Looking for the Next American Star

SUBSCRIBE

Looking for the Next American Star

January 06, 2010
By Johnny Miller Illustrations by Alex Nabaum

NO SUCH THING AS SECOND-TIER EVENTS

Through the end of June, two American players younger than 30 had won for the first time on the PGA Tour this year: Nick Watney at New Orleans and Hunter Mahan at Hartford. Only one U.S. player under 30 -- Charles Howell III -- has won more than once in his career. Why hasn't a young American emerged with the potential to be special along the lines of Sergio Garcia or Adam Scott?Sure the competition is strong. It isn't easy to build multiple-win seasons in the era of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and with strong international players. But it's more than that. Young American players don't have the confidence that was common among young players in the 1970s and '80s. Guys like Lanny Wadkins, Tom Watson, Hubert Green, Curtis Strange and Payne Stewart had a boldness bordering on cockiness that enabled them to finish on Sunday. Their desire to set themselves apart made difficult accomplishments possible. MickeIson showed this quality when he came along 15 years ago, but with the exception of Tiger, nobody has shown it since. This desire is something I wish more young Americans would develop and sustain.

TRENDS

If there's an expression that has to go, it's "second tier" when talking about any tournament on the PGA Tour. The best example might be the Reno-Tahoe Open, which is played in August opposite the WGC event at Firestone Country Club. Sure, Reno didn't have Tiger or any top-10 player on the World Ranking last year, and it had the smallest purse on tour. But that purse was $3 million, the event was televised all four days and thousands of spectators attended. It's also in its ninth year as a tour stop.Several factors make the smaller tournaments a success. The tournament committees at Hawaii, Atlanta and Colonial have been around so long, they've tweaked everything to perfection. As for the newer events, they've copied the best things about the old tournaments. Finally, for both old and new, resources come into play. Money, volunteers and expertise mean there is no such thing as second tier.

COMPETITION

Why has the United States won four of six Presidents Cup matches and lost five of the last six Ryder Cups? The reason, as you'll see when the Presidents Cup is played Sept. 27-30 at Royal Montreal Golf Club in Canada, is the brilliant strategy employed by U.S. team captain Jack Nicklaus, which can best be described as "Let 'em play." I think Jack realizes that micromanaging the pairings, staging pep talks and overcoaching his players -- as has happened in several losing Ryder Cups –€“doesn't work. It adds pressure and takes players out of their normal mind-set. Jack for the most part turns his players loose and lets them do their thing. His hands-off approach is why I think the United States will win yet again.

Shop This Look