Europeans have chance to rule

Golf: Faldo senses an opportunity at the US Open. Guy Hodgson reports from Shinnecock Hills
Click to follow
The Independent Online
The consensus at Shinnecock Hills runs like this: the US Open course is built on European lines so the chances are the champion on Sunday will be too. The Americans will be teeing off on Long Island today, but according to the pre-tournament hype they might as well not bother.

Which is all very well if similar sentiments had not been expressed two years ago. Then Baltusrol was written up as being suited to Nick Faldo and Co, and what happened? Barry Lane was the leading European and he finished in 16th place. Instead of making up the numbers the home contingent produced a new champion, Lee Janzen.

The Americans see the US in the title of this tournament and take it seriously. Only once in the last 13 years has a foreigner slipped away with their principal golfing prize, and that was South Africa's Ernie Els 12 months ago. As for Europe, while the Old World has won a wardrobe's worth of green jackets at the US Masters, the US Open has proved stubbornly elusive since Tony Jacklin devoured the field at Hazeltine in 1970.

So why the insistence that this time Europe will succeed? That all comes down to Shinnecock itself which Faldo, yesterday, described as "more British than the British Open". It is a links course which favours those who have grown up with the breed, and it also allows scope for flair players like Seve Ballesteros and Jose-Maria Olazabal. Accuracy from the tee, for once, will not be the be all and end all at the US Open.

"I will never have a better opportunity to win a US Open," Faldo said, and it is an acknowledgement of that prospect that he arrived in Southampton 10 days ago to acclimatise. He senses success, and when he does that he normally is not too far away when the trophy is presented.

"This is the No 1 tournament in the world that I'd like to win," the three times Open and double Masters champion continued. "It's as simple as that. This place is more attuned to a European style. I feel comfortable out there."

Faldo, who won the Doral Ryder Open and who has finished in the top 10 six times since he joined the US Tour full-time this year, is the man most have in mind when they anticipate a European winner, although Ballesteros, for one, will have noted with interest the emphasis Shinnecock puts on chip shots.

Colin Montgomerie and Bernhard Langer also loom large in the expectations. Langer has won his last two tournaments, the PGA Championship and the Hamburg Open, which normally suggests an adverse reaction is due, but the German has powers of recovery that are beyond most players, and took the second event on Sunday despite a streaming cold. Instead of slumping mentally after a success he is feeling better.

Montgomerie, meanwhile, regards the US Open as the major he is most likely to win. He lost to Els in a play-off last year and in 1992 he had no less a person than Jack Nicklaus congratulate him on "becoming our national champion" when he was high and home in the clubhouse while the rest of the field was struggling in a near-gale. Unfortunately for the Scot, Tom Kite and Jeff Sluman had other ideas, and he finished third.

Montgomerie was also beaten in a play-off two weeks ago in the English Open but, armed with a new, heavier-headed putter, he sounds upbeat. "I come here very confident," he said. "I've worked on new things with my putting, and got that in gear, and I'm hitting the ball as well as I've ever done.

"This is the major I'm most likely to win because I'm long and straight off the tee and I can use that here to more effect than at other majors. I've been close twice at the US Open and it is question of getting in contention enough times and hope that I get fortunate once."

As for the home challenge, Janzen arrives here straight from winning the Kemper Open on Sunday, but the man he beat in the play-off, Corey Pavin, is probably a better prospect. Other American contenders include the Masters champion, Ben Crenshaw, and the 1991 winner Payne Stewart, who both correspond with Faldo's profile of the winner this week. "I don't think it will be a surprise name," he said.

If so it would not rule out Greg Norman, either. He has won two majors over links courses in Britain, and has had the unassuming manner of a pumped-up rhino when he discusses his prospects. But then the Australian is always confident until the field begins to breathe down his neck in the closing nine holes.

It is from another part of the Pacific rim that the greatest threat may come, however. Vijay Singh's move to America this year has been a conspicuous success, with the Fijian winning two tournaments and lying seventh in the US money list. After finishing first, 11th and fourth in his last three outings, his form is hardly tailing off, either.

