Golf

Hard times for US sports

2011-04-12 11:15
US sports (File)

Augusta - It was a miserable Masters for US golfers, underlining once again how Americans no longer dominate the world of sports as they once did.

In a remarkable turnaround, South African Charl Schwartzel's triumph at Augusta National means that golfers from beyond US borders now own all four major titles for only the second time in golf history.

More worryingly for US fans, only a charging Tiger Woods was ever in contention on the final day to provide a home win for Augusta National fans to cheer.

"America is big," Schwartzel said. "But the world is bigger."

The last time that all four major titles were in US possession dates back to 1982 when Craig Stadler won the Masters, Tom Watson won the US and British Opens and Ray Floyd won the PGA Championship.

It may be some time before they do so again.

"It just shows us Americans got to get going," said Gary Woodland, one of the new breed of US big-hitters who failed to make much of a mark on the tournament.

"Young international players have won four majors in a row, but there are a lot of young guys in America coming up and we've just got to keep doing what we're doing, and we'll be all right."

The scenario has become all too familiar to American sports fans and administrators.

In tennis, the only one of the eight men's and women's Grand Slam titles that remains in US hands is the Wimbledon women's crown, won last year by Serena Williams.

But she and sister Venus are injured and nearing the end of their stellar careers and behind them the cupboard is virtually bare.

Currently the next highest-ranking American is Bethanie Mattek-Sands at 41 and she is also in the veteran category.

The men are higher-ranked but are without a Grand Slam winner since Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open - a world away from the 1990s when Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang ruled the roost.

The list of American agonies is long.

Long gone is the era when such legends as Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Larry Holmes dominated boxing's heavyweight scene.

Instead the four major world heavyweight titles belong to the Klitschko brothers of Ukraine and Britain's David Haye.

In cycling, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has retired with the allegations that he used performance enhancing drugs throughout his career gaining in intensity.

Jamaicans Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell dominate the world of sprinting, even though Tyson Gay is a worthy-enough successor to such speed kings as Carl Lewis and Maurice Greene.

Michael Phelps is still the biggest star in swimming, but his fourth-placed finish in the 200m butterfly behind China's Wu Peng at the Michigan Grand Prix last weekend is an indication of how hard it will be for him to get near his epic performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when he won an unprecedented eight gold medals.

In baseball the two World Classic championships contested to date have been won by Japan, Canada dominates in ice hockey, while the US football team made the last 16 of last year's Soccer World Cup in South Africa only to be eliminated by Ghana.

China, meanwhile, unseated the United States as top Olympics power in Beijing three years ago.

It all adds up to a depressing enough picture for American sports on the international stage. Only time will tell if it is merely cyclical or something more fundamental.

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