2011 Australian Open: Know your Americans

If you don’t know your Bubba’s from your Johnson’s, here is a guide to the best of the American golfers in Australian Open field this week.

Thanks largely to the Presidents Cup scheduled for Melbourne next week, eight of the 12 golfers from Team USA are playing The Lakes in Sydney this week at the Australian Open. While these guys are some of the best in the world, PGA Tour broadcast times and a lack of golf press coverage in Australia, means many golf fans may be a little unsure of who they are.

Stuart Appleby once memorably said that American golfers travel like a “bag full of prawns on a hot day” referring to their poor performances outside of the US. One could have made a case for this argument ten years ago, but I’m not so sure it applies any more. The new breed of American golfer is a much more versatile one who is more than familiar with the bump-and-run than ever before.

Here is a quick look at the some of the best American golfers you may not know, who are playing our national Open this week. Catch ’em on course, or on the TV; these guys are seriously good.

Dustin Johnson – World Ranking 5

Unfortunately, Dustin Johnson is more known for his golf course failures rather than his triumphs. He lead the 2010 US Open by three shots before a disastrous final round 82 sent him sliding down the leaderboard. A month later he was the guy involved in the bunkergate saga at the 2010 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, tragically missing a chance at his first major victory after failing to recognise his ball was in a bunker.
But don’t let that be your only memories of Dustin Johnson. This guy is only getting better and hits the ball further than you can ride a bike. He has amazing power that has to be seen up close.

Matt Kuchar – WR 9

Easily discernible by his very unique swing, Kuchar has a phenomenally consistent record. Kuchar has recorded only five professional wins but in the 50 PGA Tour events played over the last two years, Kuchar has finished Top-25 on 39 occasions, 20 of them were Top-10’s. Incredible.
Check out his swing if you get close enough. There aren’t many golfers who bring the club back inside like he does. He looks like he’s ignoring the flagstick at the top of his backswing but somehow manages to get it back in place at the bottom.

Nick Watney – WR 12

While not quite as consistent as Kuchar, Nick Watney isn’t far behind. In his 22 starts this year he has had 16 top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour, two of the victories at the WGC Cadillac Championship and the AT&T National in July.
He’s another American golfer who has come from nowhere the past few years and looks like he’ll be around a while. Has the putting skills to make his mark this week and has form after finishing strong last week.

Bubba Watson – WR 17

Bubba’s testament to the new breed of American golfers who travel the world. A bit of appearance money has a lot to do with that but we’re guessing he’ll enjoy Australia more than France.
Bubba’s been here before though and played a few events when he was on the Nationwide Tour. Since then he has become one of the most eagerly watched golfers on tour. Initially it was because he could just hit the ball a very long way, now it is also because he can win golf tournaments. But even if you catch him this week just to see how far he hits it, you won’t be disappointed.

Hunter Mahan – WR 19

The biggest impression Hunter Mahan made on me was his tearful finish to the Ryder Cup last year. The guy wanted to win so badly he broke down in tears at the press conference after he felt like he’d let the team, and probably his country down.
He has a huge desire to win and while victory has eluded him this year, he is my dark horse of the American contingent this week. He doesn’t have the long game of that his compatriots do, but he is a great all-round golfer. Could easily win at The Lakes this week.

Bill Haas – WR 22

At 31-years, Bill Haas is an American star on the rise. Haas won the final FedEx Cup event of the year, landing him the trophy, a $10million bonus pay check and a captain’s pick for a spot in the Presidents Cup team.
Son of the successful Jay Haas, Bill is forging his own golf career. His hugely successful 2011 was thanks largely to his accuracy. Even with plenty of water around The Lakes layout, you won’t see Haas in trouble much this week.

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