Thursday 18 January 2018

US Open braces itself for huge European invasion

WHEN Tony Jacklin won the US Open in 1970 he was the only European in the 150-strong field.

This week in San Francisco there are an amazing 36 - and it could have been 39. Open champion Darren Clarke and Paul Casey reluctantly decided to rest injuries, while Paul Lawrie controversially chose not to enter.

With Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy having won the last two US Opens, there is not one of the 36 who is not dreaming of doing something very special.

That said, it is special for some of them just to be at the Olympic Club.

After a career that has brought him a World Cup win with Colin Montgomerie, two European Tour titles, a Seve Trophy cap and over £2million in prize money, Scot Marc Warren finally plays his first major.

The 31-year-old has failed to qualify for The Open in nine attempts, but made it through at Walton Heath two weeks ago at his third try.

"Just go and try to enjoy it," said Warren, who only 18 months ago had to go back to the Tour qualifying school.

Dubliner Peter Lawrie is seven years older and made his Tour debut 16 years ago, but this is only his second major and his first on American soil.

"I've never played golf professionally in America, so it's something I look forward to," said the father-of-four. "Going on previous US Opens if you can hit it pretty straight you'll score okay and that's pretty much my game."

England's Lee Slattery made eight trips to the qualifying school before his breakthrough win in Madrid last October and now the 33-year-old plays what is also just his second major. He was 26th in the 2006 Open at Hoylake.

Fellow Southport golfer Matthew Baldwin, 26, survived the Walton Heath test as well to earn his first major in this his rookie season on Tour.

"Have some fun and just enjoy the experience," he said. "It's going to be tough. It's my intention to play well, but there are obviously going to be situations I'm not used to."

Then there is Wentworth's Sam Osborne. The 30-year-old failed to earn a European card in six attempts and is now based in Florida, where he came through two stages of qualifying for his tilt at the big time.

Osborne, who carries a piece of New Zealand wood and a tiny toy monkey in his bag for good luck, will need to show patience even before he starts. He is the last player to tee off on the ninth hole at 2.42pm local time - and that is assuming fog does not delay things.

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