English Arent Coming Theyre Here - Part 1

By Mercer BaggsApril 5, 2005, 4:00 pm
Editor's note: This is the first in a two-part series on the resurgence of English golfers and their quest to win a major championship for the first time since 1996.
 
Hour after hour, Nick Faldo prepares. He hits balls on the practice range, tweaks his clubs and tests out new ones from the equipment trailer, plays the tournament course at the TPC at Sawgrass, hits more balls on the range, and concludes with chipping and putting.
 
Justin Rose and Nick Faldo
Nick Faldo is looking to Justin Rose and the next generation of English players to end their major drought.
This process literally lasts all day Tuesday prior to The Players Championship, and its repeated on Wednesday. Thursday, he shoots 1-under 71.
 
Faldo works so hard just to break par because he has to. Hes 47. Not even the blond highlights in his hair can hide his age - the crows feet around his eyes give that away.
 
Faldo is now better at talking about golf than playing it; though hell never be as good a commentator as he was a player ' its just not possible. Faldo once ruled golf. He sat atop the golfing world for 98 consecutive weeks. He was the greatest major champion of his time.
 
He shared his prime with the likes of Greg Norman and Nick Price and Fred Couples. And he won as many majors as the three of them combined. Three of those six came at Augusta National, site of this weeks Masters Tournament.
 
Nick Faldo now figuratively stands with his figurative torch ready to figuratively pass it on to the next great English champion.
 
And there are plenty of possible heirs at the moment.
 
Yeah, it looks good for us right now, doesnt it? Faldo said.

A year ago at this time there were three English players ranked inside the top 50 on the Official World Golf Ranking. Two years ago, one.
 
Three years ago this week, Lee Westwood was the only English player ranked inside the top 80 in the world. And Faldo, who hadnt won an official event since the 1997 Nissan Open, was still the third-highest-ranked player from his country.
 
Currently, there are five players in the top 50 and eight in the top 100. It might not seem like much, but England trails only the U.S. and Australia in terms of representatives in the top 100 on the OWGR.
 
Theres quite a lot of good, young British guys out there. Its really, really good. It shows were doing something right in Britain, said 22-year-old Nick Dougherty, who is ranked at No. 147.
 
I think that America has dominated, you know, as far as the youthful players go. So its good that weve got a few of our own kicking some butt, he said.
 
The best number concerning those British butt-kickers isnt five (of 50) or eight (of 100); its 20 ' as in most of those players are still in their 20s. And none of those eight are older than 33.
 
Its a tremendous group, said Paul Casey. Were all very good friends. We want to do as good as we can do, and I think we sort of push each other.
 
It all starts with Luke Donald.
 
The 27-year-old has been a fixture ' and a standout ' in the States since he was dominating the collegiate scene at Northwestern University. He turned professional in 2001 and took the Q-school bus straight to the PGA Tour.
 
He captured the weather-shortened Southern Farm Bureau Classic in his rookie year of 2002 and has never finished worse than 90th in earnings in three full seasons. He and Casey teamed to win last years World Cup.
 
This year, he has already accrued over $1.3 million, courtesy of runner-up finishes at the Buick Invitational and The Players Championship.
 
Hes the highest ranked of the new crop at No. 16.
 
I want to be ranked in the top 10 in the world by the end of the year. I want to win again out here on the U.S. tour, Donald said.
 
I feel more confident in myself. I go out believing I can win every event, and I think that mindset has a reason for changing your golf, too.
 
The next Englishman in the world ranking order is The Man Who Could Have Been King.
 
For a brief period of time in the late 1990s, Lee Westwood was not only the best player from all of the U.K.; he was arguably the best player on the planet. Beginning with the 1997 Volvo Masters, the season-ending event on the European Tour, Westwood won 20 tournaments around the world in just three years time, including the Freeport-McDermott Classic on the PGA Tour.
 
He ascended to as high as fourth in the world, and then descended almost as quickly ' and quite more inexplicably ' to outside of the top 250.
 
After spending three years in the depths of a golfing hell only David Duval could mutually describe, Westwood began his resurrection in mid-2003 with a pair of wins on the European Tour.
 
Hes now all the way back to 26th in the world.
 
Ian Poulter
Ian Poulter has made a name for himself in the U.S. thanks to his colorful attire.
A few years ago, I was the highest (English) player in the world rankings and there was no one else in the top 100, said the 31-year-old from Worksop. Now weve got a lot of good, young golfers on the rise.
 
I just think these things are roundabout. They come and go.
 
Ebb and flow, thats all it is, said Casey. I think its what I knew and what a lot of the other guys knew, that there was going to be a lot of guys coming through.
 
The tide has definitely turned in favor of the English golfer. And instead of just one ' a Faldo or a Westwood - there are several cheering options for the English fan. The group is rather eclectic.
 
I think its good. There are guys who like to watch (Ian) Poulter play and not me, or me and not Poulter. I think its healthy. It sort of frees the competitiveness between the group as well. Were all really, really good friends, but were highly competitive as well, Casey said.
 
