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How West was won.

Byline: CRAIG SWAN

Stay cool on final stretch and Lee will break Major duck says Strange CURTIS STRANGE still can't believe Colin Montgomerie hasn't won a Major.

The two-time US Open champion would be mortified if the same millstone is forever hung around the neck of Lee Westwood.

An analyst for ESPN's televised coverage of The Open at Royal Lytham this week, Strange admits he'd like nothing more than to be calling the Worksop wonder home come Sunday teatime.

An American through and through, patriotism dictates the former Ryder Cup captain will be rooting for his countrymen to storm the Lancashire course.

But as a genuine lover of the game, Strange confesses his sentimental and sporting side wants Westwood to win.

The Englishman's meteoric rise up the rankings, reaching world No.1 for a 22-week spell, earned the respect of his peers though not that elusive crowning glory.

Despite a raft of fine performances in major championships, Westwood is yet to get his hands on one of the four trophies, a cause of concern for Strange who does not want to see him bracketed along with another ex-Ryder Cup skipper, Montgomerie.

The Scot cemented his status as one of the best of his generation with a stunning seven European Order of Merit titles but could never escape the jibe that he didn't win a big one.

Strange is hoping the same fate doesn't befall Westwood and believes golf fans around the world listening to his commentary will agree.

He said: "Who would ever have thought Lee would not have a Major at this stage of his career? He is such a fantastic player.

"To be honest, he's my sentimental favourite every time he plays now and I think it is the same for many people around the world who are rooting for him.

"The game doesn't owe anybody anything and Lee knows that. But when you know the history of his career, his is such an incredible story.

"He was at the top of the game, then fell all the way back in the rankings right down into the 300s.

"To claw his way back again and become world No.1 was astonishing, not to mention his record of consistency in the major championships over the past few years, despite not winning.

"True golf fans see this story and root for someone like that to do it.

"There are no guarantees but he's been there so often and the only thing I am afraid of is that he puts too much pressure on himself, instead of being confident and free.

"If I had to compare the position with someone else, Colin would spring right to mind. Colin, to me, could easily have won two or three in his career in the States, especially at Winged Foot. That one shocked me.

"It's hard, though, and anyone who thinks it isn't doesn't understand the game. To see a Lee or a Colin not perform in the final couple of holes is just down to pressure.

"Look at Jim Furyk in the final three holes at the last Major in San Francisco. We didn't expect that.

"Colin was such a strong player for many years, as Lee has been. If he's going to win one, it's going to be The Open."

But Westwood is not the only one with the skill to triumph. Strange insists this year's championship is, as ever, wide open and reckons there is a strong chance of another US success story at St Annes.

At the moment, America have three Majors in their pocket with Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson holding the PGA, Masters and US Open crowns respectively.

Should Darren Clarke's Claret Jug find its way onto a transatlantic flight it'll be a clean sweep, though Strange isn't convinced a switch of golfing power is in the wind.

He said: "You know the answer to that as well as I do. We are quick to judge anything or any new wave.

"Is American golf back with three in a row? It's just cyclical. I remember a few years back, they were asking where all the good young American players were.

"Now they are everywhere. We're so quick to judge and make comments, yet we know the game changes rapidly. The likes of Keegan and Webb are among the talented young players and it is so hard to pick who is going to win at Lytham.

"You always want to go to the favourites yet some of these top boys are getting older. Phil Mickelson is getting older, Tiger Woods is no more the dominant force and favourites haven't been doing the winning so far.

"One thing I do know is that the young Americans have embraced The Open early in their careers. I think it would be fair comment to say that was not always the case for everyone.

"Of course, the Nicklaus', the Watsons, the Palmers, they did. But not everyone. There were plenty who did and it took time for me to embrace it but there is much more emphasis on the four Majors now by everyone.

"My sense is the top younger players embrace it more than they did yesterday. No one is telling you that you have to come and play but to be a complete player and have the chance to win an Open looms large. Doing so can change your life."

Strange didn't manage it but added: "I learned to appreciate links golf and I learned to play it.

"I didn't learn it well enough to win but it's so different physically and mentally and part of the enjoyment of broadcasting is trying to put the challenge across to an American viewer who has never played links golf. It can be frustrating and aggravating and I think that is why the viewers enjoy it."

ESPN will bring viewers daily televised highlights of The Open Championship 2012. This will be augmented with extensive coverage via ESPN.co.uk with live scores, reports, comment and galleries.

OLDEST WINNEROld Tom Morris, 46 years three months (1867) YOUNGEST WINNERYoung Tom Morris, 17 years five months (1868) MOST WINS6 Harry Vardon (1896, 1898, 1899, 1903, 1911, 1914)

CAPTION(S):

HEAD UP Z Westwood looks to the heavens after another near miss when he tied for third at this year's Masters and two-time US Open champ Curtis Strange, right, is praying the Englishman doesn't follow Monty, below right, in failing to land a Major SWING AND 3 A MISS Lee has threatened in all four Majors only to just fall short every time
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 16, 2012
Words:1097
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