by G. Rennie
No, this is not a column on the dire economic straits of the European Common Currency which is grabbing headlines all over the world. Much more importantly, it’s a tale of dismal failure following the massive hype of Europe’s Big Three coming into this second major of the season.
The top three golfers in the Official World Golf Rankings all hail from Europe and that triumvirate of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood constituted one of the two marquee groups set up by the USGA and followed by TV and web broadcasts. Once again, just like in round one, this pairing’s collective play was much less than expected and, with the exception of Westwood, not good enough to make it to the weekend.
World #1 Luke Donald improved his score by seven shots on Friday but still finished four stokes over the cut line. Today, at least, he made a few birdies after being shut out on Thursday while piling up nine bogeys. Many touted Luke as a real contender at Olympic Club given the premium the course places on precise shot making, short game skills and putting prowess but the Englishman wasn’t able to come close to improving on his previous best U.S. Open placement, a T12 at Winged Foot in 2006.
Rory Mac, the golden child from Holywood, seems as perplexed by his play as the rest of the golf world. The spirited defense of his 2011 win at Congressional never materialized as he bogeyed hole #1 on Thursday, followed by bogeys on 5,7,9 to finish the front side at four over. His first birdie of the championship didn’t arrive until he made 2 on the par three 13th but that was the only one on his card against eight bogeys. Friday’s round of 73 left him three shots over the line. Done and dusted as they say in the UK. So the inexplicable missed cut phenomenon of the World #2 continues.
That leaves Lee Westwood as the last man standing as he managed the slick fairways and slicker greens of Olympic in a round of two over par 72. Coupled with his opening score of 73 , Lee is T27 and, unlikely as it may seem, he’s still in the hunt. A double bogey opening Thursday led to a four over 38 outward nine but since then Lee has played 27 holes in a very respectable one over par. The thirty nine year old has two third place finishes in prior Open’s, is as much a bulldog as any Englishman, and has the ball striking skills to match anyone left in the field. Maybe he’ll finally get that elusive first major. It’s a long shot but Lee’s been in that position before. If he does he can rescue some of the momentum European golf brought into this season but has squandered through early major play. In a Ryder Cup year all the bragging rights you can muster counts.