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Best of British at the Open

By Mark Orlovac & Rob Hodgetts
BBC Sport at Royal Birkdale

British golfers are still chasing a first major victory since Paul Lawrie won the Open back in 1999 but the current crop seem to be edging ever nearer to that elusive title.

And with Tiger Woods missing through injury this week, chances of a home winner in the Open Championship have greatly increased.

We run the rule over the leading British contenders at Royal Birkdale.

Lee Westwood

Lee Westwood

Age: 35 World ranking: 19 Open best: 4th (2004) 2007 Open: T35
Season's best: T2 (HSBC Champions and Abu Dhabi Championship, both January)

In-form Westwood has had a consistently high-quality season so far and is arguably Britain's brightest hope at Birkdale.

He has had eight top-10 finishes in 2008, including a tie for third at the US Open where he agonisingly missed a 20ft birdie putt at the last which would have taken him into a play-off.

"I've never been as confident going into an Open as I am at the moment."
Lee Westwood

"His form is this year has been so good that he has consistently been in with a chance of winning in more than 50% of his starts. To perform as well as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson you've got to be in there week after week and that's what Lee's been doing.

"You can then just take that form straight into the Open Championship. He will go in as one of the favourites and it's just a question of whether he can find that form and put his game together."
BBC golf commentator Ken Brown

Justin Rose

Justin Rose

Age: 27 World ranking: 9 Open best: T4 (1998) 2007 Open: T12
Season's best: T2 (Memorial, June)

Rose returns to the venue of his breakthrough tournament, which came at the 1998 Open. The then 17-year-old amateur not only carded a second-round 66 but he also tied for fourth after holing a stunning chip from 45 yards at the last.

He enjoyed his best-ever season in 2007, winning the European Order of Merit with the help of two tournament wins, but has struggled to hit top form this year. So far, Rose has only one top-10 finish and has missed the cut at the US Open and the Players Championship.

"I feel like there's some very good golf lurking somewhere."
Justin Rose

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"He hasn't done as well as I thought he would. His last memories of Birkdale were terrific so we will have to see if that stirs good memories and helps inspire him. When he gets it right he drives the ball very well and it goes very straight. Sometimes he is a little wayward, maybe he tries to hit the ball a bit too hard and a bit too far.

"If he gets his game together he could be there. He finished in the top 12 in all four majors last year and that kind of passed people by. Of course it's considered very good, but it would be nice for him to win one and miss the cut in the rest."
BBC golf commentator Peter Alliss

Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter

Age: 32 World ranking: 42 Open best: T11 (2005) 2007 Open: T27
Season's best: T9 (Abu Dhabi Championship, January)

The extravagantly dressed Englishman has struggled for form since his ninth-placed finish at the Abu Dhabi Championship at the start of the year - failing to secure a top-10 finish since then.

The Arsenal fan pulled out of the US Open on the second day last month with a wrist injury while on 14 over after 15 holes although he has played the last three tournaments. Poulter was in contention at the Scottish Open last week only to card a final round 74.

"He needs to find the form that matches his confident demeanour. Poulter is sure to attract large galleries and is always worth watching. His season has not taken off yet and there is not better place to do that than Birkdale."
BBC Radio 5 Live golf correspondent Iain Carter

Paul Casey

Paul Casey

Age: 30 World ranking: 48 Open best: T20 (2004) 2007 Open: T27
Season's best: T3 (BMW International Open, June)

Casey has had a satisfactory season so far without being spectacular. The 2006 World Match Play champion, a spectator in 1998 when the Open was last held at Birkdale, did manage a tie for 11th at the Masters and a tie for third at the BMW International Open but slipped out of contention at the Masters with a final-round 79.

The big-hitting Englishman will be playing Birkdale for the first time this year and has decided to miss the three lead-up events to acquaint himself with the Southport links, together with his coach Peter Kostis.

