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Bye Bye The American High?
One hates to crow. Crowing is something that one associates with bad taste, arrogance and adolescent inadequates.

But after years of American crowing about dominance in world golf, it is extremely difficult to resist the temptation to mention that US golf appears to be not quite the force that it was.

The writing has been on the wall for some time. With the English duo of Casey and Donald dominating Collegiate golf and the Walker Cup becoming as unfamiliar in the States as modesty, only Tiger Woods and David Duval have really kept the myth alive and the hype flowing.

Now, after this year's World Cup in Japan, their credibility, too, is slipping.

The World Cup was won, perhaps not surprising in retrospect, by the South African representation of Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.

But they won only after a play-off with New Zealand, represented by Mike Campbell and David Smail, Denmark, represented by Soren Hansen and Thomas Bjorn and the US 'dream team' of Woods and Duval.

The fact that Woods and Duval made it into the play-off was as a result of Woods' chipping-in for an eagle on the last hole.

Now, there is no denying that the Tiger is a talented lad, but there is equally no denying that chipping-in is accompanied by a dash of good fortune.

Justice prevailed on the first extra hole which saw the 'dream team' and the Maori's off to the practice ground when normal sane people would have made straight for the bar.

Meanwhile, back in the land of milk and honey, the elder statesmen of the game were also failing to live up to their indomitable image of yesteryear.

For many, the thought of a senior's team from the US succumbing was as unlikely as John Wayne playing a loser or a bad guy.

Big John never played a loser and when it came to the final round singles matches the US old guard didn't know the script either.

What they proved has been long contended - they are so used to playing with themselves that they simply fail to couple.

The top dogs in the US have always had a tremendous belief in themselves.

Ever since Walter Hagen first arrived on these shores in white shoes and an arrogant strut, everyone else that has followed has packed an ego in the bag that was worth a three-stroke start.

Flamboyance has long been a feature of US golf. With the style and dress sense of Palm Beach pimps, they were intimidatingly loud and colourful with a bluster and cocksure that was endearing.

Certainly, it all made golf what it is today.

Tony Jacklin mastered the American technique. He brought a new sway into British swagger and an ego that came close to conceit.

Faldo ranked even more highly in the self-assurance league.

His size, self awareness and looks intimidated even the 'great white shark', far from a minnow himself in the arrogance pond of pro golf.

Although it helps to be able to play a bit, a certain sort of nice arrogant conceit goes a long way. This has been seen for sometime at its best in interviews given by Montgomerie and Woods.

Their conceit on success was only matched by their conceit on failure.

With recent loss of winning form, Montgomerie has become boringly humble.

Paul Casey is, in many respects, like a latter-day Jacklin.

Both in stature and poise he looks every inch the winner and his aplomb is more elder statesmanlike than the recipient of the rookie of the year award.

If Jacklin had any self-doubts they manifestly disappeared after he won the US Open in Minnesota and entered his pink sweater period when he out-glared the Americans and beat them all.

Both Casey and Luke Donald, who has just come through the USPGA qualifying school, have learned their craft at College in the US.

Converts to a cause are invariably more zealous and both of these young men epitomise everything that has been great about the American game in the last decade - surpassing even the Tiger in his lair.

But there is also a new homegrown self-belief about which is best represented in the 19 year-old Nick Dougherty.

Comfortably collecting his Tour card for next year through the hard school of San Roque and Sotogrande, he has all the 'flash' requirements of the Champion Golfer.

Unlike many who dragged trolleys or reluctant girl friends with their clubs, little Nicky had a caddy and an IMG minder.

If he doesn't know he is going places someone does, but one can be sure that it hasn't escaped his own attention.

These young men have the talent to go to the very top and one hopes that they have the character and are well enough balanced to handle it.

Ego is as fragile as a hydrogen filled balloon and equally explosive.

It can be burst by the littlest prick as Tony Jacklin will tell you and to which Lee Trevino will happily concur.

©    20 - NOVEMBER 2001

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