. His old rival Mickelson will be looking to add to his one title, although has recently slipped to 10 in the world rankings. Despite the fact that these two great players will still be challengers; times have changed.

A new generation of American golfers have broken through. Finally winning major titles, Keegan Bradley's PGA Championship win last August was a first US win in seven attempts and Bubba Watson backed it up with his stunning Masters victory. Bubba has risen to number 4 in the world but is not in the field this week while Bradley has become a force to be reckoned with after his major triumph as a rookie. But he is not the only young American with realistic ambitions of winning the 'fifth major championship'. 

Hunter Mahan has two wins already this season, one of them the prestigious WGC World Match-Play Championship, defeating world number one Rory McIlroy in the process. He has climbed into the top five of the world rankings for the first time and is a serious contender for this week's title. Another American on the rise is Webb Simpson, who was beaten so dramatically to the money-list last year by Luke Donald. Last season he announced himself on the world stage with two PGA wins and defeats in two play-offs; being one of the most consistent players on tour and rising into the world top 10. Last week he led going into the final round at the Wells Fargo Championship but shot a 73 as he missed out on a three-man play-off by one shot. 

The winner of that play-off, Rickie Fowler, will also be on a high after winning his first PGA tournament at the 67th time of asking as a pro. Other players looking to add to their PGA Tour win list like Jason Dufner, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Ben Crane and Ben Curtis will surely mount a challenge to put recent Sawgrass history  right for US golf. 

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