Thomson blames lack of ambition for Europe's major woe

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The Independent Online

Peter Thomson, Australia's five-times Open winner, said yesterday that too many European players these days were content to live in a "comfort zone" that was damaging the continent's chances of producing a major winner.

When Thomson won the third of his titles - here, 50 years ago - he picked up a cheque for £1,000. The winner this year will earn £720,000, while six-figure prizes are commonplace.

"It is too easy for modern players to become comfortable," Thomson said. "Not too many people want to win desperately or have it in their make-up that they really squirm if they do not win. The responsibility at the top is too much for most players."

Paul McGinley begged to differ, saying he thinks that one of Europe's golfers could end the seven-year major drought that stretches back to Paul Lawrie's victory at Carnoustie in 1999.

"There are so many good players," the 39-year-old Irishman said. "There are 20-25 guys who are all very capable and good enough to make this year's Ryder Cup team and if you are good enough to make the team you are good enough to win The Open. We have the strongest European talent on tour now that we have ever had. We are not that far away."

Europe's representatives here could yet be boosted by one. The Swede Jesper Parnevik flew into Britain yesterday after becoming the first reserve when Trevor Immelman pulled out late on Tuesday to return to America, where the South African's wife had just given birth unexpectedly early.

That brought Australia's Andrew Buckle into the 156-strong field, and Parnevik to the edge of contention, waiting to see whether any other player withdraws. "I haven't hit a ball for five weeks so the first thing I did last night was go to hit a bucket of balls and check if it was still there," he said yesterday.

Play today at Hoylake begins at 6.30am, with Peter Hedblom hitting the first shot. Hedblom always gets up three hours before teeing off, meaning a 3.30am start before 20 minutes' jogging, 20 of exercise and an hour hitting balls before breakfast.