'Strength of the US tour bad for rising talent'
Published 04/08/2010 | 05:00
After providing an in-depth reply to a question about the failure of Americans to win on the US Tour, Padraig Harrington was asked to pen a 'headline' which best summed up the situation.
"The US Tour is no longer a breeding-ground for US-born players," was Harrington's rather forthright response.
In the build-up to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in Akron, Ohio yesterday, the Dubliner was asked why he thought so many non-Americans have won on the US Tour this year -- the same question was also put to England's Lee Westwood and South Africa's British Open-winner Louis Oosthuizen.
Of the 33 money-list-counting tournaments on the US Tour this season, 16 have been captured by players other than American.
South Africans, Australians and England-born players have won four apiece. The Irish, through Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, have taken two, while Sweden and Colombia boast one win each.
Harrington's 'headline' reinforces the view of many observers that the US Tour has become so top-heavy in recent years, with the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk dominating.
This is to the detriment of their younger compatriots learning how to win.
Those four are ranked among the top five in the world rankings, with the next-best American being Anthony Kim at No 12, while it's another nine places before you come to Zach Johnson at No 21.
The other 15 places in the top 21 are dominated by the likes of Ernie Els (6), Luke Donald (8), McDowell (11), Martin Kaymer (13) and Edoardo Molinari (18), who have enjoyed success around the world.
"If there is an issue going forward, and I would say the US Tour is so strong with the international players that it means the young US-born player doesn't get the opportunity to learn how to win as much as an international player, playing on his home Tour before he comes out," said Harrington.
"Before I came to the States in 2004, I had probably won 20 times, or close to it, and a lot of guys have won before they come to the States.
"A good season here in the States for a young player, might be to get in contention three or four times, maybe win once. Whereas a good season for a young player in Europe, might see him get into contention 12 times and win twice, maybe three times. Those 12 times he's in contention, he's going to learn a lot from those.
"He's going to learn a lot about himself and that will help him grow as a player.
"So, there's no doubt that this is a tough thing to say, but the strength of the US Tour just doesn't help emerging American talent.
"This could be a controversial comment, but with Tim Finchem strengthening the Tour as he has over the last 10 years, it's made this as strong a Tour as possible.
"He's made it as easy as possible for the international players to join and is that to the detriment of the US-born players?
"So, you've got to be absolutely exceptional as a US-born player to make it to the top."
Organisers have drawn Harrington with McDowell for the opening two rounds of the $8.5m event.
McIlroy finds himself alongside World No 2 Phil Mickelson, while Woods, who is striving for an amazing eighth success in 11 appearances in the event, has Westwood for company.