Debate: Is Major time up for England’s golden generation?June, 2013
Two writers argue the toss on England's chances of winning a Major
YES, says Mark Townsend – they rarely contend and are ageing
It seems ludicrous to say it. Lee Westwood hits it as well as anyone, Justin Rose gets better and better, Luke Donald is the best putter in the world and Ian Poulter is from a different planet come the Ryder Cup.
All of these get regularly trotted out with great regularity but they don’t win you Majors. Or even contend very often.
Other than Westwood – nine top 10s in his last 14 – England’s bright young things have rarely threatened to put an end to a staggering run of 68 big ones without an English winner. Take out Nick Faldo’s successes and we’re trawling back to Tony Jacklin in 1970. Strange isn’t it.
So, on paper at least, the best chance (Westwood) has now turned 40. For the record Jack Nicklaus won three Majors after reaching this age, Gary Player and Sam Snead one and Arnold Palmer none. Westwood’s relatively new physique will stand him in good stead but advancing years and an already average putting stroke don’t tend to go too well together.
Donald’s Major record is the most curious. The 35 year old, you might think, would prosper at a US Open set-up but his best finish in nine starts is a tie for 12th.
He has fared better elsewhere but has never been in the proper shake-up coming down the last few holes. Much was made of Phil Mickelson’s winless streak but he had plenty of education in how to go about things when the heat is really on.
Generally Donald’s best efforts have come when sneaking up the leaderboard with something special on the Sunday. Maybe, like Adam Scott at Lytham last year, Donald could do with a painful near miss to stir the soul.
Likewise Rose. At 32 he has more time than his peers, though again, few Major memories to call upon. Until his tie for third behind a distant Rory McIlroy at Kiawah Island his best effort was when fourth as an amateur at Birkdale 15 years ago.
At the Open he has never come close and has four missed cuts next to his name from 10 subsequent visits.
Finally to Poulter and the one player who most of us would relish seeing in a final pairing on a Sunday. In 41 starts that has yet to happen.
He is also yet to win a strokeplay event in the States. You wonder how long we can keep trotting out the same old clichés.
Poulter is yet to win a strokeplay event in the States. You wonder how long we can keep trotting out the same old clichés.
NO, says Dan Murphy – an English Major is on its way
It is a painful anomaly that English golfers have reached the summit of the world rankings in recent years without bagging a single Major between them.
As someone who believes said rankings provide an accurate snapshot you would think Messrs Westwood, Donald and Rose should by now have have at least a handful of big titles to their name given the time they have spent at or near the top of the list. Right now, Rose is ranked fourth while the other two, and Ian Poulter, are inside the top 15.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t yet fallen into place but to conclude that means it never will just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.
Heading to Merion, according to the bookies, only two golfers are more likely to win the US Open than Westwood, Rose and Donald. One is arguably golf’s greatest ever player and the other the uber-talented Rory McIlroy.
That tells you all you need to know about the folly of writing off three of the world’s finest.
In Westwood’s case, we all know it comes down to his putting.
You might conclude it will never happen, but on the basis that even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, if he continues to exhibit the best long game in the business then surely he is capable of putting only moderately well for four days and therefore out-lasting the competition.
It remains to be seen whether he can muster a stirring closing 65 to sprint through the field but he assuredly has a rock-solid 70 in him on the last day of the US Open.
Rose is the only Englishman with a strokeplay WGC to his name and it is unthinkable he could compete in so many high-profile American events without every so often winning a couple. Yes, it is over a year since he won at Doral, the biggest victory of his career to date, but that likely only means he is due a big one.
I would be less confident in recommending Donald for the US Open, given his poor record in it over the years. The truth is he doesn’t often drive it accurately enough to prosper on such long and punishing courses.
The good news for him is that Merion will suit his eye much better. Of the Fab Four that leaves Poulter, quiet since his career-defining Ryder Cup heroics last September. But he’ll be back – and maybe quickly.
Keep the faith – on the balance of probability an English Major is surely on its way.