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English golfers hope to end home drought

English golfers hope to end home drought

Posted: Tuesday, July 17, 2012 7:00 pm

By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP National Writer
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) — As Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were coming toward the end of their practice round on what had been another awful day of English weather, a strange thing happened.
The thick clouds began to break up in the western sky. There were patches of blue and, yes, even a brief glimpse of the sun.
For a few glorious moments Monday, Westwood and Donald were putting through shadows on the 16th green.
An omen, perhaps?
No English golfer has won a British Open on English soil since 1969, but the prospects of snapping that drought at Royal Lytham & St. Annes seem brighter than ever. Donald is ranked No. 1 in the world. Westwood sits at No. 3. Justin Rose isn’t far behind, holding down the ninth spot. Ian Poulter is farther back (No. 28), but he’s contended at the Open and played well in the Ryder Cup.
“Certainly the talent in England is great right now,” Donald said.
Tony Jacklin is clearly impressed. He just happens to be that English winner from 43 years ago — a triumph that took place at Lytham, no less — and believes it’s past time for someone else to fill his shoes.
“Records are made to be broken,” Jacklin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t end. We’ve got as good a chance of that ending this year as we’ve had in any other year since I won. We’ve got a lot of first-class players and high hopes for them.”
The English haven’t been totally shut out since Jacklin’s historic triumph. Nick Faldo has three Open titles, but all of them came a little farther north, at courses in Scotland.
The crowds at Lytham figure to get especially loud and rowdy if someone such as Westwood or Donald goes to the weekend in serious contention for the claret jug. That worked in Jacklin’s favor back in ’69, but it also put a hefty amount of pressure on the home-country favorite.
“I’d never been so nervous,” Jacklin recalled. “There was a lot of support.”
If an Englishman is in the mix this time, his chances of winning could come down to how well he soaks up the support and blocks out the expectations.
“I know my game is good enough to win when I play well enough, play with everything together,” Westwood said Tuesday morning. “So that’s what I try to do.  After that it’s out of your hands.”
Even though he attended college in the U.S., lives in suburban Chicago and plays regularly on the PGA Tour, Donald is looking for a homestyle advantage at Lytham.
“This course has some history with Jacklin winning it,” he said. “Hopefully that will prove to be lucky for us.”
Then again, none of the top English players has ever won a major title. Westwood has come closest, a runner-up at both the Masters and the British Open two years ago, not to mention third-place finishes in the other two majors. He’s rated by Jacklin as the most likely to break through but, at age 39, he’s got to be very much aware that his window of opportunity is getting smaller and smaller.
“This should suit him down to the ground, the conditions of the golf course and the way it’s playing. But you never know,” Jacklin said. “He’s got all the experience in the world, and he’s surely up for it, but at 39 or whatever he is, the clock is ticking. I keep my fingers crossed for him, because I think he really deserves it. It would look great on his resume: Open champion.”
Westwood is eager for a breakthrough.
“I haven’t won a major yet,” he said, “and I’d like to win one or two or three.”
Westwood said his chances will largely depend on the conditions, which have been especially gnarly in Britain this summer with cool temperatures and more rain that anyone can remember, which is saying a lot in this water-logged nation.
Going out for a practice round Monday afternoon worked out better than expected.
Now, if only the weather will hold for the rest of the week. Unlike defending champion Darren Clarke, who feels he might have an advantage in adverse conditions, Westwood is eager to have things as pristine as possible.  Published in The Messenger 7.17.12

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