A record number of European Tour players will contest an American Major tournament this week at Medinah, as some 48 players from that Tour will line up in the 88th USPGA Championship on the outskirts of Chicago in Illinois.
Europeans and overseas players based on the European Tour have an unenviable record in the USPGA Championship, and this year’s record group will be hoping to bring to an end an abysmal run that stretches right back to the founding of the competition in 1916. Jim Barnes, who won the first two titles, is the only European to win golf’s fourth Major championship and even this claim is a tenuous one. Although he was born in England he became a US citizen before his first triumph in 1916.
All of the other overseas winners of the USPGA hail from outside of Europe, and such players as Jim Ferrier (Australia), Vijay Singh (Fiji), Gary Player (South Africa), Nick Price (Zimbabwe) and David Graham (Australia) were all members of the USPGA Tour at the time of their victories. Consequently, despite the record presence, the weight of history is firmly against the European contingent.
Europeans have not won any Major championship since Paul Lawrie’s triumph at the 1999 Open, and the last European win in a Major on American soil was Jose Maria Olazabal’s Masters victory two months prior to that. Olazabal – along with Colin Montgomerie, Luke Donald and David Howell – will be seen as one of Europe’s main hopes going into this week’s renewal.
One European who will enter the tournament full of optimism will be Spain’s Sergio Garcia. Garcia has been playing fairly well recently, albeit for three rounds rather than four, as his peformances in the Open and the International prove. Medinah also evokes fond memories for him. Shortly after turning professional in 1999 at the age of 19 Garcia finished second to Tiger Woods at the USPGA Championship – also at Medinah.
“Medinah and Chicago are special places for me,” the Spaniard said on Monday.
“It’s where everybody got to know me. I’m playing quite well at the moment and I’m hoping I can go out there this week and put on a good show. I’d love to finish one better than last time, but if not at least I’ll be there and will get a nice reception from the local people.”
Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie has consistently looked like being the best bet in terms of a European winning a US Major. He was close once again in June at the US Open, but it may pay for punters to look beyond the big names who are burdened by expectations and memories of near misses. Englishman Kenneth Ferrie’s performance in this year’s US Open at Winged Foot is evidence of this. In his first American Major he led going into the final round and eventually finished sixth. This year’s USPGA Championship field contains several European names who are relatively inexperienced in American Majors, including Johan Edfors, Gonzalo Fernanzez-Castano and the English trio of John Bickerton, Simon Kahn and Anthony Wall.