The state of European golf has never been stronger with seven of the top 14 players in the World Golf Rankings being European, as are 18 of the top-50, and many of them are accustomed to US conditions and courses due to competing on the PGA Tour on a regular basis. And they’ve been enjoying plenty of success too, with Lee Westwood claiming his first PGA Tour title since 1998 on Sunday, and Justin Rose landing his maiden title on US soil the previous week in Ohio.
What’s more, Pebble Beach is about as Euro-friendly as you can get due to the windy, links-style conditions; the sort of conditions that give most US players a torrid time when they go over to compete in the British Open. It’s no coincidence then that Europeans filled four of the top-seven places when the US Open was last held here in 2000, while this was also the scene of one of Colin Montgomerie’s major near misses in 1992.
Even more encouragement for those looking to back a European player can be gleaned from the form of America’s two best players: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Since finishing fourth in the Masters – a tremendous achievement considering his off course problems – the world No.1 has been struggling to be competitive and no one reasonably expects him to be in peak form this week.
Mickelson has been in much better form – his recent fifth place at Memorial adding to his Masters win and second place at Quail Hollow. You can’t fault his Pebble Beach record either as he’s won three times here, while his US Open record is as good as anyone yet to win that major, having finished runner-up five times. However, this week’s set-up will place a heavy premium on accuracy and that has never been Phil’s strongest point.