Patrick Reed’s win at Augusta National on Sunday was the latest in a scintillating run of success for American golf.
The 26-year-old’s triumph means all four majors are currently held by American players, and all under the age of 27 – with six of the world’s top 11 players also coming from across the pond.
American golf is certainly making a splash.
Brooks Koepka (27), Jordan Spieth (24) and Justin Thomas (24) hold the US Open, The Open Championship and PGA Championship trophies – with world number six Rickie Fowler yet to win but consistently proving he can challenge at the top of the leaderboard.
At 29, Fowler may be the oldest of the five players but has shown he has the quality, nerve and skillset to win a major – shooting a final round 67 at the Masters to finish one shot behind eventual winner Reed on 15-under-par.
If you contrast America’s rise to Europe’s, no big player has kicked in the same way, apart from world number three Jon Rahm who sealed a fourth place finish at Augusta and won the CareerBuilder Challenge in January.
Of course, there are stars like Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Matt Fitzpatrick continuing to shine on the European Tour, but none have really thrived at a major.
Maybe it’s the college and amateur tour in America that has instilled this strength and talent in youngsters, with players like Bryson DeChambeau (24) and Thomas coming straight out of university and competing against marquee names.
Although DeChambeau may not have placed inside the top-10 at Majors – with two top-25 finishes at the Masters and US Open – he is still a thrilling prospect who has the chance to light up the world stage for the next decade.
In Dustin Johnson, America have the best player in the word. Despite not winning a major since the US Open in 2016, DJ has had the rest of the field dancing to his own tune for over 60 weeks – holding a grip on top spot since February 2017.
Johnson may be an elder lemon at 33 but has proven his consistency week in week out – with Rahm and Thomas coming closest to dethroning his long run.
There’s no doubt that Fowler, Thomas, Koepka and Reed will continue to win tournaments and challenge at Majors, with hope of other youngsters stepping up at various points of the year.
On talent alone, Spieth is the driving force of golf in the States for the foreseeable future.
Putting may not be his strongest suit at the moment (he is currently ranked 185th on strokes gained: putting on the PGA Tour), but the Texan has the composure, confidence and in-game intelligence to be a menace at the big events.
In a time where golf seems to be relying on the much-heralded and hoped for ‘return of Tiger Woods’ to bail them out of the general disinterest shown towards the sport, they need to look at a figure like Spieth as their true saviour.
He may not be the most exciting character to listen to in post-round interviews but he’s 24, consistent and has already won three majors in three years – with another five top-5 finishes to add to that since 2014.
It’s a healthy argument to have and definitely adds to the interest ahead of not only the other three Major championships over the next four months but the Ryder Cup at the end of September in Paris.
American golf is in a dominant place.
Rory McIlroy believes he will win the Masters title he needs to complete the career grand slam despite letting his best chance to date slip away.
McIlroy began the final round three shots off the lead and closed to within a shot of eventual winner Patrick Reed after two holes, but faded badly
with a closing 74 at Augusta National.
And although it was not the collapse of 2011, when he enjoyed a four-shot lead
after 54 holes before crashing to a closing 80, the Northern Irishman could be
forgiven for wondering if his place in history will remain elusive.
“I played probably some of the best golf I’ve ever played here, it just wasn’t meant to be,” McIlroy said. “Of course it’s frustrating and it’s hard to take any positives from it right now, but at least I put myself in a position, that’s all I’ve wanted to do.
“For the last four years I’ve had top 10s but I haven’t been close enough to the lead. Today I got myself there, I didn’t quite do enough but I’ll still come back next year and try again.
“I think 100% I can come back and win here. I’ve played in two final groups in the last seven years, I’ve had five top 10s, I play this golf course well. I just haven’t played it well enough at the right times.
“The putter let me down a little bit, I just wasn’t quite as trusting as I was the first few days and that made a big difference. I was trying to hit good shots and good putts and anytime I felt like I hit a good shot I got myself on the wrong side of the pin or gave myself a tricky one down the hill.
“Then when I did get some chances I didn’t take advantage of them. It was a tough day and hopefully I’ll be better next time.
“It was like every time I took a step forward I took a step back on the next hole. I had a chance to maybe put a bit more pressure on him than I did and I’d say three and five are the ones that I’d look back on and if I could have made pars there it could have been a different story.”
Fending off epic challenges from three top rivals in a dramatic Masters final round, Patrick Reed captured his first major title Sunday, grinding out a one-shot victory at Augusta National.
The 27-year-old US Ryder Cup firebrand showed the same grit he displays in match-play battles, dispatching Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy in an emotional battle that had spectators roaring.
“Today was probably the hardest mentally a round of golf can possibly be,” Reed said. “I knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
Reed, whose breakthrough came in his 17th major start, fired a 1-under par 71 to finish 72 holes on 15-under 273, one stroke ahead of Fowler with Spieth third on 275 and Spain’s Jon Rahm fourth on 276.
“Having to shoot under par in the final round to win my first major, it was awesome,” Reed said. “It was really satisfying.”
In addition to the iconic winner’s green jacket, Reed pocketed $1.98 million from an $11 million purse.
Reigning British Open champion Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion and twice a runner-up, matched the low final-round in Augusta National history with a 64, a closing bogey thwarting his bid for the biggest comeback to win in Masters history.
“I started nine back,” Spieth said. “I wanted to shoot a low round and see if something crazy happens.”
Fowler, still seeking his first major win, birdied six of the last 11 holes. He sank a 7-foot birdie putt on 18 to pull within one and keep Reed under pressure to the 72nd hole.
“We gave our all out there and made P-Reed earn it,” Fowler said. “I was happy to make that last putt.”
Needing a two-putt par from 25 feet at 18 to win, Reed gently tapped the first putt and saw it race four feet past the cup. He sank the comeback effort and pumped his fist in celebration.
“To have to two-putt the last hole to win my first major, it definitely felt right,” Reed said. “I was glad to end the drought.”
Reed’s last-pair partner McIlroy kept near on the front nine, chasing his dream of a Masters win to complete a career Grand Slam, but managed only one birdie in the last 14 holes.
“I just didn’t quite have it,” the Northern Ireland star said. “When I did have opportunities I didn’t take advantage of them.
“Tough day. But I’ll be back.”
Reed, who had never cracked 70 in 12 Masters rounds before this week, became the fourth straight first-time Masters winner and the ninth first-time winner in the past 10 majors.
Reed’s approach at the par-5 13th clung to a bank above Rae’s Creek, his title bid nestled with it, but he escaped with par to stay deadlocked with Spieth for the lead at 14-under.
Reed sank an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-4 14th to regain a one-stroke lead and parred to the clubhouse to win.
Spieth clipped a tree branch off the 18th tee and needed three to reach the green, where he missed an 8-foot par putt that would have seen him match the 18-hole course record.
Spieth was only the seventh player to shoot 64 in the last round, the first since Bo Van Pelt in 2012.