It’s nothing compared to what’s at stake in globalization or in the conflict over the budget deficit, but the Masters, which finished yesterday in Augusta, Ga. with South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel (who?) capturing his first green jacket, was a microcosm of what has happened to American world dominance.
Make that former world dominance. At arguably the most prestigious golf tournament, the final leader board included Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Angel Cabrera (Argentina), Schwartzel (South Africa), K.J. Choi (South Korea), Jason Day and Adam Scott (both Australia) and Luke Donald (England).
Other than Tiger Woods, who hasn’t won a major in three years following the greatest decade in golf history, someone named Bo Van Pelt was the only American to finish in the top nine, six shots behind Schwartzel.
But then two of the previous three Masters winners (Cabrera and South African Trevor Immelman) were foreigners. So were five of the last seven champions of the United States Open, for cryin’ out loud.
In tennis, the top American man is Mardy Fish, which isn’t French for Tuesday’s seafood sale. Fish isn’t even ranked in the world’s top 10. Serena Williams (10th) is the only American woman in the top 10 and she hasn’t played this year because of a foot injury.
The era when we dominated in the Olympics seems as long-gone as a Victrola. That’s even true in basketball, a sport we invented. A record 84 players on opening night NBA rosters weren’t American compared to 45 a decade earlier.
In Major League Baseball, the figure this month was 27.7 percent, down slightly from the record 29.2 percent of 2005.
How long before the NFL is no longer an all American league?
This isn’t xenophobia, mind you. A Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal match is as good as tennis gets. Grevis Vasquez gave Maryland men’s hoops fans their biggest thrills since the 2002 NCAA title. And Albert Pujols has been baseball’s surpreme joy to watch for a decade.
But what happened at the Masters this past week is just another sign that the American way in so many fields is a fact of the past. When Budweiser is owned by a Belgian conglomerate and so many of us are driving foreign cars, how can we expect anything different from our sports, even at Augusta National, a bastion of privilege and prejudice well into the 1970s?
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.