Britons face familiar challenge
It can't go on forever. Or at least, it's very unlikely to, statistically.
As we all know, the British major drought has gone on for 10 years now but there's a distinct feeling in the air that it could be over soon.
There's just too many good British players at the moment for it not to, goes the argument.
Maybe it's just because it's the Open and we are swept up in patriotic fervour.
But with the world number three Paul Casey hailing from England, his countrymen Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood joint second in the betting for the Open and six Englishmen and two from Northern Ireland in the top 50 in the world rankings, the prospects do look rosy.
For the record they are Casey (2nd), Westwood (17th), Poulter (18th), Ross Fisher (21st), Rory McIlroy (22nd), Luke Donald (28th), Graeme McDowell (46th) and Oliver Wilson (47th).
But prospects and reality don't necessarily follow. Plenty of world-class players have failed to win a major - Colin Montgomerie and Sergio Garcia to name but two.
In fact, take Nick Faldo out of the equation and major titles have been very slim pickings for British players.
A common theory is that Tiger Woods is to blame.
"We're living in an era where Tiger Woods is dominating golf," said Fisher's coach, Kristian Baker, the head of instruction at Wentworth and the man who guided the 28-year-old to fifth at the US Open in June.
But Woods has won 14 majors from 48 professional starts since 1997. That's a strike-rate of just over 29%, which means lots of other people have won majors in that time as well.
But no Brits, other than Paul Lawrie in 1999.
Before that we have to go back to Faldo in the Masters in 1996. And for an Open champion it is Faldo in 1992.
In the old days there was the legitimate excuse that having three of the four majors every year in the US made it virtually impossible for our players, given the difficulty and expense of travel and the vastly differing conditions they faced when they got there.
That's what made Tony Jacklin's breakthrough at the US Open in 1970 so impressive.
But that doesn't wash any more, given that golf is a global game these days and many of the top British stars play regularly in the States, where some even live.
Despite our patriotic optimism, the Open is arguably more alien to many of these players, given it is held on links courses which they encounter rarely nowadays.
In the last 10 Opens there have been 15 Britons in total finishing in the top 10, including Poulter and Montgomerie, who were runners-up in 2008 and 2005 respectively.
Former Ryder Cup star and commentary doyen Peter Alliss blames a lack of consistency week to week.
"Love him or not, Tiger Woods has missed something like three cuts in his professional career," said Alliss. "We get players who win big tournaments and then they don't qualify for the next four weekends. I don't really understand why, or what goes on in their heads.
"One or two of them talk a good game but it is a disappointment. Let's hope Turnberry is the start of something big for them."
It's the subject the players hate and get asked ad nauseam. First the eyes roll and they sigh. Then they switch on the answerphone message. They have no idea why, yes, they'd very much like to win a major, there are a good current crop of Brits, if one of them wins a major it could open the floodgates, but no, they won't dwell on it for the rest of their lives if they do end up without one.
Of the likeliest contenders, the 33-year-old Poulter will look back on his second at Royal Birkdale last year as the springboard to greater heights. And he will be buoyed by his Ryder Cup performance last September, when he top-scored for Europe after making the team as a controversial wildcard pick.
"I'm not going out there having the mindset on Thursday morning I have to win, I have to win, I have to win," he said.
"I'm going out there to play a round of golf. Yes, I do have expectations to try to go one better than I did last year but I will be pacing myself from Thursday to try to get in position to strike on Sunday afternoon."
Westwood, one of Britain's virtual veterans these days at 36, has had six top 10s in majors, including a 10th and a fourth just up the road at Royal Troon in the 1997 and 2004 Opens respectively.
He also went close at the US Open last year, playing with Turnberry first-round partner Woods in the final pair and missing out on a play-off by one.
"I learnt then that I was good enough to win a major," said Westwood, rated for his straight driving ability, who lost a play-off in the French Open recently and came eighth at the Scottish Open despite suffering from a chest infection.
Casey, 31, has won on three continents this season and is the second highest-ranked player in the field given Phil Mickelson's absence.
He was seventh last year but is perhaps more suited to a course like Augusta, where he has finished sixth, 10th and 11th in four Masters starts.
"I tied into the lead going into the back nine at Augusta at least once, maybe twice," he said. "I've been in the mix. I know what the pressure is like. And it's time to put myself in the mix again."
McIlroy, meanwhile, is the very fast-rising star of British and Northern Irish golf and may yet jump the queue.
As the youngest player ever to reach the world's top 50, the current world number 22 grew up playing links golf, shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush in 2005 and has legitimate claims at Turnberry this week. At 20 he would be the youngest Open winner since 1900.
The downside would appear to be his lack of experience in majors - he's only played in two as a professional, finishing 20th at the Masters and 10th at the US Open this year.
"I've sort of proved to myself that I do have the game to get around major championships," he said.
Maybe, McIlroy's lack of exposure could actually prove a blessing. Not haunted by near misses or scarred by brushes with Woods.
But each player will have to beat 155 others to win, spread across 26 different nationalities.
Put like that, the odds of a British winner don't look great. But put like that, nor do anyone else's.
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