Theres a little bit more to the players these days. Its good to have some personality up there, said Dougherty.
 
Westwood agrees with that line of thinking ' that diversity in numbers is better for the viewing audience. But he adds with a smile, Id still rather dominate.
 
Casey was the dominating Englishman for a little while ' at least in terms of controversy and negative press. But whats often overlooked is that fact that before he became a media and gallery whipping boy in the U.S., he briefly held the mantle as the top-ranked Briton.
 
The 27-year-old from Cheltenham is still hovering about at 35th, and already has a victory this season. He captured the European Tours TCL Classic in China just three weeks ago.
 
Rounding out the English contingency in the top 50 are Poulter (41) and David Howell (50).
 
Despite the fact that the 29-year-old Howell has won on the European Tour and was a member of last years victorious European Ryder Cup team, put a wig on his head and American fans couldnt tell him apart from a Member of Parliament.
 
Poulter on the other hand
 
Theres no one quite like Poulter, said Casey. Hes certainly got flair.
 
Poulter has earned worldwide recognition for his flair. The shaggy, bed-head look ' which is meticulously prepared ' combined with the outrageous colors and prints on his shirts and pants have made the 29-year-old undeniably different.
 
The garb is so garish at times, however, that it detracts attention away from his impressive talents.
 
A Ryder Cup team member in 2004, Poulter has six career European Tour victories and has won at least once in each of the past five full seasons east of the Atlantic. He advanced to the quarterfinals of last years WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and improved upon that performance this year by making it to the semis.
 
I don't think my clothes are taking anything away from the golf, Poulter said.
 
I don't like the way most people dress on the golf course. My personality is not like that and I want to be slightly different.
 
Brian Davis (82), Justin Rose (88) and Greg Owen (98) are the final three Englishmen currently situated inside the top 100 in the world.
 
Davis, 30, was the medalist at Q-school last year. He led after the first round of this years Nissan Open, and ultimately tied for third in the rain-reduced event.
 
The week before, Owen, 33, finished third at Pebble Beach.
 
And Rose ' youre probably all-too-familiar with his story. But just in case youre not: as a 17-year-old amateur he pitched in from 45 yards on the 72nd hole of the 1998 British Open at Royal Birkdale to tie for fourth. He then turned pro and subsequently missed his first 22 cuts. He went on to rebound with four worldwide wins in 2002 and has spent the last two years playing full time on the PGA Tour. The now 24-year-old even led after 36 holes of last years Masters.
 
Then there's 39-year-old Paul Broadhurst, who ended a decade-long winless streak on the European Tour by capturing last week's Estoril Open over, among others, fellow Englishman Barry Lane.
 
Its funny, said Davis, because a few years ago the British press was saying English golf is in dire straits, weve got no one up since Faldo. OK, the guys havent won a major, maybe, but I would fancy the chances of one of us, especially me, winning a major. Theres quite a lot of good English players right now.
 
To that, Faldo agrees: Weve got a lot of good guys who are all playing well ' theyre competing hard.
 
But as to whether or not any of them will end Englands major drought, which dates back to Faldos 1996 Masters triumph, the man himself remains in doubt.
 
Editors Note: Part 2 will focus on the chances of an English player winning a major in the near future (Read Part 2), as well how most of the top English players are now calling the U.S. their home away from home.
 
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    Minjee Lee co-leads Walmart NW Arkansas Championship

    By Associated PressJune 24, 2018, 12:25 am

    ROGERS, Ark. - Minjee Lee wasn't all that concerned when she missed her first cut of the year this month at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.

    The ninth-ranked Australian has certainly looked at ease and back in form at Pinnacle Country Club in her first event since then.

    Lee and Japan's Nasa Hataoka each shot 6-under 65 on Saturday to share the second-round lead in the NW Arkansas Championship 13-under 129. Lee is chasing her fifth victory since turning pro three years ago. It's also an opportunity to put any lingering frustration over that missed cut two weeks ago behind her for good.

    ''I didn't particularly hit it bad, even though I missed the cut at ShopRite, I just didn't really hole any putts,'' Lee said. ''I'd been hitting it pretty solid going into that tournament and even into this tournament, too. Just to see a couple putts roll in has been nice.''

    The 22-year-old Lee needed only 24 putts during her opening 64 on Friday, helping her to match the low round of her career. Despite needing 28 putts Saturday, she still briefly took the outright lead after reaching as low as 14 under after a birdie on the par-5 seventh.


    Full-field scores from the Walmart Arkansas Championship


    Lee missed the green on the par-4 ninth soon thereafter to lead to her only bogey of the day and a tie with the 19-year-old Hataoka, who is in pursuit of her first career win.

    Hataoka birdied six of eight holes midway through her bogey-free round on Saturday. It was yet another stellar performance from the Japanese teenager, who has finished in the top 10 in four of her last five tournaments and will be a part of Sunday's final pairing.

