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American resurgence shifts balance of power once again

Is the sun now setting in the east and rising in the west?

Paula Creamer acknowledged that the defeat of her US team on home soil in the Solheim Cup last year has spurred her compatriots to improve. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images
Paula Creamer acknowledged that the defeat of her US team on home soil in the Solheim Cup last year has spurred her compatriots to improve. Picture: David Cannon/Getty Images

It is not so long since the global power balance of women's golf was tilting heavily towards Asia, but the past 12 months have witnessed a remarkable recovery by Europe and the United States.

Especially the latter. Three of the sport's five major titles are now in American hands, while Stacy Lewis is out on her own as the world's best player. Four of the top 10 women in the Rolex rankings are Americans.

On the opening day of the Ricoh Women's British Open at Birkdale, the situation is starkly different to the scenario just under a year ago, when the tournament took place at St Andrews. Then, the previous 10 major titles had been won by Asian players, and Korea's Inbee Park was threatening a grand slam after her victories at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and the US Women's Open.

Park would go on to win the LPGA Championship in August, but by then her slam had been scuppered by Lewis winning the British event. Norway's Suzann Pettersen would subsequently win the Evian Masters, while America's Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie took the Kraft and US titles.

Bizarrely, the American resurgence may owe something to the shattering experience of their ignominious 18-10 defeat at the Solheim Cup in Colorado last year. It was the first time the US had lost on home soil and, according to Paula Creamer, the 2010 US Women's Open champion, it was a wake-up call for many of their players.

"It's funny how a team event can have such a big impact on an individual sport," said Creamer. "But it really has played a big part. I know for myself, I don't like to lose. We've lost the last two now and it's been hard.

"I feel like we have all kicked it up a notch and it shows. We had never lost at home before so that's something I'll never forget. Europe played well, they played great. They played harder than we did and we got beat.

"We've been there now and we don't want to lose again. That whole mentality has gone over into our individual games as well."

On recent form, Dame Laura Davies is unlikely to figure among the contenders in Lancashire this week, but she still has a gift for making waves. The 1986 Women's British Open, whose ennoblement was part of the Queen's Birthday Honours last month, has been suffering horrors on the greens, but her putting woes have not persuaded her that outside assistance is called for.

She does not believe that any other players should be using their caddies as sighting devices either. The practice of caddies 'lining up' players has become commonplace in the women's game and Davies thinks it is time to call a halt.

"It shouldn't be allowed," she said. "It's a basic part of golf: ­alignment. You're not allowed to get a grip that's perfectly set for you, so why should you have someone allowed to stand behind you and tell you where to aim?

"I don't understand why the USGA [United States Golf Association] and the R&A haven't sussed that one out yet because it just seems basic to me. It slows the game down."

Davies turned 50 last year and is now the elder stateswoman of British golf. However, her views are not remotely fogeyish and 27-year-old Creamer was quick to offer her support.

"I line myself up," said the American. "I played eight years on Tour having Colin [Cann, her English caddie] line me up on every shot. But for me, I needed to take control of my own game. I was getting a little bit too dependent on Colin and I wanted to just do it myself and get more confidence that way."

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