Is major success on the way for an English golfer?
Last Updated: July 13, 2011 4:02pm
The Open Championship returns to England this year, but could a home favourite lift the Claret Jug?
That's the question we posed to Sky Sports golf experts Mark Roe, Richard Boxall and Bruce Critchley in the build-up to the 2011 edition.
Englishmen dominate the top two positions in the world rankings - with Luke Donald and Lee Westwood on top of the pile - but The Open hasn't witnessed an English winner since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Yet our pundits are confident that the home fans could have something to cheer about at Royal St Geroge's this weekend.
Read on for their thoughts ahead of the third major of the year...
skysports.com: No Englishman has won The Open since 1992. Could we see our wait for a winner end at Sandwich this year?
MARK: All we can say is that we have a great chance this year. The Tour's flagship event, the PGA Championship, saw Lee Westwood and Luke Donald chasing down the title and the world number one spot. That was a magnificent championship - drama doesn't get any better than that - so why can't the Open Championship be a repeat of that? It's possible.
BRUCE: You've got almost half a dozen to pick from and almost certainly one of them will contend, which is nice because The Open Championship isn't played too often in England. You have to look at Westwood, Donald, Casey and Poulter and they all have a good chance.
BOXY: Without question. There's Westwood, Casey and Poulter, but I think Donald has got the best chance of them all. Being in contention in a major isn't the same as being in contention in a normal tournament. A lot more goes with it and it's a question of who's got the strongest head - the best brain box to go with the golfing ability. They're all strong psychologically, though Donald does seem to keep focused well.
skysports.com: Talk us through some of the contenders looking to win on home soil.
BRUCE: Lee Westwood has always been unlucky in the majors. For my money he's a bit like Colin Montgomerie was in the 1990's in that he's always there, but rather like the pace runner in a long race, he's there for others to pass. He was a much more flamboyant, but inconsistent, player 10 years ago when he was winning a lot, but he is a much better player now. I genuinely would be surprised if a major didn't come his way. He doesn't have the brilliance or the flair of a Rory McIlroy, but he's got the calmness and if the weather got rough and it became a really difficult test then I think he would be up to the task.
BOXY: Time is running out a little bit for Lee and it's a shame he hasn't won one or two yet. He's been awfully close and he's been a great player for many years, but we said that about Monty. He's just missing that one last CD to put in the rack and complete his collection. Once that goes in he can be satisfied.
BRUCE: I'm not sure if Justin Rose is quite up to winning something like this. He's someone who might win a major later in his career. I know he's now well into his thirties, but he is somebody who slowly creeps up on everything. It took him a long time to get to grips with the professional game, for example. He's a very good performer, but doesn't leap off the page as a winner. He doesn't win as often as his talent should enable him to.
MARK: Westwood is one of the best ball-strikers in the world, but Luke Donald has quite different skills in terms of short game and imagination. With all the idiosyncrasies and challenges that Royal St George's will throw your way, you're not going to win the Open Championship without a great short game. Both of those guys are in the frame.
BRUCE: I'd also mention Ian Poulter because he'll never shy away from winning if he gets a chance. He hasn't had a particularly good year, but he often pops up and I like his approach to golf. Many of us didn't think he would get as far as he has done; we didn't think he'd win as many tournaments as he has or climb so high in the world rankings. I greatly admire his self-belief and he is a very good putter; he knocks the ball well into the middle of the hole. If he got in the mix it wouldn't surprise me if he won. He wouldn't wilt in the run-in.
BOXY:To an Englishman I don't think it matters whether you win an Open in England or Scotland. This is The Open and I personally think it's bigger than all of the rest of them. Most Americans will talk about the US Open, but I think you'll find they think The Open is pretty special too.