    ''I try to make birdies and try to be under par, that's really the key for me to get a top ten,'' Hataoka said. ''Golf is just trying to be in the top 10 every single week, so that's the key.''

    Third-ranked Lexi Thompson matched the low round of the day with a 64 to get to 11 under. She hit 17 of 18 fairways and shot a 5-under 30 on her opening nine, The American is in search of her first win since September in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

    Ariya Jutanugarn and Celine Boutier were 10 under.

    First-round leader Gaby Lopez followed her opening 63 with a 75 to drop to 4 under. Fellow former Arkansas star Stacy Lewis also was 4 under after a 72.

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    Henley will try to put heat on Casey in final round

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:55 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While it will be a tall task for anyone to catch Paul Casey at the Travelers Championship, the man who will start the round most within reach of the Englishman is Russell Henley.

    Henley was in the penultimate group at TPC River Highlands on Saturday, but he’ll now anchor things during the final round as he looks to overcome a four-shot deficit behind Casey. After a 3-under 67, Henley sits at 12 under through 54 holes and one shot clear of the three players tied for third.

    Henley closed his third round with a run of five straight pars, then became the beneficiary of a pair of late bogeys from Brian Harman that left Henley alone in second place.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    “Could have made a couple more putts, but to end with two up-and-downs like that was nice,” Henley said. “I felt a little bit weird over the shots coming in, put me in some bad spots. But it was nice to have the short game to back me up.”

    Henley has won three times on Tour, most recently at the 2017 Houston Open, and he cracked the top 25 at both the Masters and U.S. Open. But with Casey riding a wave of confidence and coming off an 8-under 62 that marked the best round of the week, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him in order to nab trophy No. 4.

    “I think I can shoot a low number on this course. You’ve got to make the putts,” Henley said. “I’m definitely hitting it well enough, and if I can get a couple putts to fall, that would be good. But I can’t control what he’s doing. I can just try to keep playing solid.”

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    Back from back injury, Casey eyeing another win

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:36 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Given his four-shot cushion at the Travelers Championship and his recent victory at the Valspar Championship, it’s easy to forget that Paul Casey hit the disabled list in between.

    Casey had to withdraw from The Players Championship because of a bad back, becoming the only player in the top 50 in the world rankings to miss the PGA Tour’s flagship event. He flew back to England to get treatment, and Casey admitted that his T-20 finish at last month’s BMW PGA Championship came while he was still on the mend.

    “I wasn’t 100 percent fit with the back injury, which was L-4, L-5, S-1 (vertebrae) all out of place,” Casey said. “Big inflammation, nerve pain down the leg and up the back. I didn’t know what was going on.”


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Thanks in large part to a combination of MRIs, back adjustments and anti-inflammatories, Casey finally turned the corner. His T-16 finish at last week’s U.S. Open was the first event for which he felt fully healthy since before the Players, and he’s on the cusp of a second title since March after successfully battling through the injury.

    “We thought we were fixing it, but we weren’t. We were kind of hitting the effects rather than the cause,” Casey said. “Eventually we figured out the cause, which was structural.”

    Casey started the third round at TPC River Highlands two shots off the lead, but he’s now four clear of Russell Henley after firing an 8-under 62 that marked the low round of the week.

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    Bubba thinks he'll need a Sunday 60 to scare Casey

    By Will GrayJune 23, 2018, 11:15 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Perhaps moreso than at most PGA Tour venues, a low score is never really out of reach at TPC River Highlands. Positioned as a welcome change of pace after the U.S. Open, the Travelers Championship offers a lush layout that often pushes the balance much closer to reward than risk.

    This is where Jim Furyk shot a 58 on the par-70 layout two years ago – and he didn’t even win that week. So even though Paul Casey enters the final round with a commanding four-shot lead, there’s still plenty of hope for the chase pack that something special could be in store.

    Count Bubba Watson among the group who still believe the title is up for grabs – even if it might require a Herculean effort, even by his standards.


    Full-field scores from the Travelers Championship

    Travelers Championship: Articles, photos and videos


    Watson has won the Travelers twice, including in a 2015 playoff over Casey. But starting the final round in a large tie for sixth at 10 under, six shots behind Casey, he estimates that he’ll need to flirt with golf’s magic number to give the Englishman something to worry about.

    “My 7 under yesterday, I need to do better than that. I’m going to have to get to like 10 [under],” Watson said. “The only beauty is, getting out in front, you have a chance to put a number up and maybe scare them. But to scare them, you’re going to have to shoot 10 under at worst, where I’m at anyway.”

    Watson started the third round three shots off the lead, and he made an early move with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 en route to an outward 32. The southpaw couldn’t sustain that momentum, as bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 turned a potential 65 into a relatively disappointing 67.

    “Bad decision on the par-3, and then a very tough tee shot for me on 17, and it just creeped into the bunker,” Watson said. “Just, that’s golf. You have mistakes every once in a while.”