Sir Nick Faldo and Justin Rose unable to explain England's 25-year Open drought

James Corrigan
The Telegraph
Is this the only way an Englishman is going get their hands on the Claret Jug? - REUTERS
Is this the only way an Englishman is going get their hands on the Claret Jug? - REUTERS

Perhaps Sir Nick Faldo thought this was the only way an Englishman would ever get his hands on the Claret Jug again. Certainly the three-time champion’s “comical” “theft” of the famous trophy after teeing off on the first tee on Tuesday seemed grimly appropriate on the 25th anniversary of his last Open victory.

The R&A granted Faldo permission to play a practice round ostensibly because it is 60thbirthday next week. However, the governing body did so also in the knowledge that none of his countrymen have managed to prevail in the game’s oldest major since 1992, when Faldo won for the second time at Muirfield.

The quarter-century void for St George is one of the more curious anomalies in golf, considering the fact it has toasted three other majors in the intervening period, as well as two world No 1s and three other players who cracked the world’s top five.

Faldo inevitably had to answer the impossible question after completing his trip down memory fairway. He was keen to discuss his merry jape, which featured him putting the Jug up his shirt while running down the fairway before having his picture taken with it by his family.

“I can do whatever I want, I’m 60 now,” he said. Alas, he could not throw any light on England’s recent shortfall. “Let’s just say I’m very surprised that no Englishmen have won an Open in 25 years,” he said.

2017 Open Championship betting preview: A look at the course, key stats, main contenders and our EW betting tips 

<span>Faldo temporarily stole the Claret Jug</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Faldo temporarily stole the Claret Jug Credit: PA

Faldo could have won it twice more himself. Only Greg Norman’s genius denied him the next year at Sandwich, while in 1996, he was three shots off Tom Lehman. Since then, there have been two runner-up placings (Ian Poulter in 2008 and Lee Westwood 2010) and a number of other close calls. One of the most remarkable was Justin Rose’s fourth place as a 17-year-old amateur in 1998 at this very venue and as the highest-ranked Englishman coming in here – as world No 12 – it was again apt that he enjoyed nine holes with Faldo.

Rose does not feel the barren spell has yet become, as he says, “a thing”. “It’s not as if it’s in the same league as no British males winning at Wimbledon for 77 years or whatever it was,”  Rose told Telegraph Sport.

“And it’s not got to the stage where it could actually be called an obstacle for an Englishman winning an Open. Paul [Lawrie], Darren [Clarke] and Rory [McIlroy] have all won Claret Jugs for the UK since Nick’s last one. Of course, it would be great to do it for England, though.”

In truth, other than the Ryder Cup, golfers do it primarily for themselves first and foremost, and for Rose glory this week would be deeply personal. That chip-in on the 18th here 19 years ago gave him his one and so far only top five finish and despite his US Open win in 2013 and his Olympic gold last year, it remains one of the most famous images of him.  And Rose was delighted to find out that it has been immortalized in a Lego video on YouTube.

“That was the moment when you can show your children, my kids are five and eight and my nephew is three,” Rose said. “You see how impressed they are that it's an actual Lego scene and that's how you know it was a cool achievement.”

In truth, Rose has been trying to stage the sequel for the last two decades. “It is disappointing and there is no real reason for it,” Rose said.  “I think maybe the expectation for a number of years afterward took its toll coming back, trying to live up to it. I feel now, though, at this stage of my career I've sort of somewhat proved that that wasn't a flash in the pan, so I can come back to The Open a little freer than I could for a number of years.”

Tony Jacklin, who is the last Englishman to win an Open on English soil, believes that it is the pressure which gets to the home golfers. “Naturally the Open is the one they most want to win as it’s in Britain and this just makes it that bit more stressful for them,” he said.

Rose seemed to acknowledge this when discussing his teenage self. “When I do look back I do marvel at how I was able to compete so closely down the stretch, and finished within two shots of winning an Open Championship at the age of 17,” he said.

“I guess for me it was a glimpse into what my potential is. “I try to model my game on that in a way just with the freedom I had that particular week, the confidence I had in my short-game, the innocence in which I played the game. When I play my best golf I always get rid of thoughts rather than add thoughts. My performance here when I was 17 was very much me using my natural ability.”

What Rose would have to possess that carefree attitude of 1998. Indeed, what all the English would give.

2017 Open Championship betting preview: A look at the course, key stats, main contenders and our EW betting tips 

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