English look to break drought at British

By Doug FergusonJuly 17, 2012, 9:21 am

LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – As Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were coming toward the end of their practice round on what had been another awful day of English weather, a strange thing happened.

The thick clouds began to break up in the western sky. There were patches of blue and, yes, even a brief glimpse of the sun.

For a few glorious moments Monday, Westwood and Donald were putting through shadows on the 16th green.

An omen, perhaps?

No English golfer has won a British Open on English soil since 1969, but the prospects of snapping that drought at Royal Lytham & St. Annes seem brighter than ever. Donald is ranked No. 1 in the world. Westwood sits at No. 3. Justin Rose isn't far behind, holding down the ninth spot. Ian Poulter is farther back (No. 28), but he's contended at the Open and played well in the Ryder Cup.

''Certainly the talent in England is great right now,'' Donald said.

Tony Jacklin is clearly impressed. He just happens to be that English winner from 43 years ago – a triumph that took place at Lytham, no less – and believes it's past time for someone else to fill his shoes.

''Records are made to be broken,'' Jacklin said. ''I wouldn't be surprised if that didn't end. We've got as good a chance of that ending this year as we've had in any other year since I won. We've got a lot of first-class players and high hopes for them.''

The English haven't been totally shut out since Jacklin's historic triumph. Nick Faldo has three Open titles, but all of them came in Scotland.

The crowds at Lytham figure to get especially rowdy if someone such as Westwood or Donald goes to the weekend in serious contention for the claret jug. That worked in Jacklin's favor back in '69, but it also put a hefty amount of pressure on the home-country favorite.

If an Englishman is in the mix this time, his chances of winning could come down to how well he soaks up the support and blocks out the expectations.

''I'd never been so nervous,'' Jacklin recalled. ''There was a lot of support. But at the same time, there's a responsibility that goes with it.''

Even though he attended college in the U.S., lives in suburban Chicago and plays regularly on the PGA Tour, Donald is looking for a homestyle advantage at Lytham.

''This course has some history with Jacklin winning it,'' he said. ''Hopefully that will prove to be lucky for us.''

Then again, none of the top English players has ever won a major title. Westwood has come closest, a runner-up at both the Masters and the British Open two years ago, not to mention third-place finishes in the other two majors. He's rated by Jacklin as the most likely to break through but, at age 39, he's got to be aware that his window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.

''This should suit him down to the ground, the conditions of the golf course and the way it's playing. But you never know,'' Jacklin said. ''He's got all the experience in the world, and he's surely up for it, but at 39 or whatever he is, the clock is ticking. I keep my fingers crossed for him, because I think he really deserves it. It would look great on his resume: Open champion.''

Westwood said his chances will largely depend on the conditions, which have been especially gnarly in Britain this summer with cool temperatures and more rain that anyone can remember, which is saying a lot in this water-logged nation.

''It's tough,'' Westwood said. ''Like any British Open, it's weather dependent.''

Unlike defending champion Darren Clarke, who feels he might have an advantage in adverse conditions, Westwood is eager to have things as pristine as possible.

''I like it sunny and dry,'' he said.

Westwood's big selling point: He's one of the game's most accurate players off the tee, which is vital at any major but especially at one being held on a course with more than 200 pot bunkers dotting the grounds.

''This is a great driver's golf course,'' Jacklin said. ''If you don't drive the ball straight here, you've got no chance. You've got to keep the ball in play off the tee.''

For Donald, that part of the game is bit more of a crapshoot.

Erratic driving largely explains why he's never been much of a factor in the majors despite his lofty ranking. His best finish at the Open was a tie for fifth in 2009, when he finished two strokes off the pace at Turnberry in a tournament mostly remembered for 59-year-old Tom Watson nearly becoming the oldest major champion in history (he lost to Stewart Cink in a playoff).

Donald has finished as high as third a couple of times, but he wasn't close to winning. He finished seven shots behind Tiger Woods at the 2005 Masters and was six shots off the pace (again trailing Woods) at the 2006 PGA Championship.

This season on the PGA Tour, Donald ranks a dismal 115th in total driving - a combination of distance and fairway average. He gets away with it at the lesser events, winning once and finishing in the top six three other times, but he tied for 32nd at the Masters and missed the cut at the U.S. Open, hardly looking like the world's best player.

''Luke, if your look at the stats, his driver is not the straightest club,'' Jacklin said. ''He's got to get in the mix at a major. That's Luke's big thing right now.''

Donald has been working diligently on correcting the flaws in his game, giving him a bit of cautious optimism coming into Lytham. He played last week at the Scottish Open, putting up three straight rounds in the 60s before a closing 73 dropped him into a tie for 16th.

''I feel encouraged,'' he said. ''It's going the right way. My swing is certainly in a better position. I'm going to try to go out there and have a little bit more fun.''

While Rose is also in the top 10, Jacklin didn't mention him as a likely winner. Instead, he pointed to the Poulter, who seems to spend more time picking out his wardrobe and posting on Twitter than he does working on his swing.

