A record 26 European Tour Members will assemble at Southern Hills Country Club, Tulsa, Oklahoma, bidding to win the 101st US Open Championship and deny World Number One Tiger Woods of the opportunity to collect a Grand Slam of Majors in 2001.
Woods is currently in possession of all four Major Championships, having won his second Masters title at Augusta National in April. Last year, at the scenic venue of Pebble Beach, Woods made history in the 100th Championship by capturing the title by a record 15 strokes.
The European Tour is strongly represented this week by a host of 2001 champions including Angel Cabrera, the current Volvo Order of Merit leader and winner of the Open de Argentina, Heineken Classic winner Michael Campbell, Thomas Björn, the Dubai Desert Classic champion, and José Maria Olazábal, who captured the Novotel Perrier Open de France.
Björn tees off on Thursday in the company of Woods and American amateur, Jeff Quinney, so maintaining a close proximity to the World Number One which began at Pebble Beach a year ago.
On that occasion, Björn and Woods were paired in the final group in the third round. The Dane shot an 82 to Woods’s 71 and went on to finish tied 46th as his American rival marched into the history books on the shore of the Pacific.
However it was a different story in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year. Björn was paired with Woods in all four rounds and emerged on top by two strokes, drawing on his unhappy experience of the previous season to give him the impetus for victory.
European Tour Members have come close to winning the US Open in the 31 years since Tony Jacklin triumphed at Hazeltine. Nick Faldo, beaten in a play-off by Curtis Strange in 1988, is in the field again on the strength of his seventh place finish in 2000 – a performance which signalled a renaissance in his form.
Also involved – fitness permitting after retiring from the Compass Group English Open – is Colin Montgomerie, the seven times Volvo Order of Merit winner. Montgomerie was involved in the last 18 hole play-off at a US Open in 1994, when he and Loren Roberts were edged out by Ernie Els.
Montgomerie also came agonisingly close three years later at Congressional, when Els again proved his nemesis, the latter prevailing by a single shot after a thrilling last day tussle which included Tom Lehman.
Lee Westwood, the European Number One in 2000, returns to Major Championship action after missing the Masters Tournament in April while awaiting the birth of his son, Samuel. He is joined by stablemate Darren Clarke in a field which includes three European Tour Members to win on the US PGA Tour this year, Jesper Parnevik, Sergio Garcia and José Coceres and Major winners Bernhard Langer, Paul Lawrie and Vijay Singh.