By contrast, the PGA Tour has Phil Mickelson and David Duval, not to mention the 26-year-old Els. In the wings is 20-year-old Tiger Woods, who finished 22nd at Lytham with a three-under-par 281 that tied the lowest score ever by an amateur in the British Open. With 18 birdies in 72 holes, Woods again demonstrated that he has awesome ammunition that will detonate once he learns to harness his power.
"There are a lot of potentially good young players in Europe, but they are not developing as quickly as the ones in the States," says David Leadbetter, swing coach to Faldo and Nick Price as well as to many American pros. "It has created a gap in the line of succession."
Faldo's decision last year to spend the majority of his time playing in the U.S. will probably make that gap wider. Faldo has encouraged Montgomerie to follow him, and the Scot may do so if he does not win a major soon. Cejka, for one, makes it clear he also intends to take his career to the U.S.
Faldo believes the PGA Tour fosters a more precise game than is played in Europe. Assessing the conditions at Lytham, he confidently predicted on Wednesday that the Americans would do well. "Lytham is an accuracy course with an emphasis on distance control, and that's what you play all the time on the U.S. Tour," said Faldo. "That's how Watson came over and won so many Opens. He didn't just do it by improvising shots and having a great short game. He knew how to hit the ball from point A to point B, and he just changed his points to allow for 30 yards of roll. In America, you become more precise and that makes you better."
Certainly most top U.S. pros believe they are better than the Europeans, which is what made the loss of the Ryder Cup so painful. Conversely, it made last week's British Open an opportunity for redemption.
"We don't get to where we are without having a very competitive nature," said McCumber, who played at Lytham despite travel snafus that resulted in a 44½-hour trip to Great Britain and pushed his arrival time at the course back to late Tuesday afternoon. "Anytime you lose something representing the American Tour, when you go to the home ground of the people who beat you, you want to say, 'Listen, we can really play.' I think there is an extra determination now."
It was that urgency that Brad Faxon, a member of the losing Ryder Cup team who finished 33rd at Lytham, tried to convey when he said before the championship, "We need more guys to come over here. And we need to win it."
It was Faxon who took the lead in criticizing Scott Hoch for some anti-British Open comments he had made after winning the Michelob Championship in Williamsburg, Va., the week prior to Lytham. Hoch, who has only played in the British Open twice, called St. Andrews "the worst piece of mess I've ever seen," adding, "If I don't enjoy playing in a place, it doesn't make any difference how big a tournament it is." To add fuel to the fire, Hoch spent the week playing at the Deposit Guaranty Classic in Madison, Miss., and was scheduled to cross the Atlantic to play in the Dutch Open this week for a sizable appearance fee.
"I think Scott Hoch made a big mistake in not coming over here," said Faxon. "It is more than sad that a guy who plays so well does not come over here." Faxon then expanded his comments to include John Cook, Jim Gallagher and Kenny Perry, three other Tour regulars who were exempt for the British but didn't travel abroad. "It's a disgrace they are not here," said Faxon, who proposed that exempt Americans who skip the British should not be allowed to play in the Ryder Cup or the Presidents Cup, and that any prize money they win in a tournament opposite the British Open should not count on the money list.
Most of his fellow pros at Lytham felt Faxon was overzealous. Said Jay Haas, a member of the Ryder Cup team who shared a house with Faxon in Lytham and tied for 22nd, "Playing in the British Open is up to each individual. With the weather that you can have over here, if you are not playing well you can end up going home with your game in shambles. But Brad's very passionate when it comes to this tournament."