Not since 2016 has there been a British major champion so who will be next?
The Best Of Britain: Who Will Be GB’s Next Major Champion?
As the dust settles on the year’s final major, won and contested in memorable fashion over the Royal St George’s links, perhaps all that was missing from The 149th Open was a proper home challenge.
While few would’ve been unhappy watching Collin Morikawa battle it out against Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm to be crowned the Champion Golfer of the Year, it would have been nice to see a British contender in the mix.
The only Scot in the field, Robert MacIntyre, finished in a tie for eighth after an excellent weekend’s work in which he posted rounds of 65 and 67 after birdieing the final hole on Friday to make the cut, but the 24-year-old was never truly in the hunt.
Earlier threats posed by a few of the English contingent showed promise but they failed to materialise on Saturday and Sunday when moves were there to be made as the wind dropped and the temperature rose.
Paul Casey closed out his tournament with two level-par rounds to finish five-under and record a top 15, but it’s hard to imagine the lack of weekend progress will sit well with the 43-year-old, who is running out of time if he wants to add a major title to his roll of honour.
Andy Sullivan and Danny Willett were also there or thereabouts on Saturday before their challenges were derailed by backward steps as moving day drew to a close.
All that means there have now been 22 majors without a British winner, dating back to Willett’s unlikely Masters triumph in 2016.
It’s by no means the barren run experienced after Nick Faldo won at Augusta National in 1996, but with the strength in depth of the Americans in particular – 14 of the world’s top-20 players hail from the US – it begs the question: who will be the next Brit to lift one of golf’s most coveted trophies?
Here is a rundown of some of the contenders:
Going by the rankings, Tyrrell Hatton is our man. But the rankings count for little in the cauldron of major championship golf.
Although the 29-year-old has proven himself under immense pressure in the past, most notably at the 2020 Arnold Palmer Invitational when he held off one of the strongest fields ever assembled on the PGA Tour, his record in golf’s marquee events does leave a little to be desired.
Surprisingly, Hatton has missed 13 of 26 major cuts, recording just four top-10s in that time – hardly the resume of a future champion.
But he’s shown when in the mix that he has what it takes to win, no matter the calibre of opponent. If the fiery Englishman can just put himself in position more often, there is no reason to doubt his ability to get the job done.
Next on the OWGR list – as that seems as logical a method as any – is Sheffield’s Matt Fitzpatrick. The World No. 21 has made no secret of his ambition to land a ‘big one’ (or two) during his career and time is certainly on his side.
He is also about as experienced as a 26-year-old professional golfer can be, having first made a name for himself at the 2013 edition of golf’s oldest championship, receiving the Silver Medal for low amateur at Muirfield.
He has shown plenty of grit in picking up six European Tour wins but his major record could and perhaps should be better. Also in 26 starts, Fitzpatrick has only registered one top-10 when he finished in a tie for seventh at the 2016 Masters.
Like Hatton, when he gets into contention he rarely falters. Getting there regularly is the next step.
Ranked one place below Fitzpatrick, Paul Casey has become one of golf’s most consistent performers. Missed cuts are few and far between for the man who admitted at last week’s Open that he doesn’t really get nervous anymore when competing on the big stage.
However, for all that he undoubtedly has the tools to contend, I find it hard to imagine the 43-year-old getting over the line for some reason. A T2 at last year’s PGA Championship was the closest Casey has come and arguably could’ve been enough but for the brilliance of Morikawa.
However, to win one of these events, brilliance is somewhat of a prerequisite. Consistency is one thing, but inflicting that killer blow on your opposition coming down the stretch on major championship Sunday is something entirely different.
There hasn’t been enough evidence to convince me that Casey is a major winner lying in wait.
It’s a similar story for veteran campaigner Lee Westwood. In not winning at Royal St George’s, the 48-year-old set a record for the most major appearances without clinching victory, eclipsing Jay Haas by one with 88.
While the Englishman said he is happy to reach such a milestone, citing it as proof of his remarkable longevity, I’m sure he’d be a whole lot happier to shake that tag in the coming years.
Westwood is one of few to have won in four different decades and registered back-to-back runner-up finishes at this year’s Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship, so he’s more than capable of competing with the world’s best.
Perhaps as fit as he’s ever been and in a great place mentally, there’s still time for Westwood to put an almighty exclamation mark on a terrific career.
Phil Mickelson’s PGA win at Kiawah aged 50 was a warning to write off the ‘old guard’ at your peril so, while it’s likely his best chances are behind him, never say never.
There was a time not so long ago when it felt like Tommy Fleetwood and his luscious locks were destined to wake up on a Monday morning alongside a major championship trophy. But that momentum has stalled of late.
The popular Merseysider recovered from a career slump in 2016 to become a real force in the men’s game, and that translated onto the major scene.
At the 2017 US Open, Fleetwood went into the final round one shot behind leader Brian Harman and in the penultimate group alongside Brooks Koepka. While his playing partner put on a final-round masterclass, the Englishman stuttered to a closing level-par to finish in a tie for fourth.
The following year, Fleetwood was the aggressor, posting a 63 on Sunday to set a formidable clubhouse target for the rest to beat at Shinnecock. And all but one failed to match it, with Koepka thwarting the Englishman for a second consecutive year – this time by a single stroke.
Fleetwood was next on the wrong end of Shane Lowry’s date with destiny at Royal Portrush in 2019, picking up his second major runner-up finish and first at The Open.
That was his last close call and although 2021 hasn’t been the greatest of seasons so far for the 30-year-old, he remains one of our brightest prospects.
A further seven Brits occupy spots in the world’s top-100, featuring a mix of young and old. Among them are seasoned pros like Justin Rose, Ian Poulter and Richard Bland – all in their 40s now – as well as Andy Sullivan, Matt Wallace, Aaron Rai and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre, fresh off a second straight top-10 Open finish.
And perhaps it is north of the border where our best hope lies. Since turning pro in 2017, MacIntyre has progressed nicely through the ranks, finding his feet at each level of competition and proving he isn’t afraid to mix it with the best of the best.
In seven appearances, the 24-year-old from Oban has yet to miss a cut, picking up a T6 in his maiden major berth at The Open in 2019. He built on that with solid debut showings in the PGA Championship and US Open, before taking on Augusta for the first time in April of this year.
An already memorable four days in Georgia was made that much more special when the Scot birdied the 72nd hole to finish in a tie for 12th and book his 2022 return.
Now with another encouraging performance under his belt at Royal St George’s, the left-hander’s major potential is there for all to see and his attacking style of play seems tailor-made for success in the modern game.
Asked if he now feels capable of winning one of the game’s biggest prizes, it appears MacIntyre also has the belief required, saying: “I feel like I’m ready. I feel I’ve got the game to do it. But I’ve not really put myself in with a real right chance coming in on a Sunday.
“But I’m doing everything right to give myself that chance. It’s just about getting off to a good start early on in the right tournaments and keeping the momentum going.
“I want to win one of these.”