English golfers on top of the world, but still seeking a major

By Associated PressJuly 12, 2011, 7:17 pm

SANDWICH, England – Any other week, the flagsticks at Royal St. George’s would be adorned with the red-and-white English banner.

How appropriate.

This is the hub of English golf, a course that’s hosted more British Opens that any outside of Scotland. And, boy, the home team is sure poised to shine in the latest version of golf’s oldest major championship.

Luke Donald is No. 1 in the world rankings. Lee Westwood is right on his heels at No. 2. Paul Casey and Ian Poulter are both in the top 20. Four other Englishmen from the top 100 qualified for the Open.

“English golf is very strong right now,” Donald said Tuesday. “Obviously in the world rankings, with myself and Lee heading that list. We’ve both been having good years so far, and there’s a bunch of other English guys that probably haven’t played as well as us but certainly have the potential to win.”

The numbers sure look a lot more promising than the did eight years ago, the last time an Open was held at Royal St. George’s. Back then, there were no English players in the top 10 and only two (Casey and Justin Rose) in the top 50. Donald was way down at No. 117. Westwood wasn’t even in the top 200.

“I guess now,” Donald surmised, gauging the English hopes for this Open, “is as good a time as any.”

Westwood certainly realizes how significant it would be for an Englishman to hoist the claret jug at a spot just up the road from the cliffs of Dover.

“You know, it’s named after St. George, so you can’t get much more English than that,” he said, smiling. “It’s the biggest championship in the world as far as I’m concerned. It would mean everything, really, to win this championship.”

Donald has a crafty, delicate short game that should be a huge asset on this lumpy seaside course. Westwood is as good as anyone off the tee, and he’s certainly got plenty of experience contending in golf’s biggest events. Casey tied for third a year ago at St. Andrews, while the dashing Poulter was the runner-up in 2008.

Any of them has the game to be get their name engraved on the historic chalice.

“This is the best I’ve played,” said Donald, who solidified his No. 1 ranking with a four-stroke win at the Scottish Open last weekend. “This is the most consistent I’ve been throughout my whole game. Not just around the greens, but tee to green is getting more and more solid. I think that’s been a key to me playing well and notching up some victories.”

Of course, one key victory has eluded Donald. And Westwood. All the top English contenders, in fact.

None of them has won a major championship – no small stumbling block, especially when one starts to lug around the burden of being regarded as the best player without the most coveted of titles.

That dreaded title probably belongs to the 38-year-old Westwood, who has finished in the top three at all four majors without pulling off that breakthrough win. His plight prompted Colin Montgomerie – certainly an expert on the close-but-no-cigar syndrome – to declare publicly that Westwood might be running out of time.

He’ll be 40 in a couple of years. After that, Montgomerie said, the window of opportunity will start to close.

Westwood believes he’s got more time than that – if he needs it.

“It depends how physically able you are, and I’m obviously a finely tuned athlete that can go on well into my 40s,” he quipped, taking a self-deprecating poke at a body that no one would describe as chiseled.

Besides, there’s more important factors than looking like Adonis in polyester.

“You’ve got to want it still. That’s the main thing,” Westwood said. “People would have said I was coming into my prime ten years ago and then I dropped to 270th in the world, so what’s the point in guessing whether you’re at your prime or not? I don’t particularly think it’s an age thing, either. So many players play well into their early to mid-40s that there’s no point in thinking about it.”

Donald surged to the top of the world rankings with brilliantly consistent play this year. It all began with a victory at the Match Play Championship in late February, and he’s won twice more on the European Tour since then – not to mention eight other top-10 finishes on both sides of the Atlantic.

His only stumble came at the last major. Donald finished in a tie for 45th at the U.S. Open and still must show he has the mental strength to handle the grinding pressure of those events that really define a career.

Amazingly, Donald isn’t even the betting pick at another Tiger-less major. Rory McIlroy of the Northern Ireland is the overwhelming favorite, not surprising after a runaway victory at Congressional gave the 22-year-old his first major crown.

“I don’t think I’m under the radar because I did win last week, but obviously Rory is on the forefront of a lot of people’s minds, and rightly so,” Donald said. “He was impressive in the U.S. Open, and winning majors is a big deal, and he did it and he did it in great fashion. I’m sure a lot of the attention is on him and maybe a little bit more of the pressure, as well.”

Someone laid out this scenario, which doesn’t seem all that farfetched: Donald and Westwood playing in the final group on Sunday, each of them vying for his first major title at the course that symbolizes golf in their homeland.

