Masters Round-Up: Making America Great Again

Golfer lines up iron shot

Damien Kayat reflects on Patrick Reed's victory at the 2018 Masters and what it could mean for the Europeans heading into the Ryder Cup later this year. 

Patrick Reed’s victory on the hallowed greens of Augusta National was met by rapturous bouts of applause, and nowhere was that applause more deafening than in the ears of this year’s European Ryder Cup captain: Thomas Bjorn.

The presence of Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy on the leader-board in the early stages of the final round would have been encouraging, but in an all too familiar pattern at the Major Championships of late, that challenge capitulated, whilst the vanguard of an American golfing renaissance continued to prosper.

Currently, all four of golf’s Major Champions are American. But you have to dig slightly deeper to grasp the full extent of their recent dominance. Brooks Koepka’s victory at the US Open last season was followed by essentially an American shootout at the Open, with Jordan Spieth incredibly holding off Matt Kuchar en route to victory. Justin Thomas proceeded to win his maiden Grand Slam at the PGA Championships, and now Americans once again dominated contention at Augusta.

Jordan Spieth shot a record closing round 64 at Augusta, roaring him into contention whilst Rory continued to block practically every shot he made in a damp squib of a Grand Slam grab. Ricky Fowler once again underlined his status as the best player in the world without a major, making various clutch putts over the back nine that truly put the pressure on Reed. And let’s not forget the fact that the current World Number One is Dustin Johnson, who seems to have been slightly lost in the broader picture. It just seems as if this new breed of American young guns are temperamentally superior to their European counterparts in the high-pressure moments.

I think it’s fair to say that- during his period of dominance on tour- Tiger Woods was something of an island. It was part of his mystique. There was no room for camaraderie, and this was perhaps reflected in the demise of the US side in the Ryder Cup arena. The European side seemed to foster a sense of togetherness and stood apart from a tour defined solely by one man. So in many ways the demise of Tiger as the omniscient force on the PGA Tour created a vacuum for a completely new competitive culture to grow, one with a more egalitarian composition.

The tour seems to be defined now by close familial bonds, with best friends such as Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth egging each other on to greatness. Whilst the players clearly crave personal glory in the same manner that any sportsman does, there seems to be an acquiescence in defeat driven by a collective American spirit. Clearly the diminished pulling power of the European Tour has also had a part to play in this declining European ethos; with players scattered over two tours it’s hardly the easiest thing to foster a sense of solidarity.

And perhaps the most disturbing thing for Bjorn is the fact that it was Patrick Reed who flew the American flag proudly this week. Lovingly referred to as ‘Captain America’, Reed is very much the embodiment of American golfing exceptionalism. When he burst onto the scene at the Ryder Cup he was greeted by derision in various circles, seen as an uncouth throwback to a more garrulous past. While he may have tempered that initial fervour somewhat over time, his victory only lends further justification to that underlying ethos.

Patrick Reed was sort of the American version of Ian Poulter, a guy who may not be challenging for major honours but an icon of match-play histrionics. But now the American totemic match-play figure has a Green Jacket, while Ian Poulter walks around in purple pants. With the likes of McIlroy, Garcia, Rahm, Fleetwood, Rose and Stenson available, Bjorn knows there is no shortage of ability in the European side. But he must be slightly disturbed at the lack of identity that is currently afflicting European golf.

Written by Damien Kayat for

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