Reuters - Tue, 13 Jul 09:48:00 2010
It might be over a decade since Paul Lawrie became the last British winner of The Open, but rarely has the list of domestic contenders looked as powerful as it does this year.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell pointed the way with a first Major victory in last month's US Open at Pebble Beach as he joined England's Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy in the world's top 20.
England's Justin Rose also gatecrashed the rankings party this week, rocketing to 16th after two wins in a month on the US Tour.
"To go to St Andrews as U.S. Open champion and with an opportunity to win another Major is going to be cool," said McDowell. "But Majors are tough to win, there is no doubt about that.
"St Andrews is a course I know really well. It's all about local knowledge ... you've got to know every bump and roll in the greens."
McDowell said he would take buckets of belief into the 150th anniversary Open which starts on Thursday.
"I think the confidence you get from winning golf tournaments is something you cannot replace and something you cannot buy," said the 30-year-old from Northern Ireland.
"To win a Major championship ... to learn how to do it ... and to know deep down you've got the peace of mind and the game to get across the line makes me believe I'm good enough to win more."
After a string of near-misses, Westwood must be wondering if he is ever going to end his wait for a maiden Major victory especially as a swollen right calf and ankle is threatening his participation next week.
The 37-year-old Englishman has six times finished in the top five, most recently when he was runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the Masters in April.
Asked at last month's US Open if there was anything he would alter, Westwood replied: "I would change the outcome of all of them for starters.
"But there is really only the Open I feel I have let slip. On the 16th hole last year at Turnberry I probably got stuck between clubs and hit the wrong one," he added referring to his tie for third place.
"I felt at Augusta this year Phil won it fair and square."
Westwood said The Open's Claret Jug was the trophy he wanted above all else.
"Playing a Major championship in front of your home crowd makes it very special and ... I have always loved playing links golf," he said.
"The most pressure comes from me and the expectations I have for what I want to do in the game of golf," added Westwood.
"The main challenge is fulfilling my own expectations and especially over the last couple of years I've been putting myself in a position to win a Major. I feel like I ought to be expected to win a Major now."
Compatriots Donald, Poulter, Casey, McIlroy and Rose fall into the same category.
Englishman Donald, who has been dubbed the 'Mr Plod' of the European Tour because of his ultra-steady approach, ended a four-year wait for a victory when he captured the Madrid Masters title in May.
The colourfully-dressed Poulter proved he belonged in the upper echelons of golf when he won the WGC-Accenture Match Play in Arizona in February.
Poulter beat Casey 4&2 in the final and his fellow Englishman is another player who has the technique and temperament to win a first Major.
McIlroy, 21, underlined his reputation as one of the game's brightest young talents when he shot a course record 10-under 62 to blow away a top quality field and win the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina by four shots in May.