Angel Cabrera and Padraig Harrington, who have captured golf’s last three Major Championships between them, are among a record 55 European Tour Members who will aim to take that haul to a maximum of four at this week’s US Open Championship at Bethpage State Park, New York.
Cabrera, the 2009 Masters Tournament Champion, and Harrington, last year’s Open and US PGA Champion, have been paired together in the first two rounds over the Black Course alongside the man most widely regarded to stand in their way of a ‘clean sweep’ of the Majors – defending champion Tiger Woods.
The World Number One produced one of golf’s most miraculous wins 12 months ago when he defeated fellow American Rocco Mediate in sudden-death after an 18 hole play-off at Torrey Pines, just days before undergoing major reconstructive knee surgery.
Woods, of course, triumphed when the US Open was last held over the fearsome Black Course at Bethpage State Park in 2002, and his recent victory in the Memorial Tournament in America rubber-stamped his position as favourite this week.
However, the formidable Argentine, Cabrera, and steely Irishman Harrington now have a total of five Major titles between them and certainly know how to get the job done. Also in that category are the South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen – each with two US Open crowns – who will enjoy each other’s company in the first 36 holes along with World Number Two Phil Mickelson.
England’s Paul Casey, now third on the Official World Golf Ranking, arrives in New York State in prime form, having won twice on The European Tour International Schedule this year and once in America.
The 2009 BMW PGA Champion tees off in the company of 2006 US Open winner, Geoff Ogilvy of Australia, hoping not only to claim his first Major but to gain some compensation from his defeat at the hands of Ogilvy in the World Golf Championships -Accenture Match Play in February.
Harrington and Casey are joined by nine of their 2008 Ryder Cup colleagues at Bethpage. The only absentee is last year’s Harry Vardon Trophy winner, Robert Karlsson of Sweden, who has been forced to withdraw with an eye problem and will not be able to line-up in the group which includes his fellow countryman and The Players’ Championship winner, Henrik Stenson.
However, the remainder of the Europeans from Valhalla – Sergio Garcia, Søren Hansen, Miguel Angel Jiménez, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Oliver Wilson – will all hope to be jostling for position at the top of the rostrum come Sunday night.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, winner of the Dubai Desert Classic earlier this year, makes his US Open Championship bow along with 11 other European Tour debutants: Richard Bland, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, David Horsey, Raphaël Jacquelin, James Kamte, Simon Khan, José Manuel Lara, Jean-François Lucquin, Andrew McLardy, Francesco Molinari and Alvaro Quiros.