The worrying thing for Faldo and Co is that, having lived in Britain for seven years, Singh also fits the criterion of a European-style champion.

CARD OF THE COURSE

Hole Yards Par Hole Yards Par

1 394 4 10 409 4

2 226 3 11 158 3

3 453 4 12 472 4

4 408 4 13 377 4

5 535 5 14 444 4

6 471 4 15 415 4

7 188 3 16 544 5

8 367 4 17 186 3

9 447 4 18 450 4

Out 3489 35 In 3455 35

Par 70 Total 6,944

US OPEN FIRST ROUND: TEE-OFF TIMES

(All times BST; US unless stated)

11.45am F Allem (SA), M Standly, D Martin

11.55 B R Brown, F Funk, B Vaughan

12.05pm S Pate, B McCallister, S Stricker

12.15 G Hallberg, T Tryba, A Magge

12.25 P Goydos, O Uresti, D Quigley

12.35 P Moore, M San Filippo, T Herron

12.45 R Fehr, M McNulty (Zim), B Bryant

12.55 K Perry, E Romero (Arg), J Gallagher

1.05 J Maggert, J Haas, F Nobilo (NZ)

1.15 D Love, C Pavin, V Singh (Fiji)

1.25 J Cook, D Gilford (GB), M Springer

1.35 P Stewart, J Daly, B Langer (Ger)

1.45 B Britton, J Chaffee, M Brisky

1.55 T Watson, F Couples, N Faldo (GB)

2.05 * C Tidland, E Meeks, K Mitchum

2.15 B Crenshaw, F Zoeller, I Woosnam (GB)

2.25 C Byrum, B Prter, J Sanchez

2.35 E Els (SA), N Price (Zim), * T Woods

2.45 C Stoops, D Phillips, L Tedesco

2.55 W Grady (Aus), J Sluman, H Sutton

3.05 T Roddy, C Zambri, * J Courville

3.15 L Roberts, M Roe (GB), D Frost (SA)

3.25 C Perry, T White, J Estes

3.35 B Murchison, S Tyson, C Marseilles

3.45 K Young, F Marrello, M Muehr

3.55 B Jobe, B Mogg, M Gogel

4.05 R Gamez, J McGovern, N Lancaster

4.15 M Heinen, T Armour, P Jordan

4.25 M Hulbert, B Ogle (Aus), G Koch

4.35 G Boros, S Verplank, B Andrade

4.45 B Hughes (Aus), M Schuchart, R Alarcon (Mex)

4.55 D Walsworth, O Nordberg (Swe), A Armagost

5.05 M A Jimenez (Sp), D Waldorf, D Edwards

5.15 S Hobday (SA), B Estes, C Dennis

5.25 B Glasson, J Huston, B Lane (GB)

5.35 T Lehman, C Montgomerie (GB), P Mickelson

5.45 P-U Johansson (Swe), S Lowery, B Faxon

5.55 S Ballesteros (Sp), S Simpson, M Calca vecchia

6.05 L Mize, J Mahaffey, C Beck

6.15 L Janzen, H Irwin, B Tway

6.25 S Hoch, M McCumber, M Ozaki (Japan)

6.35 T Kite, C Strange, J M Olazabal (Sp)

6.45 B Burns, J Gullion, T Hobby

6.55 G Norman (Aus), P Azinger, R Floyd

7.05 J Snyder, J Connelly, J Maginnes

7.15 J Nicklaus, I Baker-Finch (Aus), A North

7.25 G Day, R Cramer, G Bruckner

7.35 S Elkington (Aus), P Jacobsen, D Duval

7.45 J Hulbert, B Elliott, D Morland

7.55 D Kestner, J Calabria, B Bell

8.05 C Kaufman, G Sisk, J Reeves

8.15 C Pena, D Holland, J Julian

* denotes amateurs

TV TIMES

Sky Sports: 3pm-8pm; 10pm-midnight

BBC1: 12.10am-1.10am tomorrow

Comments