Donald and Westwood delighted to be out of the spotlight for home game

The English duo head to Royal St George's as one and two in the world yet are being overshadowed by a certain Northern Irishman

So the Open Championship returns to the south of England for the first time in eight years to find that the best two golfers in the world hail not from Florida or California but from the equally glamorous High Wycombe and Worksop.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood have earned the right to be heralded into Royal St George's with trumpet and drum, home favourites mobbed by thousands of patriotic fans desperate to cheer on an English winner for the first time since Nick Faldo in 1992. And with Tiger Woods hobbling on crutches at home in Orlando, the oldest major really ought to be a very English affair. And then in blew Hurricane Rory. The Englishmen were bridesmaids to the 22-year-old Northern Irishman. There were seats aplenty in the press conferences for Westwood and Donald.

But for Rory McIlroy it was standing room only. Such was the rush of bums off seats on the announcement of his arrival, that just for a moment a rumour circulated that The Royal and Ancient's catering corps was handing out free beer tokens in the media dining area. All the talk in the golfing world is of McIlroy, US Open champion and the sport's newly anointed superstar. And all this Hollywood attention heaped on the young man from Holywood is perfect for his English rivals.

Westwood had the look of someone who had only recently stopped rubbing the sleep from his eyes after a jolly nice long lie-in. The 38-year old world No 2 is a wily ol' coyote of a campaigner skilled in the art of sporting psychological warfare. In fact there are two Lee Westwoods. Sometimes the cocksure bully turns up with a swagger that says, "I'm the man." But this week he's wearing his Kevin the teenager face: "Do I look bovvered?" Oh, he's bovvered all right. He just wants everyone (and that includes McIlroy) to think that he doesn't really fancy his chances.

It's all smoke and mirrors. He's fooling no one. But he's playing mind games with himself, mostly. Rest assured – he wants this Open championship. And he wants it bad. You get the impression that Westwood is delighted to be under the radar happy to see how McIlroy deals with being caught in the white-hot spotlight for the first time. Westwood's body language? Quietly confident. Actually, not that quiet. "My form is right where I'd like it to be," he said.

Westwood finished runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen last year at St Andrews, and tied third in 2009 at Turnberry behind Tom Watson and champion Stewart Cink. He is desperate to finally stand on the top step of the podium. "It would mean everything to me," he said for an Englishman to win the Open on this Kent links. "It's named after St George. You can't get much more English than that," he said. "It's obviously being played in the south of England, which only happened every now and then, and it's the biggest championship in the world as far as I'm concerned." He's won here before, too. Twice as an amateur in the early 1990s so there's good karma in Kent already.

But as the clock is ticking on Westwood's career as he strives for that elusive first major (he is 0 and 53 now as American stat geeks like to say), the last person he wants to hear criticism from is Colin Montgomerie. The Scot has majored in major near misses yet had the nerve to suggest recently that Westwood is getting close to his sell-by date. The words "pot" and "kettle" spring to mind.

"Yeah, I played with him last week," Westwood said, "and wound him up about that. It depends how physically able you are and I'm obviously a finely tuned athlete that can go on well into my forties," he said laughing. Touché, Monty. "People would have said I was coming into my prime 10 years ago. And then I dropped to 270th in the world so what's the point in guessing whether you're in your prime or not."

The Englishman unquestionably in his prime is 33-year-old Donald. The world No 1 arrived at Royal St George's as Scottish Open champion, his third high-profile victory of the year, and on a run of 16 top 10 finishes in his last 18 events. While Westwood likes to play mind games, with Donald, what you see is what you get. As the football chant goes, "There's only one Luke Donald."

He speaks like he plays – in a low key, metronomic fashion. But his results have become spectacular after years of underachievement. All that's missing is what everyone keeps asking of the world's best-ranked golfer. Where's that major coming from? "I really don't think the world ranking has anything to do with my mindset about winning a major," Donald said. Well, he would say that, wouldn't he? "I've always wanted to win a major since growing up watching my idols Faldo and Seve."

Under normal circumstances, an English world No 1 coming to the Open in England would be buried beneath a frenzy of expectation from fans and media. But normal service has been suspended for a while by the emergence of McIlroy as golf's new Elvis just as Woods has left the building. "Rory is at the forefront of a lot of people's minds and rightly so," Donald said. "He was impressive in the US Open and winning majors is a big deal, and he did it in great fashion. I'm sure a lot of the attention is on him and maybe a little more of the pressure as well," Donald said no doubt delighted to pour on some more.

Donald imagined what it would be like to come down the stretch on Sunday going head-to-head with Westwood. "I would love to be in that situation," he said. "I'm not sure who would have the most pressure on them. We'd be very cordial but there wouldn't be much chit-chat."

A perfect English summer afternoon by the seaside, then. A Northern Irishman might just fancy gatecrashing their party.

Donald's recent majors

2006

Masters T42

US Open T12

The Open T35

USPGA T3

2007

Masters T10

US Open Missed cut

The Open T63

USPGA T23

2008

Masters Missed cut

US Open Withdrew

The Open DNP

USPGA DNP

2009

Masters T38

US Open Missed cut

The Open T5

USPGA T43

2010

Masters Missed cut

US Open T47

The Open T11

USPGA Missed cut

2011

Masters T4

US Open T45

Westwood's recent majors

2006

Masters Missed cut

US Open DNP

The Open T31

USPGA T29

2007

Masters T30

US Open T36

The Open T35

USPGA T32

2008

Masters T11

US Open 3

The Open T67

USPGA Missed cut

2009

Masters 43

US Open T23

The Open T3

USPGA T3

2010

Masters 2

US Open T16

The Open 2

USPGA DNP

2011

Masters T11

US Open T3

The 140th Open Championship details

Betting

8-1 Rory McIlroy

12-1 Lee Westwood, Luke Donald

25-1 Martin Kaymer, Sergio Garcia

Television

Tomorrow BBC Two, HD, Red Button and online (0900-2000) Highlights BBCi (2000-2030)

Friday BBC Two, HD, Red Button and online (0900-2000) Highlights BBCi 2000-2030

Saturday BBC One, HD, Red Button and online (1000-1200); BBC One, HD, Red Button and online (1210-1715); BBC Two, HD, Red Button and online (1715-1900)

Sunday BBC Two, HD, Red Button and online (1100-1245); BBC One, HD, Red Button and online (1245-1900)

Weather Forecast

Tomorrow Cloudy, 18C, 22mph wind

Friday Sunny intervals, 21C, 14mph wind

Saturday Light rain, 19C, 19mph wind

Sunday Sunny intervals, 16C, 20mph wind

Watch highlights of the Open at independent.co.uk/openhighlights

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam