Who can end 25 years of hurt for English golfers at the Open?

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It has been a long wait since Nick Faldo's victory at Muirfield. Colin Callander looks at who could break the duck...

by Colin Callander

It is hard to believe that 25 years have elapsed since Nick Faldo claimed his third Open title back in 1992 and harder still to comprehend that it remains the last time an Englishman has lifted the famous Claret Jug.

I still recall as if it was yesterday the manner in which Faldo dug deep over the closing holes at Muirfield to deny John Cook and a youthful Jose-Maria Olazabal but never once at the time did I think that quarter of a century would pass without another English victory.

Faldo was to finish second the following year at Royal St George’s as Greg Norman closed with a marvellous 64 to break Tom Watson’s old 72-hole aggregate record by a stroke but subsequently only Ian Poulter in 2008 and Lee Westwood in 2010 have emulated that feat and in both instances they finished some distance behind victors Padraig Harrington and Louis Oosthuizen.

Trawl deeper into the records and what you find is that the English have a damnably poor record in the Open over the last two decades. There seems no rational reason. But the facts and figures are there for all to see.

Since Faldo’s victory in the 1992 Open at Muirfield just 17 different English players have claimed a top-10 finish in 24 championships.

The Open - Lee Westwood

Faldo and Lee Westwood lead the way with four top-10s. Poulter, Mark James, Justin Rose, Gary Evans, Chris Wood, Paul Casey and Luke Donald have done it twice while Steven Bottomley, Robert Rock, Simon Dyson, Brian Davis, David Howell, Danny Willett, Tyrrell Hatton and Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston have one top-10 apiece.

It might be of interest to punters that there were four Englishmen – Poulter, Wood, Casey and Howell – in the top 10 the last time the championship was staged at Royal Birkdale in 2008. There have also been three occasions between 1993 and 2016 when three English players have achieved that feat but in stark contrast there were also eight when there were none and a further seven when there was just one.

See also: How Nick Faldo fell in love with the Open

The Open has not been kind to English golfers in recent years but the good news is that the statistics point to better things ahead.

Since that high point in 2008 there has only been one occasion – 2014 – when none of their representatives made it into the top 10. Twice – in 2009 and 2010 – three Englishmen claimed top-10 finishes while there have been two in three out of the last four years.

Hatton and Johnston were the two Englishmen who achieved that feat 12 months ago at Royal Troon and there is no reason why they cannot feature strongly again.

It will also be interesting to see how Tommy Fleetwood performs after his fine fourth-place finish at the US Open not least because he will be playing in front of his Southport hometown fans.

Tommy Fleetwood - The Open

He is without doubt one for the future, although it might still be three members of the older guard who have the best chance of ending England’s 25-year wait.

I know of nobody who would begrudge Westwood a maiden major victory after nine top-three finishes but it is also fair to say that time is no longer on his side.

A revitalised Paul Casey is another English player who has the credentials to win but perhaps the best chance of a home victory rests with Justin Rose who somewhat surprisingly missed the cut at Erin Hills.

I can’t help but feel that it would be fitting if it was Rose who ended the 25-year wait at Birkdale given the manner which he burst onto the scene by finishing tied fourth as a 17-year-old amateur at the same venue back in 1998.

Few will forget how this most engaging of characters holed out with his sand wedge from well short of the 72nd green or for that matter the way it was encapsulated by Peter Alliss on TV.

“Get in they cry,” he said in response to the cries from the crowd as the ball dropped gently onto the green and rolled towards the hole.

“And they were right.”

NCG at the Open

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