Living in western New York in the 1990s, Bills fans grew accustomed to championships. The team won 4 consecutive AFC titles before bowing out in 1994. Over the past 15 years, we golf fans grew accustomed to similar success stories, courtesy of the Cypres prodigy, Tiger Woods. Since November of 2009, Tiger Woods has not been Tiger Woods. Our deslusion with his fine play grew so large as to be expected. Our problem today is a simple and painful one: there is no USA replacement for The Great One.
As Americans, we expect to be the greatest, the world leaders, the victors. While Tiger was conquering all worlds, Phil Mickelson played a fine second violin to The Master, suggesting that he might have been the best if not for Tiger. Not true. Phil played the best he could, better than he might have hoped, because of Tiger. Tiger forced Phil to raise his game. The Woods challenged at one important tournament in 2010, The Masters, where he finished 4th. Remember who won? Phil. Why? Tiger.
Phil had plenty of opportunities to take the crown of best in show from The Invictus. He never could. He now ranks outside the top 5 in the world. Of late, pundits have suggested that Matt Kuchar is some sort of answer to the “next great American hope.” Let me share with you that he ain’t. The last two weeks gave us our proof.
At the WGC Match Play, Kuchar made it to the semifinals, where he fell to Luke Donald. He actually fell on Donald’s sword, but that part was edited out for television. Sure, he beat Bubba in the consolation match…whoooo! This week, Kuchar stood 3 under after 44 holes, poised to make a few more birdies and join the battle versus Rory Sabbatini. He did no such thing. Instead, The Hope bogeyed four of his remaining ten holes to go to +1, then started double-single on Sunday to dash all hope of contention. Three subsequent birdies were mere icing on the cupcake.
PGA National is a major championship type of course. It has hosted the PGA and the Ryder Cup. Kuchar showed us nothing there, which is why I hold out little hope for him at any of the four major championship venues. He is good enough to finish in the top ten of any and might do so at all. He won’t win any of them, though. Nor will any other, touted American golfer. Sit back and rest easy, America. Your next great one will come around 2030.