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Americans gaining edge in lead-up to U.S. Open

Posted: May 15, 2012 9:24 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2012 5:00 a.m.

At the U.S. Open last year, a 22-year-old Irish kid named Rory McIlroy swooped onto the Congressional Country Club and crushed the competition, besting second-place finisher Jason Day by a whopping eight strokes.

While McIlroy will likely be in contention again this go-round, his American counterparts on the PGA Tour will certainly be looking to continue this year’s string of success and knock off the defending champion.  

Americans have been racking victories this season compared to players from other countries, with only four players born outside of the U.S. nabbing championships since the beginning of the year.

Last weekend’s victory by Florida native and Georgia Tech graduate Matt Kuchar was only one slice of the continuing success for Americans.

While Kuchar’s win was undoubtedly impressive, it looked even better after his third-place finish at Augusta this year. He’s been a model of consistency in recent years, seemingly always being in contention. It was actually surprising to learn Sunday that he hasn’t won anywhere on tour in 18 months. During that time, however, he was still a top-10 machine.

Fellow American Rickie Fowler, a California native, was able to put pressure on Kuchar at the Players Championship last weekend, but couldn’t keep the pace.

If Fowler had won Sunday, he would have notched back-to-back victories after his win at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte two weeks ago.

At only 23 years old, he’s already a fan favorite and now knows what it’s like to win a championship.

Both Kuchar and Fowler are capable of continuing their success and contending for a title at the U.S. Open this year in San Francisco.

Even Fowler’s roommate Cameron Tringale, a California native like Fowler and a Yellow Jacket like Kuchar, has four top-8 finishes this year, including a tied for seventh at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans.  

Masters champion Bubba Watson hasn’t been hitting the links too much since winning his first major, but look for him to be back in form when the U.S. Open kicks off in June.

The fourth-ranked player in the world finished a disappointing tied-for-18th in his only tournament after Augusta, but is still flying high after winning the tour’s first major of the year.

The only player with multiple PGA wins this year is another California native, Hunter Mahan, who has picked up victories at the match play championship in Marana, AZ and at the Houston Open.

While he’s currently ranked sixth, he’s second in earnings this year and will likely be a strong contender at the Olympic Club as well.

While no longer at the top of his game, Tiger Woods will be another name to look out for when play begins in San Francisco.

Woods has picked up one win this year, a five stroke victory over Graeme McDowell at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando.

Despite a lack of notable wins recently, Woods is still ranked in the top 10 and will obviously be looking to contend for his first major since winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in 2008.

The usual suspects of top-ranked European golfers, particularly Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, will also likely be near the top of the leaderboard.

The last two U.S. Opens have been won by natives of Northern Ireland. Consequently, American players will undoubtedly be hungry to bring the trophy back home.

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