The Euros at Oakmont:
With the U.S. Open almost off and running it's time for me to stick my neck out and make a few predictions. Which European will have the best finish? Im going to go with three names, giving me a slightly better chance of not looking foolish.
Justin Rose. The Englishman hasnt been seen much in competition this year. In fact, since the WGC Accenture Match Play, hes only made two appearances, but theyve been good ones. A fifth place at the Masters, which he had a chance to win; and a runner-up spot at the BMW PGA Championship. The back problems have been of great concern to Team Rose, but he has good people around him making smart decisions. There has been no need for him to play unnecessary tournaments and he hasnt. Rose practiced last week at Lake Nona under the watchful eye of coach Nick Bradley. The pair flew on the private jet to Oakmont on Monday morning and I believe Justin will have a great week, possibly even a win.
Lee Westwood. The recently crowned Valle Romano Open de Andaluca champion, Westwood is on his way back to greatness. Hes a straight driver of the golf ball which is going to be a must this week, and hes a steady putter. Many forget how experienced this player is. A former European No. 1, Lee has been around the upper echelon of the game for over 10 years. He finished tied fifth at the U.S. Open in 2000 and having missed last years tournament I expect him to return with confidence and high hopes of a very good week.
Colin Montgomerie. You may laugh, but watch for Monty. Time is running out for this great player. How can Colin end his career without a major title, it doesnt sound possible? He is without a doubt the greatest of them all never to have won a major. His recent form wouldnt suggest a good week is on the cards, but that was the case last year and he came so close. He knows how to play U.S. Opens and he knows how to play Oakmont; this was the site of his playoff loss in 1994. Alistair Mclean, his long-time caddie will not be on the bag. The pair has parted ways for the time being, but Monty will have an experienced local bag-man to guide him through the terrors of Oakmont. Montgomerie has said himself that he knows what works for him in terms of preparation. Hell go through his routine and unlike some other competitors, wholl be caught by the distractions, Monty will be focused on one thing, a victory.
Away from Oakmont:
Obviously all the attention in golf will be focused on Pittsburgh this week, but elsewhere around the world we do have golfing action. The European Tour has a co-sanctioned event with the Challenge Tour in St. Omer, France. The big names are taking the week off, but this gives a bundle of lesser ranked players and Challenge Tour regulars the chance to scoot-up the rankings. Last week, Hollands Joost Luiten won his second event on the Challenge Tour calendar with a stunning 61 on the final day for a come-from-behind win. He now joins Eduardo Molinari on the battle-field promotion watch list; if either one takes one further victory theyll be off to the European Tour. Both are in the field at St. Omer.
The Ladies European Tour heads to Spain for the Catalonia Ladies Masters, a limited field three-day tournament which begins on Friday.
Denis Watson makes a trip to Wales to compete on the European Seniors Tour. Joining the recently crowned U.S. Senior PGA Champion at the Ryder Cup Wales Senior Open are Bob Charles, Sam Torrance and Costantino Rocca.
Email your thoughts to Tom Abbott