US Open golf: My first English Major winnerJune, 2013
Justin Rose's US Open victory ends the younger generation's long wait for an English major champion
When Justin Rose successfully made par on the 18th hole at Merion to win his first US Open, it did not only end England’s 17 year wait for a Major champion, but also marked the first English Major winner for a younger generation of golf fans.
The last time an Englishman won a major, Tiger Woods had yet to turn professional and Tony Blair hadn’t stepped foot inside Downing Street. When Nick Faldo secured the 1996 Masters title, it was his sixth Major win in 10 years, and came amidst a golden generation for English, British and European golf fans.
When you factor in Sandy Lyle’s victories in the 1985 Open and the 1988 Masters, and the magic that Seve brought to the game with his five Major victories, the picture that builds is one where an entire generation of golf fans living on this side of the Atlantic had home grown heroes with which they could identify.
However, when Nick Faldo won at Augusta in 1996, I had just turned four.
That is why Justin Rose’s victory at Merion was so significant. Of course, the statisticians will play on the fact that England hasn’t produced a Major winner for 17 years, but the real significance is not in the numbers but in the impact that the wait has had on an entire generation of golf fans.
For anyone currently under the age of 25, Rose is the first Englishman that we will remember winning a major. In our eyes, Englishmen just don’t win Majors. That is simply how it is.
We bought video games with Tiger Woods’ face on the front, and tried to be like Tiger on the course rather than Faldo or Seve. Watching the likes of Westwood, Donald and co slogging it out for four days at every Major and ultimately falling short is something that we grew to accept as the norm, left with the conclusion that the top English professionals did not possess the required mental characteristics to win a Major Championship.
The interesting aspect of the absence of English Major winners over the last 17 years, combined with the rise to prominence of Tiger Woods and the recent dominance of players from Northern Ireland, is that the younger generation found their idols from further afield.
We bought video games with Tiger Woods’ face on the front, and tried to be like Tiger on the course rather than Faldo or Seve.
More recently, Rory McIlroy’s sponsorship deal with Nike combined with his two Major wins have thrown the Northern Irishman into the media and TV spotlight – again someone with which the generation of golfers even younger than myself want to identify.
Whether it be out of blind patriotism or simply out of a belief that one day something had to change, I have backed either Donald or Rose in each of the last three Majors. However this time, despite Merion being a shorter course which should play into the hands of the top English players, I decided that my generation would not produce the Major winner it had so often promised and put my money elsewhere.
Perhaps I should deploy my cynicism more often.