I love this time of year, and not just for the presents and time off work. I love perusing the scores of Top 10 lists that reminisce about the year’s best moments.
But there’s one entry on all these golf-related lists that’s really getting on my nerves: “European dominance.”
The Euros deserve the recognition they’re receiving for their fantastic season. I don’t want to diminish or demean their accomplishments in any way.
But everyone seems so quick to point to 2010 as the beginning of some trend. That’s where I get annoyed.
Was it a great year for the Europeans? Of course. They won the Ryder Cup. Enough said.
Add Graeme McDowell’s U.S. Open victory and Martin Kaymer’s PGA win, and it was a watershed season. Seven of the top 11 in the Official World Golf Ranking, including No. 1 Lee Westwood, are European.
But if this year truly were the beginning of some trend, I want to see a commonality between Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, et al., that caused them all to have great seasons. And I want to see this performance sustained over several years, not just 12 months.
Have we ever stopped to think that it may just be coincidence? Maybe it just so happens that a handful of Europeans all played great at the same time.
This whole thing reminds me of a line I read earlier this year in the book, “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives,” by Leonard Mlodinow.
He wrote, “Random events often come like raisins in a box of cereal – in groups, streaks and clusters.”
Later in the book, he states:
“When we look at extraordinary accomplishments in sports – or elsewhere – we should keep in mind that extraordinary events can happen without extraordinary causes. Random events often look like nonrandom events, and in interpreting human affairs we must take care not to confuse the two.”
We should probably listen to Mlodinow. He seems like he knows what he’s talking about, having received a doctorate in physics from Cal-Berkeley. He now teaches about randomness at Caltech.
What if Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Rickie Fowler and a few of their countrymen come out in 2011 and start snagging trophies at a torrid pace? How quickly would we start seeing headlines about the health of American golf?
A few good months of play from DJ & Co. would suddenly mark the resurgence of American golf. It’s funny, and a fallacy, that a couple of good tournaments could so drastically change a country’s long-term prognosis.
No one would stop to consider that it’s just coincidence that a handful of players all born in the same country are winning at the same time. That would just be too boring.