The 149th Open at Royal St George’s will represent the first Open Championship held in England in four years.
It will also signal 29 years since Nick Faldo produced the last English victory in The Open, and 52 years since an Englishman last won golf’s original major in England, when Tony Jacklin claimed the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
However, with seven players in the world’s top 50 at time of writing, a number of contenders will be hopeful of flying the flag of St George at Sandwich. Here is a look at several of the home hopes that will lead an English challenge at The Open in 2021.
A player who has been firmly in contention in the past two Opens, Tommy Fleetwood has been trending in the right direction in golf’s original major.
After three straight missed cuts in his first three Championship appearances, Fleetwood finished T27 in 2017 before threatening at Carnoustie the following year, with a tie for 12th his final placing.
Fleetwood then came much closer to success in 2019, finishing as the runner-up to Shane Lowry in The 148th Open at Royal Portrush. With top-four finishes at the 2017 and 2018 U.S. Opens also under his belt, the Englishman could be ready to take the next step in 2021 and become a popular home winner at Royal St George's.
At 47 years of age, Lee Westwood certainly remains a force to be reckoned with. And after recording two runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour this year, he still resides within the world’s top 25 players.
Westwood has come closer than any Englishman to lifting the Claret Jug in the last 25 years, experiencing near misses at The Open in 2009 and 2013, as well as recording three other top-5 finishes. You can relive Westwood’s illustrious career in his Tales of The Open documentary podcast below.
In 2011, Westwood’s good friend Darren Clarke produced a wonderful showing at Royal St George’s to claim his first major championship. Now, 10 years later, many fans of The Open would love to see the man from Worksop emulate his dear friend and secure victory at Sandwich.
The world’s highest ranked Englishman at present, Tyrrell Hatton has had two excellent seasons, and is hotly tipped as one of the players ready to make the jump to major championship success. And while Hatton’s major record is not yet as sparkling as he would hope, it is certainly The Open that has represented his best chance to date.
A tie for fifth in 2016 at Royal Troon, behind runaway leaders Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson, is his best major finish so far, while his most recent top-10 at a major came at The 149th Open at Royal Portrush when he shared sixth.
Known for being a strong contender around courses that suit his eye, a comfortable Hatton on the St George’s links would spell danger for the field in The 149th Open.
A Silver Medal winner in 2013, Matt Fitzpatrick is arguably in the best form of any English player, having only finished twice outside the top-18 in 2021. Eight top-20 finishes in his last 10 starts, including a win at the DP World Tour Championship last December, have the Sheffield-born talent in fine fettle ahead of The 149th Open.
Like Hatton, Fitzpatrick is yet to perform at his best in majors, recording just one top-10 in 23 starts in golf’s elite events. Yet after claiming the Silver Medal at The Open at Muirfield in 2013, Fitzpatrick has gradually been improving on links courses, and feels comfortable with the challenge they present.
Listen to Fitzpatrick on The Open Podcasts below to learn more about his desire to win The Open Championship, as he hopes to become the first Englishman since Sir Nick Faldo to claim the Claret Jug.
The player best positioned to contend with Fitzpatrick’s form is Paul Casey, who before a missed cut at the recent RBC Heritage had recorded eight top-30 finishes in a row in 2021, including five top-10s and a win in Dubai.
Casey has been consistent in majors over the past few years and a tie for second at last year’s PGA Championship represented his highest-ever finish, and arguably his best chance yet to claim one of golf’s top prizes.
Prior to that, however, Casey’s best major finish came in 2010 at The 139th Open, where he played in the final group with Louis Oosthuizen on Sunday. Although Casey couldn’t close a sizable gap to the South African, his tie for third was encouragement enough that The Open could provide his first major triumph. Strong finishes in 2008 and 2017 also provide evidence that Casey could be leading the English challenge from the front this year.
Despite a recent dip in form nearly dropping Justin Rose out of the world’s top 50, he has still been among the most likely English candidates to win a major since Danny Willett won the Masters in 2016, and he is the only major-winner on this list.
The former world number one was right in the mix at the Masters earlier this year, and lost in a play-off at Augusta in 2017 as well as contending at Pebble Beach for the U.S. Open in 2019, finishing in a tie for third.
Rose’s record at The Open has never been outstanding, but with an amazing debut, finishing in a tie for fourth as an amateur in 1998, and a recent charge for the title in 2018, resulting in a tie for second, the 40-year-old has strong history at the Championship. Should his recent upturn in form continue, perhaps Rose could bloom at Sandwich in July.