Europe's Emergence as a Major Force Is the Highlight of an Eventful Year in Golf

Richard Smith@@richonracingContributor IIIDecember 3, 2010

Graeme McDowell celebrates being the first European to win the US Open since 1970.
Graeme McDowell celebrates being the first European to win the US Open since 1970.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

The overriding conclusion to the 2010 year in golf has to be that the Europeans have emerged as the major force to be reckoned with in terms of world golf. Although the Americans are likely to finish the year with four players in the Top Six in the world rankings, it is incredible to see that the rest of the Top 10 is populated by Europeans: world No. 1 Lee Westwood, German Martin Kaymer at No. 3, Paul Casey at No. 7, Ian Poulter at No. 8, Luke Donald at No. 9 and Rory McIlroy at No. 10. Even more encouraging is the fact that Graeme McDowell is at No. 11, the incredible Molinari Brothers from Italy, are at No. 15 and No. 17, with Swede, Robert Karlsson wedged in between them at No. 16.

The rankings clearly demonstrate that the performances of the Europeans throughout 2010 have been astounding, with several players winning on the US tour itself. The biggest of those wins of course were achieved by McDowell who became the first European to win the US Open since Tony Jacklin in 1970 and Kaymer who won the PGA Championship, emulating fellow European, Padraig Harrington’s success in 2008. It was a first "Major" tournament win for both players, which made it fitting therefore to see them both occupying first and second places in the 2010 Race to Dubai, with Kaymer winning narrowly from the Ulsterman.

Other European's victories on the US tour came initially with Ian Poulter taking the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship, defeating fellow Englishman, Paul Casey in the final. There was also a first win for rising star, Rory McIlroy, who won at Quail Hollow, Justin Rose won twice, winning the Memorial as well as the AT&T Tournament and there was a win too for Westwood who took the honours at the St. Jude Classic.

Other notable performances came from Westwood again, by finishing second in the US Masters and the British Open, which saw him top the current rankings, together with Luke Donald who finished second in the Tour Championship, second in the Deutsche Bank Championship as well as several third-place finishes in addition to his win at the Madrid Masters.

As far as the European tour is concerned, pride of place must go to Kaymer, who won three further tournaments during the course of the year, including the two tournaments he played immediately after winning the PGA Championship—the KLM Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links—thus becoming the first player since Sir Nick Faldo in 1989, to win three tournaments in a row. Earlier in the season he had already picked up the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, which was clearly the trigger that set him on his way for a most incredible year.

Graeme McDowell, who finished runner up in the Race to Dubai also enjoyed an outstanding year, winning two other tournaments. In addition to the US Open, he won the Andalucia Masters as well as the Welsh Open at Celtic Manor, plus he enjoyed a host of top 10 finishes.

Spaniard, Miguel Angel Jimenez should also rate a huge mention as he won three tournaments, all on the European tour. His wins came at the Dubai Desert Classic, the Alstom Open in France and the Omega European Masters in Switzerland. The Spaniard is now ranked at No. 29 in the world.

McDowell enjoyed further success of course at Celtic Manor, becoming the player who sank the winning putt in the European Ryder Cup victory in October. The victory further underlined European dominance and was a fitting tribute to Ryder Cup legend, Colin Montgomerie who captained the team.

The other two "Major" tournaments, the US Masters and the Open Championship, were won by Phil Mickelson and the little known South African, Louis Oosthuizen, respectively. Mickelson in fact claimed his fourth Green Jacket at Augusta, while Oosthuizen, like Kaymer and McDowell won his first "Major" of his career and in the process joined a list of outstanding players who have won the tournament at St. Andrews.

Of course, off the course the major talking point was the Tiger Woods soap opera, which ultimately has led to him losing his world No. 1 spot to Lee Westwood. It was the first time since turning professional in 1996 that Woods failed to win a tournament during the calendar year and the second year in succession that he failed to win a "Major."  

All eyes will be firmly on Woods in 2011 to see if he can put his troubles behind him and bounce back to winning ways on the golf course. The golf odds have continued to favour Tiger's chances whenever he lines up in any event but he has been a long way from rewarding his backers and if his poor run of form continues, Woods could find himself tumbling further down the rankings over the next 12 months.