Sport Golf High hopes for English ahead of Open

High hopes for English ahead of Open

Tiger Woods
AFP
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The Open Championship returns to Royal Liverpool Golf club next week for the first time in eight years with Tiger Woods looking for a remake of 2006 and hopes running high that an Englishman can win on home soil for the first time in 45 years.

The last English player to capture an Open title in England was Tony Jacklin at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 1969.

In recent years, English and British golfers have enjoyed more success at the three other majors while Lee Westwood and Luke Donald have topped the world rankings.

It’s a conundrum that has left many in the golfing world scratching their heads and one that some see as a consequence of golf having gone truly global.

That means picture-perfect golf courses and superb warm-weather playing conditions in the United States and Asia, a world away from the howling wind and lashing rain that often turn the British Open into a dire battle against the elements.

Both Rory McIlroy and fellow Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, who won the French Open last Sunday in cold, rainy conditions outside Versailles, believe that some timely exposure to bad weather is a key element in preparing for the Open challenge.

McIlroy, whose Open record is abysmal apart from a tie for third at St Andrews in 2010 has opted to change his schedule this year by teeing off in the Scottish Open up in Aberdeen where Thursday’s first round conditions were typically “North Sea Scottish.”

“It’s a challenge. You’ve got to relish the challenge. I’m trying to adopt more of that mind-set, especially for these couple of weeks a year,” he said.

“It’s not like I haven’t played well on links courses before and in links conditions I think the more you play, the more sort of used to it you are, because back when I was 15, 16, 17, playing links golf all the time, it wasn’t anything to put your wet gear on and play.

“Whereas now we’re so spoiled playing in great conditions. Any time there’s a bit of rain in America, it’s a thunderstorm so you go in any way.

“It’s nice to get back and play in some conditions like this.”

Words echoed by Ian Poulter the popular Englishman who has come close to success at the Open in the past, notably last year at Muirfield.

“We can go very soft. We do get looked after and pampered quite nicely. I guess from time to time it is nice to be beaten up every now and then and realise what some of the guys have to put up with when they go out to play golf,” Poulter said.

“It’s a true test of golf. It’s hard, and it should be, and it’s a serious test for everybody. It will drain them.”

Bad weather and foul conditions is likely not what Woods has in mind as he plays in just his second tournament in several months following back surgery.

His emotional win at Hoylake in 2006, just months after the death of his father Earl, came in one of the hottest and most becalmed Opens in years with the fairways burnished brown and the course playing very short.

Having missed the cut in his first tournament back at Congressional two weeks ago, a 15th major title, and a first in six years, would appear to be a very long shot for the 38-year-old American.

Many doubt he can compete at Hoylake, but McIlroy for one refuses to write him off.

“We have all witnessed what Tiger has been able to do over his career, whether that’s come back from injury and win, come back from any sort of off-course stuff and win,”

Among the favourites will be defending champion Phil Mickelson, who won his fifth major in glorious style at Muirfield last year, Sergio Garcia, who came close at Hoylake in 2006 and who has been a model of consistency this year, and Swedish powerhouse Henrik Stenson, who was runner-up last year.