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  • Alistair Tait

Rose's prophecy comes true

Anyone else have a feeling of déjà vu at the number of Englishmen winning on the European Tour? I certainly have. It feels like 2016.

I spoke to a number of English players four years ago about English victories being racked up on the European Tour. The English are still winning.

Tyrrell Hatton’s BMW PGA Championship victory was the second straight English win following Aaron Rai’s Aberdeen Standards Investment Scottish Open triumph. There have been six English victories so far on this season’s curtailed European Tour schedule. Add Lee Westwood, Andy Sullivan and two wins for Sam Horsfield to Hatton and Rai’s triumphs.

Sullivan was one of another four Englishmen to finish in the BMW PGA top 10, along with Ian Poulter, Eddie Pepperell and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Compatriots Tommy Fleetwood, David Horsey, Jordan Smith, Andrew Johnston, Lee Westwood and Ross Fisher all finished inside the top 20.

Six Englishmen finished inside the top 10 in the Scottish.

Hatton had his breakthrough win in 2016. Fitzpatrick won twice. So did Danny Willett. Chris Wood won the BMW PGA. Andrew Johnston earned his maiden victory. Justin Rose took the Olympic Gold medal. Add a three-season win for Sullivan the previous year, Fitzpatrick’s maiden victory and English golf was obviously in a good place. Englishmen – Rose, Westwood, Sullivan, Wood, Willett and Fitzpatrick – comprised half the 2016 Ryder Cup team.

You couldn’t scroll down the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking without tripping over an English flag. It was a far cry from the days when Westwood was the only Englishman in the top 100.

What on earth was going on?

“There’s potentially a little changing of the guard. For a long time, it was me, Poults, Luke (Donald), (Paul) Casey,” Justin Rose said.
“Lee (Westwood) was the elder statesmen to us and we sort of pushed him. Now there are guys pushing us. There’s always a cycle, sort of every five-ten years there’s a crop of guys who come through and we’re probably hitting that now.
“The next wave is catching up and coming through. It’s going to be exciting times for English golf, especially if these young lads can step up and get in the world top 50 and play majors, world golf championships, the bigger stages. It’s important for them to take their games to a higher level and compete outside their own bubble.”

No potentially about it, and not much catching up to do. That next wave has already hit the shores. Meanwhile, the old guard of Westwood, Poulter, Casey and Rose are still competitive. Poulter was also in contention in Scotland. Casey finished second in the PGA Championship.

It’s a credit to England Golf (formerly the English Golf Union) that so many young English players are coming through and making an easy step onto the European Tour. The union continues to churn out ready made stars. Back in 2016, Pepperrell said:

“You have to credit a lot of the work done by the EGU. The coaching was good; we got a lot of help on the psychological side too.
“If you grow up playing links golf then you learn facets of the game that perhaps the Europeans or the Americans don’t have. I sometimes feel we maybe have a bit more variety than others because we grew up playing links golf.
“We’re maybe a bit better mentally prepared because, as an 18-year-old playing, say, the Lytham Trophy in a howling gale means you have to find some way to get through it.”

The English contingent have found a way through it and are proving themselves on the European Tour. It can’t be long before another Englishman joins recent major winners Rose and Willett in that club reserved for winners of the tournaments that really matter.

#JustSaying: “It’s always good to have a bit of banter and a bit of competition, because if one of your mates wins then it spurs you on to do the same. Rivalry between mates is good; it’s healthy.” Justin Rose

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