x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

We will be trying to win for ourselves, not America, says Watney

American hopefuls teeing off in the British Open today need to feel no extra pressure over the US winless streak in majors, according to their top hope Nick Watney.

American hopefuls teeing off in the British Open today need to feel no extra pressure over the US winless streak in majors that dates back to last year's Masters, according to their top hope Nick Watney.

It is the first time in golf history that five majors have gone by without an American winner and the US media have been demanding to know what has gone wrong.

The 30-year-old Watney, who will take part in his fourth Open at Royal St George's on the Kent coastline, said that to him, and most of his compatriots, nationality is not the prime consideration.

"You never want to hear that you're inferior or something like that," he said.

"But at the same time, again, all due respect to America, I don't think anybody here is trying to win one for America.

"Golf is an individual game. We're trying to win every tournament, and if it happens to be an American that wins, then who knows, I guess we'll be on the comeback trail or whatever.

"But I think the person that wins, whoever it may be, will be doing it for themselves first and foremost."

Watney, who is up to a career-high 10th in the world after his recent win in the AT&T National, pertains to have a strong affection for links golf having watched the British Open on television as a youngster.

And despite a "very difficult" practice round in windy conditions yesterday, he feels that he has the game to compete for what would be his first win in a major.

"I'd like to think that it does suit my game," he said of links golf.

"I think if anything I'd be a lower hitter, lower ball hitter, so that always helps here. I really enjoy the different style than that we see in the States, and I love the fact that you have so many options on different shots, and one of the challenges is to pick the correct one and not just get a yardage and hit it that far.

"There's a lot that goes into each shot, and I think that's really fun."

Backing up Watney's sentiments was Phil Mickelson, the last American to win a major, at Augusta National 15 months ago.

The four-time major winner said that he had no worries about the state of American golf and that the lack of success was more a mark of how strong golf had become internationally than any perceived weakness in the United States.

"I think the overall level of play throughout the world internationally is what has sparked that," he said of the American drought.

Meanwhile, the American Heath Slocum has turned down the chance to compete in the British Open in favour of the Viking Classic on the US Tour.

But with a first prize of £405,000 (Dh2,39 million) on offer and a field shorn of the vast majority of the world's best players, it is perhaps an understandable decision.

With Scott Verplank declining the invitation to travel to England as first reserve for the Open, compatriot Ricky Barnes assumes that position and Slocum moved up to second reserve.

However, the 37 year old has decided to concentrate on attempting to win a third Tour title at Annandale Golf Club in Mississippi - where he won his first in 2005 - with that winner's cheque worth £30,000 more than finishing third at Sandwich.

At least Slocum, who missed the cut at the US Masters but was 11th in the US Open this year, is actually in the field at Annandale, unlike Britain's Greg Owen.

Owen, who became only the sixth person in the history of the event to make an albatross in the British Open at Royal Lytham in 2001, is only 10th reserve.

The 39 year old from Mansfield has made more than £2m on the US Tour, but lost his card at the end of last season and in 10 events on the second tier Nationwide Tour in 2001 has won just £35,000.

* Agencies