JOHNS CREEK, Georgia (Reuters) - The United States ended a six tournament long winless streak in majors with Keegan Bradley's triumph at the PGA Championship a reminder of the emerging young talent in professional golf.
An American victory at the Atlanta Athletic Club was not unexpected but what was a surprise was that the country's first major success since Phil Mickelson's win in the 2010 Masters would come from a playoff between 25-year-old rookie Bradley and the little known Jason Dufner.
Another young American, Brendan Steele, was also in the picture before fading on Sunday and while experienced campaigners such as Scott Verplank, David Toms and D.A. Points were top 10 finishers along with 27-year-old Kevin Na, it is clear that a new, young face holding the Wanamaker Trophy was the boost that the American golf needed.
Having all four 2011 majors in the hands of non-Americans would have been hard to take even though the evidence from the PGA Tour this year is that a new generation of domestic talent is coming through.
"My class of the Nationwide (tour) and the rookies and the younger players are very, very good," Bradley said after his triumph.
"I just know from the guys, the rookies that I graduated with on the Nationwide Tour, like Chris Kirk and Jamie Lovemark, all of these guys. They are so good, and any one of them could win every week," he said.
Dufner, who saw a five-stroke lead evaporate on the last four holes, hopes the entertainment he and Bradley provided will be a reminder that there is plenty of talent besides the big names.
"A lot of guys can play. There are new names coming out that people should be excited about. It's not all about everybody you see on TV. There's a lot of guys that can really play, and they are going to play really good golf for a long time out here," he said.
The cynic might suggest that the emphasis on the sheer number of players who have a chance to win helps disguise the fact that since Tiger Woods' barren run began at the end of 2009, the United States has lacked a consistent winner.
But Bradley is one of six rookies to win on the PGA Tour this season, including four Americans, and across tournaments, the 'twentysomethings' are making their presence felt.
Mickelson remains consistently popular with U.S. fans but the hope of the game's marketers is that some of the new emerging faces will soon begin to challenge the Europeans, like Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Rory McIlroy, at the top of the rankings.
American golf has plenty to be optimistic about.
(Editing by Larry Fine)