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US golfers are flagging on the leaderboard

Only once since the US Masters was introduced as a fourth major in 1934 have the Americans failed to capture at least one of the four big prizes. There is every chance that this year will be another ignominious one for the US.

One of my earliest and most enduring golfing memories was Jack Nicklaus conceding a two-foot putt to Tony Jacklin which meant that the Ryder Cup would finish in a tie for the first time in its history.

That example of sportsmanship at Royal Birkdale in 1969 meant Great Britain & Ireland achieved a rare moment of respite from their customary biennial thrashing at the hands of their transatlantic rivals.

In those days, the US had so much strength in depth that sport's biggest matchplay competition became such a mismatch that Americans enjoyed a 26-year domination.

Even the addition of players from the rest of Europe did not break the sequence in the first three subsequent matches until the trophy was finally surrendered by the Americans at the Belfry in 1985.

That European victory by 16 points to 11 was a pivotal moment in world golf as the balance of power has gradually shifted to the point where 2011 promises to become the worst in Uncle Sam's long memory.

Only once since the US Masters was introduced as a fourth major in 1934 have the Americans failed to capture at least one of the four big prizes.

That was in 1994 when Nick Price claimed back-to-back victories in the British Open and the PGA.

There is every chance that this year will be another ignominious one for the US.

With so much uncertainty still surrounding Tiger Woods - next month's Omega Dubai Desert Classic might provide us with a valuable pointer to his future - the principal flag-carrying role appears to have passed to Phil Mickelson, who makes his Middle East debut in next week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

When Woods was at his peak, any non-American success was considered to be of consolation value, interrupting what was considered to be an inexorable march by the former world No 1 to Nicklaus's record total of 18 majors. But now the overseas challenge is so strong, principally from the players who regained the Ryder Cup for Europe at Celtic Manor in Wales in October.

Lee Westwood was acknowledged as the on-course figurehead of that talented Colin Montgomerie-led line-up and the world No 1 is surely destined to end his major drought over the next 12 months.

Graeme McDowell was the anchorman and clincher of that European victory and the Northern Irishman is making encouraging noises about adding another before much longer.

His exploits at Pebble Beach last June, where he won the US Open, have convinced Rory McIlroy, his compatriot, that he, too, can net a big one, while Padraig Harrington, their friend from south of the Irish border, still possesses the pedigree to add to his haul of three majors.

With Martin Kaymer, another Ryder Cup player, also joining the list of major champions last year by claiming the PGA Championship and Louis Oosthuizen striking a further blow for the European Tour - albeit under the South African flag - with his British Open victory, the threats to time-honoured American dominance of the big events is becoming greater with every passing month.

Oosthuizen, however, has endured a torrid time since his triumph at St Andrews. Victory in his homeland last week ended that barren spell and there will be few who will begrudge him that overdue celebration.

McDowell will also arrive in Abu Dhabi in confident vein after shooting a sparkling 62 in Hawaii last week to come within a stroke of making the play-off to the Tournament of Champions.

The Irishman's impressive start to the new campaign takes him to within striking distance of fourth-placed Mickelson in the world rankings. The presence of the stars and stripes on the leaderboard could be a thing of the past.

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