Rose blossoms as golden generation crack States

McDowell's US Open triumph confirms UK's mastery of world's toughest circuit
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Another weekend, another invader with a British passport threatening to dispossess America of a million more dollars. Justin Rose goes into today's final round of the Travelers Championship in Connecticut with a three-shot lead. He has a second consecutive PGA Tour title very firmly in his sights; but even more remarkably a fourth win in as many weeks for his country.

The biggest story of this golfing season so far has been the storming of the Stateside country clubs by the professionals of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. While Graeme McDowell's US Open triumph at Pebble Beach last Sunday was the highlight, the trophies collected by Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Rose and Lee Westwood have given the burgeoning theory its substance. It is that the golden generation of UK golf have finally cracked the game's toughest circuit – and now have the major trophies at their collective mercy.

In a week when Wimbledon again proved the paucity of quality in British tennis, the continued strength in depth of its golf challenge has only been emphasised. Certainly this run of Ws, even before today, has been unprecedented. Before this year, no more than one UK pro won in the US in any single season. It's only June and that feat has been quintupled. To say the natives are restless is to state the numb-skullingly obvious.

On Wednesday, Padraig Harrington entered the Travelers media room to be confronted for an explanation. "It hasn't happened since 1968," he was told. The Irishman thought back and was at a loss to recall what had been so special about 1968. "It wasn't," he was told. "We just haven't been able to look back further yet."

Harrington assured them they could cease their research. "This hasn't happened before," said the three-time major champion. "As I've been saying for quite a while, European golf is very strong and there's a lot of good young players finding their way and, as you've seen from the last three weeks and from a few occasions earlier in the year, learning how to win. And the more they mature the more they will win."

It was a chilling message for a nation not exactly brimming with heirs to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Westwood apart, the home nations winners all appear to be at or very near the start of something. Furthermore, England boasts two of the world's top 10 who are proven US winners, but have yet to prevail this year. But listening to Sir Nicholas Faldo at the BMW Open in Munich on Wednesday, it will not be long before Paul Casey and Luke Donald are inspired to join the crammed winners' enclosure.

Faldo talked of how he was inspired by Seve Ballesteros's Masters victory in 1980. "I thought, 'I play against that guy and I know what I can do against him'," said Britain's most successful golfer. "I'm sure the same will be true of Graeme. There's a buddy thing going on. When one wins their friends want to win more. You can see that going on with Poulter and Rose."

Typically, however, for this rather complex soul, Rose does not see his recent resurgence in such simple terms. After a stunning 62 on Friday, Rose spoke of the expectation he has always felt since coming fourth in The Open as a 17-year amateur. His latest slump saw him fall from sixth in the world to the fringes of the top 100 before he relaunched his career in stunning style with his maiden PGA Tour win at The Memorial three weeks ago. As he failed to qualify for the US Open, that happens to be his last event.

"For a while, I was chasing results because I knew I was playing well, instead of just letting it happen," said Rose, whose 68 yesterday puts him at 16 under to keep Ben Curtis at bay. "So, it's a very fine line out here. It's very subtle, and I haven't really changed much. Suddenly, my name's up there, and you think, 'Well, what's different?' But really, nothing is different. It's just suddenly happening."

Yet something is different. Has Rose been assisted by the British gang mentality, of sharing the burden among the golden generation? In such an individual sport that will always be an unprovable suspicion, although it has clearly been given added weight by McDowell's unlikely victory. "Was I helped by all the other wins in the States this year?" he wondered as he continued the celebrations of his continent's first US Open crown in four decades. "Did that help me believe I could do it? I don't know for sure. But it can't have done me any harm."

UK winners on PGA tour in 2010

21 Feb: Ian Poulter

WGC World Match Play

2 May: Rory McIlroy

Quail Hollow Championship

6 June: Justin Rose

The Memorial

13 June: Lee Westwood

St Jude Classic

20 June: Graeme McDowell

US Open