"My preparations have gone very well. I came up here three times to learn the course as well as I could. I've also recharged the batteries and I'm raring to go this week."
Paul Casey

"Paul Casey has played pretty soundly from tee to green this year but his putting has been hot and cold. He is a very much a confidence player. Interestingly he hasn't played in the build-up to the Open to get his putting sorted out. He will now come into it feeling refreshed."
Ken Brown

Colin Montgomerie

Colin Montgomerie

Age: 45 World ranking: 81 Open best: 2nd (2005) 2007 Open: Missed cut
Season's best: 2nd (French Open, June)

Montgomerie, who topped the European Tour's money list eight times between 1993 and 2005, will be determined to improve his recent record at the Open, where he has failed to make the cut in both 2006 and 2007.

The former world number two failed to qualify for this year's Masters and did not make the weekend at the US Open, slipping down to outside the top 100. However, his confidence and ranking were boosted with a second-place finish at the recent French Open.

"I think I'm very close to playing the way I used to."
Colin Montgomerie

"We thought the fiery Scot had finally found some form at the recent French Open. I walked a few rounds with him then and he was very much the old Montgomerie and played his left to right shot very consistently. He got a new set of irons that week that he was very pleased with them.

"His game is there or thereabouts but he needs Birkdale to be hard and dry as he doesn't hit as far these days off the tee. Once he gets going and the crowd get behind him, he might get in the hunt. He needs inspiration and momentum as his Ryder Cup spot is looking perilous."
Ken Brown

Graeme McDowell

Graeme McDowell

Age: 28 World ranking: 29 Open best: T11, 2005 2007 Open: Missed cut Season's best: 1st (Ballantine's Championship, March; Scottish Open, July)

Northern Ireland's McDowell underlined his potential with an impressive win in the Scottish Open at Loch Lomond on Sunday.

The Portrush star and former US collegiate champion also won the inaugural Ballantine's Championship after a sudden-death play-off in March to end his four-year title drought. Has won four times on the European Tour in all and is in the form of his life.

"Out of all the four majors, this is probably the one I feel I've got the game to win."
Graeme McDowell

"He is obviously in tremendous form, if he can avoid burnout. He could do well this week and growing up in Portrush should help him. The bump and run he played at the 13th en route to victory at Loch Lomond was typical of the shots he'll need this week."
Iain Carter

Ross Fisher

Ross Fisher

Age: 27 World ranking: 55 Open best: Missed cut 2007 Open: Missed cut Season's best: 1st (European Open, July)

The Englishman who was nurtured at Wentworth strolled to a seven-shot victory over Sergio Garcia in the recent European Open in Kent.

Fisher missed the cut on his Open debut at Carnoustie last year but is emerging as a rising star after losing out to Phil Mickelson in a play-off for the HSBC Champions Trophy at the end of last year.

"Mentally strong and physically tough is where I am right now and it showed at the European Open to blow the field away."
Ross Fisher

"I've always been very impressed with him and his improvement graph has been very steep. He is a bold, bold player and I don't think he'd be frightened if he got amongst it. The question is whether he can adapt his high-ball floated game to a links course. I liked the way he has performed lately and he's a confident, let's have-a-go type of player. He won't be frightened to do the business."
Ken Brown

Oliver Wilson

Oliver Wilson

Age: 27 World ranking: 45 Open best: Missed cut 2007 Open: Missed cut Season's best: T2 (SA Airways Open, Dec; China Open, Apr; Italian Open, May; PGA Championship, May)

Wilson is the nearly man of the European Tour this year after four runner-up finishes, including losing to Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez at the second extra hole in the European Tour's flagship PGA Championship at Wentworth.

The Mansfield star also had two seconds in 2007 and the law of averages would suggest he is likely to make his breakthrough soon. Finished ninth at last week's Scottish Open but missed the cut on his Open debut last year.

"I can't wait. I feel pretty comfortable here and my game is in good shape. Hopefully I can pull off some kind of miracle. I genuinely think we're going to have a British winner, maybe even an English winner. I'd love it to be me."
Oliver Wilson

"He seems to be the quiet man but do not be deceived. Seven second-places in his young European Tour career so far shows that he is a winner in the making. He is very long off the tee and is blessed with an excellent temperament. It's only a matter of time before he wins though it would be a surprise if it was this week."
Iain Carter


see also
Rose's Birkdale return
15 Jul 08 |  Golf
Battle royal at Birkdale
11 Jul 08 |  Golf
Filling Tiger's shoes
15 Jul 08 |  Golf


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