If the Americans were in any doubt that the British golfing professional has finally shrugged off his long-held inferiority complex, then they were surely put right by Justin Rose yesterday. On the eve of the 139th Open Championship, the Englishman stated his belief that Great Britain and Ireland no longer need the rest of Europe to compete in the Ryder Cup – "we could do it on our own".
This was just the latest example of the confidence sweeping through the home ranks following a collective surge into the world top 10 and a staggering run on the American Tour which saw players from the United Kingdom winning four events out of five. At the start of the week, Ian Poulter claimed British pros had "a 15-year window" to dominate the game and on Tuesday night Lee Westwood made a joke at America's expense.
When accepting the Golf Writers' Player of the Year Trophy, the world No 3 congratulated Tim Finchem, the PGA Tour's commissioner, for the success of Steve Stricker at last Sunday's John Deere Classic. "It must be nice to have an American winning on your tour," said Westwood.
Finchem took the quip in the spirit it was intended, but it will be interesting to discover how Tiger Woods and Co feel about Rose's statement. The 29-year-old is drawn alongside Woods in the opening round today as he attempts to become the first British winner of the Open in 11 years. In the meantime, America have won seven Claret Jugs.
"What would happen if Great Britain and Ireland took on the US?" said Rose. "Right now it would be a close game, like the old Ryder Cup was back in the day. I think for the first time it would probably be a close-run thing, for sure. We've always had one or two great, great players but we now have a great depth to the team."
The stats back up Rose. There are now eight British or Irish players in the world top 20 compared to six from the States; the first time they have a numerical advantage since the rankings started 25 years ago. Furthermore, five different UK players have won on the PGA Tour already this season. "Look at the rankings and, dare I say, it's better than it's ever been," Rose added. "Just on that basis I think one of us will be in contention on Sunday afternoon."