x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

English golf's major drought

Sixty-one major tournaments have passed since Nick Faldo hunted down Greg Norman in the 1996 Masters, and England has claimed zero of the 61.

Lee Westwood has never won a major despite winning plenty of other tournaments that have seen him occupy the world No 1 spot on a couple of occasions.
Lee Westwood has never won a major despite winning plenty of other tournaments that have seen him occupy the world No 1 spot on a couple of occasions.

Rich Beem … Shaun Micheel … Todd Hamilton …

OK, this has to stop. This has to stop now. This coming Sunday. We all know golf can seem inexplicable, and that a certain inexplicability counts among its charms, but this has become just plain loopy.

Sixty-one major tournaments have passed since Nick Faldo coldly hunted down a disintegrating Greg Norman on a calm Augusta Sunday in the 1996 Masters, and England has claimed zero of the 61. The three guys just above have claimed one each, but this outstanding generation of Englishmen has not.

Paul Lawrie … Michael Campbell … Louis Oosthuizen …

Neither of those three accomplished golfers nor the three higher up have cobbled the protracted accomplishment of Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose or even Ross Fisher. Yet all have won Opens on one side of the Atlantic or the other.

The six Englishmen in the top 56? No. Somehow, no. No 2-ranked Westwood has finished 10th, seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth, third, third, third, second, second and third in majors.

No 1-ranked Donald has gone third, third, 10th, fifth and fourth; No 16 Poulter ninth, second and 10th; No 31 Rose fourth, fifth, fifth, 10th and ninth; No 14 Casey sixth, 10th, 10th, seventh and third.

It's crazy. It's almost mathematically impossible.

You would think that at some point, sheer fate would have allotted at least one. In a game so savage, some leader might have crumbled. A whole board of leaders might have crumbled.

One of the English leaders would play so well as to leave everyone hopelessly behind, as happens sometimes.

But, no.

Mark Brooks … Steve Jones … Tom Lehman …

Brooks turned 50 in March. Jones and Lehman are 52. They had their profoundly excellent days on the big tour, and their profoundly excellent days on the big tour has ended in the normal rhythms of life. Yet each has won a major since any Englishman has.

Mark O'Meara has won two, both in 1998, and he has reached age 54.

Scotland has won a major since England. Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland put together have hoarded five.

New Zealand has won one, South Korea one, Canada one, Germany one, Argentina two, Fiji three, South Africa a whopping seven among five different players. So two natives of California took 18 by themselves - 14 and four - but still, this England drought doesn't make any sense.

"It's been too long," Casey aptly put it one day.

He said this in 2009, eight majors ago.

Now it has been too, too long. Westwood has reached the age of 38, with Poulter 35, Casey 33, Donald 33, Rose 30 and No 56-ranked Ross Fisher 30.

As at any moment in golf's vagaries, all play this nascent summer at varying levels of hotness relative to their potential entering the Open, yet all occupy ideal ages for carting a Claret Jug on Sunday at Sandwich. All can do this.

Zach Johnson … David Toms … YE Yang …

Plenty of one-major winners back up that major outside the majors. They stick around in the unforgiving rankings for at least a while if not longer. They did not count as flukes and, really, given the nerve-rattling duress of winning even one of those things, no winner can count as a fluke even if some do outpace others overall.

The English brigade has won plenty of stuff elsewhere, more than enough to prevent the word "fluke" from even entering any conversation.

Westwood has won on the six golfing continents, and won the 2000 Order of Merit, and won the 2009 Race To Dubai.

Casey has reached No 3 and won 12 times worldwide (including twice in Abu Dhabi).

Donald, No 1 in the world, won the Match Play in Arizona, one of the most pressurised events outside the majors.

Poulter won the Match Play before that among 14 lifetime wins. Rose won a Memorial and an AT&T; almost everybody craves those.

Anymore, given the number of English major contenders, this 15-year dearth isn't just some quirk; it's some hovering, howling, humongous quirk, a giant in the community of quirks.

David Duval … Justin Leonard … Geoff Ogilvy …

Plenty of accomplished guys have culled their first majors, and some people have hinted or opined that, collectively, the strong English batch of the generation lacks something, some sort of appropriate Sunday nerve ending.

This would seem uncommonly unlikely and almost absurdly broad-brushed. Five or six people? Really?