Perhaps distracted by all those side pursuits, Jacklin stumbled a bit when bringing up Poulter.

''We've got the fancy dresser lad,'' Jacklin said. ''What's his name?''

That won't be an issue for Poulter - or any Englishman - if one of them winds up holding the claret jug Sunday evening.

Rest assured, just about everyone in this country will know the name.

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Rose: 'Never' has Rory putted as well as Bay Hill

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:20 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Justin Rose didn’t need to ponder the question for very long.

The last time Rory McIlroy putted that well was, well …?

“Never,” Rose said with a chuckle. “Ryder Cup? He always makes it look easy when he’s playing well.”

And the Englishman did well just to try and keep pace.

After playing his first six holes in 4 over par, Rose battled not just to make the cut but to contend. He closed with consecutive rounds of 67, finishing in solo third, four shots back of McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

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Rose said this weekend was the best he’s struck the ball all year. He just didn’t do enough to overtake McIlroy, who finished the week ranked first in strokes gained-putting and closed with a bogey-free 64.

“Rory just played incredible golf, and it’s great to see world-class players do that,” Rose said. “It’s not great to see him make putts because he was making them against me, but when he is, he’s incredibly hard to beat. So it was fun to watch him play.”

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Rory almost channels Tiger with 72nd-hole celebration

By Ryan LavnerMarch 19, 2018, 1:11 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Rory McIlroy’s final putt at the Arnold Palmer Invitational felt awfully familiar.

He rolled in the 25-footer for birdie and wildly pumped his fist, immediately calling to mind Woods’ heroics on Bay Hill’s 18th green.

Three times Woods holed a putt on the final green to win this event by a stroke.

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McIlroy was just happy to provide a little extra cushion as the final group played the finishing hole.

“I’ve seen Tiger do that enough times to know what it does,” McIlroy said. “So I just wanted to try and emulate that. I didn’t quite give it the hat toss – I was thinking about doing that. But to be able to create my own little bit of history on the 18th green here is pretty special.”

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McIlroy remembers Arnie dinner: He liked A-1 sauce on fish

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 1:06 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Fresh off a stirring victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Rory McIlroy offered a pair of culinary factoids about two of the game’s biggest names.

McIlroy regretted not being able to shake Palmer’s hand behind the 18th green after capping a three-shot win with a Sunday 64, but with the trophy in hand he reflected back on a meal he shared with Palmer at Bay Hill back in 2015, the year before Palmer passed away.

“I knew that he liked A-1 sauce on his fish, which was quite strange,” McIlroy said. “I remember him asking the server, ‘Can I get some A-1 sauce?’ And the server said, ‘For your fish, Mr. Palmer?’ He said, ‘No, for me.’”

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A few minutes later, McIlroy revealed that he is also a frequent diner at The Woods Jupiter, the South Florida restaurant launched by Tiger Woods. In fact, McIlroy explained that he goes to the restaurant every Wednesday with his parents – that is, when he’s not spanning the globe winning golf tournaments.

Having surveyed the menu a few times, he considers himself a fan.

“It’s good. He seems pretty hands-on with it,” McIlroy said. “Tuna wontons are good, the lamb lollipops are good. I recommend it.”

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DeChambeau comes up short: 'Hat’s off to Rory'

By Will GrayMarch 19, 2018, 12:48 am

ORLANDO, Fla. – Amid a leaderboard chock full of big names and major winners, the person that came closest to catching Rory McIlroy at the Arnold Palmer Invitational turned out to by Bryson DeChambeau.

While Henrik Stenson faltered and Justin Rose stalled out, it was DeChambeau that gave chase to McIlroy coming down the stretch at Bay Hill. Birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 were followed by an eagle out of the rough on No. 16, which brought him to within one shot of the lead.

But as DeChambeau surveyed his birdie putt from the fringe on the penultimate hole, McIlroy put an effective end to the proceedings with a closing birdie of his own to polish off a round of 64. DeChambeau needed a hole-out eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff, and instead made bogey.

That bogey ultimately didn’t have an effect on the final standings, as DeChambeau finished alone in second place at 15 under, three shots behind McIlroy after shooting a 4-under 68.

“I thought 15 under for sure would win today,” DeChambeau said. “Rory obviously played some incredible golf. I don’t know what he did on the last nine, but it was deep. I know that.”

Full-field scores from the Arnold Palmer Invitational

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DeChambeau will collect $961,000 for his performance this week in Orlando, just $47,000 less than he got for winning the John Deere Classic in July. While he would have preferred to take McIlroy’s spot in the winner’s circle, DeChambeau was pleased with his effort in Sunday’s final pairing as he sets his sights on a return to the Masters.

“For him to shoot 64 in the final round, that’s just, hat’s off to him, literally. I can’t do anything about that,” DeChambeau said. “I played some great golf, had some great up-and-downs, made a couple key putts coming down the stretch, and there’s not really much more I can do about it. My hat’s off to Rory, and he played fantastic.”