Westwood and Poulter head English charge at St Andrews
It has been a long time since English golf has been in such a healthy state and as the United Kingdom searches for its first open winner since Paul Lawrie took advantage of Jean Van de Veld’s meltdown at Carnoustie in 1999, English golf fans have to go back even further, to 1992, when Sir Nick Faldo claimed the last of his three Open victories to bring the trophy to England.
For a country that claims such a rich heritage in the game, that is a somewhat damning statistic and one which may, hopefully for fans of English golf, change in 2010.
Leading the challenge from England for the title of Open Champion 2010 is Lee Westwood. The Worksop born professional has been the most consistent performer in the last three major championships, achieving a top three placing in each of the last three major championships. Of course, he will have another chance at a major Championship at Pebble Beach in June when he contests the US Open, but it is perhaps at St Andrews that Westwood stands the best chance of lifting a major title.
Ian Poulter will also reckon he is in with a strong chance. The current Accenture World Matchplay champion has had an outstanding season and finished 2nd in the 2008 Open Championship, though failed to follow that up in 2009 missing the cut. Having finished in a respectable 10th place in the Masters in April, the colourful Poulter will be confident of taking his fine form onto the course with him at St Andrews in July.
The English challenge however doesn’t end there. Luke Donald seems to have hit form by winning the Madrid Masters last week and he will surely feel his game is suited well to the challenge of the Old Course. Paul Casey is another Englishman who is in fine form lying in fifth place on the European tour money list, while Simon Khan, who surprisingly won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, cannot be overlooked, then there are the likes of Justin Rose and Chris Wood who cannot be completely overlooked.
There will be great competition for the English contingent from across the world South Africa with Goosen, Els and in the in form Charl Schwartzel will be formidable, as will the always powerful contingent from the US, led by Masters Champions Phil Mickelson and of course, the genius of Tiger Woods. There will also be a strong contingent from the Asian tour, led by current PGA title holder Y.E.Yang and K.J.Choi, not to mention the renaissance of older professionals, such as Tom Watson, who delighted the crowds at the Open Championship last year.
There will also be strong representation from Europe itself, with the likes of Padraig Harrington, a double winner of this Championship in 2007 and 2008, Martin Kaymer and Alvaro Queiros expected to perform well. There will even be strong competition from other UK based countries with Wales ace Rhys Davies and Northern Ireland’s Graham McDowell expected to feature.
All golfers in the field will face a familiar St Andrews with one exception: The notorious Road Hole has been lengthened by 35 yards to 490 yards in total, to provide golfers with a real test once again and it seems likely who can play this tough 17th the best late on Sunday afternoon, will stand the greatest chance of winning the ultimate prize. Many golf fans in England hope that one, or more, of Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and co, are amongst that elite group to end an eighteen year wait for an English winner.