Is it time for Rory McIlroy to try a new caddie?

It was another week of brilliant and infuriating inconsistency for Rory McIlroy at Birkdale. Will this be JP Fitzgerald's last Open as Rory's caddie, asks Dan Murphy.

England’s wait for another Open champion goes on

Rory's caddy

This week marked 25 years since Nick Faldo lifted the Claret Jug for the third time. There was never any real sign of his successor this week, though it wasn’t for a lack of trying: eight Englishmen finished inside the top 30.

Ian Poulter hung around for the whole week, eventually finishing in a tie for 14th.

Paul Casey, as is so often the case, impressed early on but a second-round 77 ended his realistic chances. He rallied, as is so often the case, to finish in a creditable tie for 11th.

Chris Wood, fifth here as an amateur in 2008, was alongside Poulter, while Richard Bland was T22nd.

A shot further back in a tie for 27th were Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood and Andrew Johnston. All performed  with great credit – especially Fleetwood, the local hero. Perhaps understandably, given all the attention he attracted in the build-up, he crashed to an opening 76 but matched or bettered par for the remainder of the week to make his way through the field.

Pride of place, though, goes to Matt Southgate (pictured above). The 28-year-old underwent surgery for testicular cancer while the 2015 Open was taking place at St Andrews.

He finished 12th at Troon last year and here he finished at a gallop, coming home in 32 for a final-day 65. His weekend total of 132 actually matched that of Branden Grace, Mr 62.

It was good enough for 6th place and a guaranteed spot at Carnoustie in 12 months’ time.

What a week for Alfie Plant

Rory's caddy

Team Alfie (surely Alfie’s Army would have been better?) came all the way from his home club in Kent, Sundridge Park. They must have thought the fun would be over by Friday but not so. Plant, the European Amateur champion, enjoyed a raucous reception at the 72nd hole and collected the Silver Medal.

We shouldn’t really be surprised when our amateurs perform so well at the Open. The likes of Plant are tour pros in all but name and get much more experience of links golf than the likes of Spieth, McIlroy and Johnson.

We will surely see plant in GB&I colours at September’s Walker Cup at the Los Angeles Country Club. After that, he will turn pro and then, who knows?

For more from Royal Birkdale, check out our dedicated Open site.

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