Paul Casey is more than capable of gouging out a low score at Turnberry. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Is this the year an Englishman finally walks through Open door?
It's been 17 long years since an English player has won the Open, but the odds and the depth of talented young stars means this could be the year that a Son of England reclaims the Claret Jug. Stan Awtrey identifies seven likely contenders.
By Stan Awtrey, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
It’s been a while since an Englishman has won the Open Championship. You have to turn the pages of the record book all the way back to 1992, when Nick Faldo bested John Cook by one shot at Muirfield. That was back when Faldo’s soul belonged to the Dark Side, before he became the chatty, glib Faldo that’s seen every week on Golf Channel and CBS.
Since Faldo’s moment in the Scottish sun, the list of winners at the Open Championship has included an Aussie (Greg Norman), a South African (Nick Price), a Texan (Justin Leonard), a Legend (Tiger Woods) and a Man of the World (John Daly). Padraig Harrington, an Irishman, has won it the last two years.
But it’s been 17 years since an Englishman has left the stage with the Claret Jug. Given the odds -- and the depth of talented young Brits -- this could be the year that a Son of England reclaims the Open Championship.
A total of 17 Englishmen have qualified to compete at Turnberry. Most of them don’t have the chops to contend -- and one of them is Faldo, who is now more accomplished when it comes to talking about the game than he is at playing it. There are reasons why many of the British participants can’t be taken as serious contenders: Paul Broadhurst is too old, Oliver Fisher is too young, Chris Wood (last year’s low amateur) doesn’t have enough experience.
But the Open Championship has often seen unheralded players such as Costantino Rocca, Brian Watts, Jean Van de Velde, Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton contend or even win, so that means guys like Nick Dougherty, Richard Finch, Oliver Wilson, Robert Rock, Graeme Storm and Anthony Wall can’t be swept away with a broad brush. It’s not likely they’ll be in one of the final groups on Sunday, but is isn’t impossible, either.
There are several Englishmen who have a legitimate chance to wrestle the trophy away from Harrington. Here’s a look at seven of England’s brightest hopes.
• Paul Casey: Finished seventh last year, his best effort at the Open, despite a first-round 78. After a terrific start to the season, Casey’s game has gone AWOL over the last month. He’s missed the cut in his last two starts -- the U.S. Open and the AT&T National -- hardly the head of steam he had wanted heading into Turnberry. But on a course with go-low potential, Casey could easily throw a 64 on the board and can’t be discounted.
• Luke Donald: Hard to believe, but he’s had no success in this event. Donald missed the cut in his first five appearances, two of them as an amateur, and has a career-best finish of 35th in 2006. Donald missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but has played well since the Masters and was inside the top 15 at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and the Memorial Tournament. His game is starting to come around.
• Ross Fisher: He’s not been a factor in his two previous Open appearances; he was 39th in 2008. But his prospects were buoyed by a fifth-place showing at the U.S. Open. That, coupled with a runner-up performance at the Irish Open in May, is enough to put Fisher’s name on a short list.
• David Howell: He was the flavor of the day for a couple of years, before shoulder and back injuries knocked him back. He was seventh a year ago at Royal Birkdale, but his performances this spring on the European Tour have done little to infuse him with confidence, unless you count a tie for 70th at the European Open in May.
• Ian Poulter: His final-round 69 boosted him all the way to a career-best second place showing at the 2008 Open. He’s finished among the top 25 on two other occasions. Poulter tied for 18th at the U.S. Open, a finish made notable by his final-round 67 at Bethpage.
• Justin Rose: Almost won it as an amateur in 1998, when he finished fourth at Royal Birkdale. He was 12th two years ago at Carnoustie. Rose hasn’t played especially well this year (missed six cuts in 14 PGA TOUR events), but showed signs with a tie for 16th at the AT&T National.
• Lee Westwood: At 35, he’s starting to run out of chances, even though his skills remain very high. He’s finished in the top 10 twice, including a fourth-place finish at Royal Troon in 2004. Westwood has played well, with a tie for 23rd at the U.S. Open and a runner-up showing last week at the French Open.
That’s seven very capable Englishmen to watch. But in truth, it may all depend on the condition of Sir Tiger Woods. If his game is in shape, as it was when he won the AT&T National, then everyone else may be playing for second place.