Who would want it more?

“That would be a hard question to answer,” Donald said. “Obviously it would be a very intense situation, but one that I would love to be in. I look forward to hopefully being in that position.”

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Rose leads Koepka, Grillo by four at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 9:06 pm

On the strength of a 4-under 66 Saturday, Justin Rose will take an four-shot lead over Brooks Koepka and Emiliano Grillo into the final round of the Fort Worth Invitational. Here's where things stand through 54 holes at Colonial Country Club.

Leaderboard: Rose (-14), Koepka (-10), Grillo (-10), Corey Conners (-8), Jon Rahm (-8), Louis Oosthuizen (-8), J.T. Poston (-8), Ryan Armour (-8)

What it means: The fifth-ranked player in the world is 18 holes from his ninth PGA Tour victory and his second this season. Up once to start the third round, Rose extended his lead to as much as five with birdies on four of his first six holes. Through 54 holes, Rose has made XX birdies and just XX bogeys. The 2013 U.S. Open winner and 2016 Olympic gold medalist has a history of winning at iconic venues - Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional - and now looks to add Colonial to the list. He'll be chased on Sunday by Grillo, the young Argentianian who won his first Tour start as a member in 2015, and Koepka, last year's U.S. Open winner who continues to impress in his injury comeback despite ongoing wrist issues.  

Round of the day: Corey Conners and Ted Potter both turned in 8-under 63. Potter was bogey-free and Conners came home in 6-under 29 on the back nine.

Best of the rest: Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Brian Harman, and Michael Thompson all signed for 64. Rahm called his six-birdie start the best 10 holes he's played so far this year. 

Biggest disappointment: Jordan Spieth has finished second-first-second in the last three years at this event, but he's yet to find his normal Colonial form through three rounds. Spieth, who said Friday he was capable of shooting "10 or 12 under" over the weekend, shot even-par 70 Saturday. He sits in T-38 at 3 under for the week, 11 back.

Shot of the day: Rory Sabbatini closed out his third round Saturday with this eagle holeout from 134 yards at the 18th. 

His colorful scorecard featured three bogeys, two birdies, a double bogey and that eagle. It added up to a 1-over 71. 

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McCarron closes with only bogey, shares lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 8:49 pm

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Scott McCarron, seeking a second senior major title to go with his 2017 Senior Players Championship, made his only bogey of the third round on the final hole to slip into a tie for the lead Saturday with Tim Petrovic in the Senior PGA Championship.

They were at 13 under par after Petrovic, seeking his first major, shot 65. McCarron has shared the lead through three rounds.

England's Paul Broadhurst, the 2016 British Senior Open winner, matched the best third-round score in tournament history with a 64. He was at 11 under.

Miguel Angel Jimenez, coming off his first major championship last week at the Regions Tradition, shot 65 and was 9 under.

Tom Byrum, who made a hole-in-one in shooting a 67, was in a group at 8 under.

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Watch: Rose one-arms approach, makes birdie

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 7:25 pm

Justin Rose appears to have taken a course in Hideki Matsuyama-ing.

Already 3 under on his round through five thanks to a birdie-birdie-birdie start, Rose played this approach from 143 yards at the par-4 sixth.

That one-armed approach set up a 6-foot birdie putt he rolled in to move to 4 under on his round and 14 under for the week, five clear of the field.

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McIlroy battles back into tie for BMW PGA lead

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 26, 2018, 4:09 pm

Rory McIlroy got off to a rocky start on Saturday in the third round of the BMW PGA Championship, including hitting a spectator and making a double bogey. But after that incident on the sixth hole, he didn't drop another shot, birdieing the final hole to shoot a 1-under 71 and tie for the lead.

McIlroy had gone into Moving Day with a three-shot lead, but Francesco Molinari had the round of the day, a 6-under 66. "It was nice keep a clean scorecard," said Molinari, who hasn't made a bogey since the 10th hole on Friday.

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy and Molinari will be paired in Sunday's final round. They are tied at 13 under par, four shots clear of Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and Alexander Noren.

The Wentworth course ends with back-to-back par-5s, and McIlroy birdied both of them. He got a break on the 18th hole as his drive hit a spectator and bounced into light rough.

"It was a struggle out there today," McIlroy said. "I think when you're working on a few things in your swing and the wind is up and you're stuck between trying to play different shots, but also try to play - you know, make good swings at it, I just hit some loose tee balls on the first few holes. But I'm proud of myself. I stayed patient. I actually - I'm feeling a bit better about myself after today than I was even walking off the course yesterday."