Europes best chance yet

Pebble Beach will offer the European big guns their best chance yet for US Open success

Martin Park
Tue, 13 Jun 2000

Never before leading up to the US Open has Britain had a better opportunity to win the US Open with all of our big guns in fine form entering the second major of the season.

A grand total of Twenty European Tour players will converge on Pebble Beach bidding to win the 100th US Open Championship.

Colin Montgomerie, Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood have all won recently and look to add their first Major Championship to already distinguished careers.

In 1992, Monty walked off the 18th green at Pebble Beach to be congratulated by playing partner Jack Nicklaus who said to him "Congratulations, you have just won our National Championship". But Tom Kite, who played the round of his life in 1992, shooting level par 72 in tricky conditions around the Monterrey course, pipped the Scot, who finished third behind Jeff Sluman.

Monty has the best chance of all the British and European players as his pedigree speaks for himself in the US Open.

His record is as good as it can get without winning, losing to Ernie Els in a playoff in 1994 at Oakmont and again losing to Els in 1997 at Congressional. But his third place finish at the beginning of his European domination will spur him on as he returns to Pebble Beach keen to go a couple of spots better.

"My memories of Pebble Beach are very vivid. When you finish and think you have won the US Open you think about it a lot, and I did exactly that.

"I would like to say I think it would have hurt my career if I had won. I don't think I would be in this position now, third in the world, and in the top ten since 1994. I don't think I would have achieved that had I won the US Open. I probably wasn't ready to win a major at that stage and it probably would have hurt me in a total career state. Looking back, it was difficult to accept at the time but looking back on it now, I'm not glad I didn't win but at the same time it hasn't hurt my career not winning."

Darren Clarke will take a lot of confidence over to America as the English Open Champion and World Matchplay Champion. Clarke, a normally straight hitter and deadly putter will be gunning for another chance to win in the USA as will fellow Tiger beater Lee Westwood.

Clarke, who beat Woods at La Costa earlier in the year feels his game is where it belongs and will be seeing Butch Harmon this week for a few minor alterations to his winning swing.

And Westwood, who beat Woods at the TPC of Europe a month ago will relish the opportunity to show off his straight hitting and silky short game touch around the fast greens of Pebble Beach.

Montgomerie tees off in the first round in the company of Davis Love III and Greg Norman, while another of Europe's top stars, José Maria Olazábal, launches his bid to add a US Open to his two Masters titles alongside Mark O'Meara and Stewart Cink. The Spaniard finished in the top ten three years running from 1989 to 1991 and has the talent to be a leading contender now that his driving problems have been resolved with the help of his coach, John Jacobs.

Sadly, the defending champion cannot be at Pebble Beach. Payne Stewart, who won his second US Open title at Pinehurst last year, lost his life in a plane crash in October.



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