Golf: US Open trio tune up at Hanbury

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The Independent Online
HANBURY MANOR is one of the more historic settings on the European tour. The estate, then named "Poles'', was mentioned in the Domesday Book, while for most of the 20th century the house was used as a boarding school run by a Jesuit order of nuns. It is, however, in its present guise as a luxury hotel and golf club that it has become famous as the venue for Paul Gascoigne's wedding, not to mention his sometime retreats from public view.

Gazza put in an appearance on Monday, but just to show this is not his week Hanbury is playing host to the NCR English Open for the next four days. Cricket's Lord MacLaurin and Ian Botham were among those who got wet in the pro-am yesterday, which was eventually cancelled due to the thunderstorms.

Top of the bill from now on is shared by Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. All have won tournaments in the last three weeks, Westwood defeating Clarke by a shot in Hamburg on Monday. Another victory here for any of the three would not only mean they could go top of the money list, but would leave for the US Open in the best of spirits.

The second major of the year is a high priority for Montgomerie but the Scot realises he will not necessarily be the next European to break his duck at the highest level. "Both Lee and Darren have the potential to win the US Open," he said. "They are very confident right now and deservedly so."

Westwood's victory was the fifth for the 25-year-old since last November, while Clarke, winner at The Oxfordshire three weeks ago, is determined to keep pace with his friendly rival. "I don't see any reason why we both can't be up there," Westwood said.

"It's vital to hit it long and straight at the US Open, and if you look at the stats for last week we were both up there in driving distance and accuracy. And we were up there in the putting statistics as well."

They will be put to the test this week as Hanbury is set to provide a hint of what they can expect at the Olympic club in a fortnight's time. "The fairways are narrow and the rough is thick," Clarke said. "At times, you'll just have to take a sand wedge back to the fairway."