One major, for Justin Rose, is a poor return from England's top five

At some point English golf must turn its attention towards a new generation.

That juncture has not arrived yet but a return of one major to date from the collective of Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter points at underachievement from a group of which a lot more was expected.

Those players will rightly point to golfing time still being on their side. They all also fiercely dispute the notion, as stated by Nick Faldo as long as six years ago, that they lack the focus to win major championships because of the riches on offer elsewhere. Each case is also different but it is clear that something, somewhere, has gone wrong for Rose's US Open triumph this year proved the solitary victory in one of the game's biggest events for a group now aged between 33 and 40.

Rose is the youngest of them, Westwood the eldest, with England's golfing elite seeking once again this coming week finally to endorse their ability, when the US PGA Championship takes place at Oak Hill.

Westwood, after his final-day tumble at the Open Championship last month, revealed that he is now working with a sports psychologist to end a major wait which must be hurting more than the man from Worksop routinely lets on.

Westwood, like Donald, has previously been ranked as the best golfer in the world but has an apparent mental barrier when it comes to producing his best golf in a major. Westwood's stock public approach is one of cheek, verging on aloofness, alongside the essential point that his career has been perfectly fine, thank you very much, even minus a major win. Faldo's professional obsession need not be replicated but the six-time major winner had an altogether different attitude.

"I'm not going to bring it up with him, necessarily, but obviously I think it would have been a great continuation for English and British sport," said Rose of Westwood winning a Muirfield Open, which was claimed by Phil Mickelson.

"It has been an amazing summer back at home, both weather–wise and results–wise, and I think that would have just kept the fairytale going, I suppose.

"I watched a little bit of it, it just looked like he had a little bit of a rough run, I suppose, 7, 8, 9, and that sort of took the wind out of the sails.

"When you start a round with a two-shot lead, it always looks like a big lead and always looks as if you should go on to win a tournament. Obviously when you do start with a two-shot lead you feel like you should win, but a two-shot lead is nothing really. It can disappear really fast. I don't really know what to say but at the end of the day he has got to just keep knocking down that door."

Rose, owing in part to the tribulations which have affected both his professional and private life since he turned professional in 1998, has always seemed to be made of sterner stuff than his contemporaries. Donald has made little major impact at all in relation to his talent and fell away badly at Merion before Rose closed out victory.

In Poulter's case, a lack of psychological edge is never a criticism which could legitimately be levelled. Nonetheless, it is decidedly easier to charge through a leaderboard from way back – as Poulter did again at the Open – than earn a lead and retain it from the front when it matters most.

Casey could provide an endearing story. The 36-year-old may well be the most naturally gifted of the five English players, with his slump into golfing oblivion merely intensifying his hunger to return to the top of the game. Small steps were taken in that direction courtesy of Casey's recent Irish Open win; it would be no surprise if something even more significant was landed in the not too distant future.

At Oak Hill the field must also contend with a re-energised Tiger Woods. This weekend at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational, the world No1 has shown no lasting effects from his own Muirfield weekend troubles, rendering him the legitimate short-priced favourite for the final major of the year.

"I've had times where I haven't played well at all coming into this event and for some reason it turns it around," said Woods at Firestone. "And sometimes I've played great and it's continued. This is one of those courses where for me, over the years, I just have felt very comfortable and I think my record has been pretty good here, since I have turned pro.

"This golf course, I don't think, is as hard or as difficult as Oak Hill, especially with the green complexes. The green complexes are a little bit more severe at Oak Hill. But overall it's old-school golf. It's just right in front of you, no hidden tricks out there, and [you have] just got to go out there and really hit the ball well."

Powered by article was written by Ewan Murray, for The Observer on Saturday 3rd August 2013 22.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © Eugene Goh