Considering the fact that, in terms of strength in depth, British golf has never been healthier, we really have punched below our weight in recent years.
European Tour players Padraig Harrington, Angel Cabrera and Henrik Stenson have bagged the last three majors plus the prestigious Players' Championship, but still we await the first British major champion of the 21st century.
Our record in this particular major is even more depressing, with Tony Jacklin the last Brit to win the US Open way back in 1970. At least there have been plenty of near-misses during the intervening years. Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie came up just short seven times between them, while Lee Westwood was only beaten by one shot in third last year.
Nevertheless, one must stay positive and think that sooner or later our luck has to change, and Paul Casey may just be the man to end that miserable sequence. For my money, Casey has been the best player in the world so far this year. Having begun 2009 ranked 42nd in the world, he's now up to third, only behind the game's two superstars Woods and Mickelson. The latest of his three 2009 titles, in the recent Volvo PGA, was the most prestigious of his career, and was achieved with a near perfect, almost entirely nerveless front-running performance.
Casey has been highly rated for several seasons, but as those results suggest, it's only been the last 12 months that he's made the necessary improvement to rate alongside the elite. Whereas he used to be a talented player with a reckless streak, Casey has matured as a strategist; happy to curb his attacking instincts to plot his way around a tough golf course, relentlessly hitting greens in regulations in order to secure pars when required. This lately developed attribute is essential in a US Open.
Another positive is that he seems to be more comfortable playing in the States than most Europeans. Already this year, Casey has won the Houston Open and finished runner-up in the World Matchplay. In previous years, he's racked up some impressive results in the Masters and also in this major; making the top-15 in both 2006 and 2007. In my view, Bethpage Black, with its emphasis on power will suit him ideally. Casey will be one of the very few players with enough strength to manufacture shots out of Bethpage's most penal rough.
Naturally, Rory McIlroy's US Open debut will be greeted with much fanfare, but realistically, anything inside the top-25 would be an excellent achievement at this early stage in his career. Nobody doubts his potential to win everything the game has to offer, but no debutant has won a modern-era US Open, an event that demands the type of course management skills that only comes with experience.
One man who does appear to have matured into a major contender is Ian Poulter, who represents an eyecatching trade at 100.0 at Betfair. Around this time last year, the consensus about Poulter was that he needed to put up or shut up, after a bizarre interview claiming he was Tiger's biggest, and only serious rival. The fact these ridiculous claims came from a player better known for his outfits than his golf invited widespread derision.
Thankfully for Poulter, he let his golf do the talking. After a gallant effort as runner-up in last year's Open, he again thrived on the big stage of the Ryder Cup, topping the European scoring lists and emerging with his reputation much enhanced. More recently, he's become a very consistent contender on the PGA Tour, again suggesting that he's a man for the big occasion when finishing fifth and second in elite tournaments at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass.
As for last year's strong contender Westwood, while he is in nowhere near the same form this time around, Lee remains the sort of world-class player who could bounce back at any time. If he does, then Bethpage's emphasis on long, straight driving will be ideal.
The other two big-name Englishmen, Luke Donald and Justin Rose, don't appeal as obvious winners, but have at least shown promise in this and other US majors. Donald has become very unpopular with punters after a series of failures in contention, but can at least point to a promising top-20 the last time the US Open was held at Bethpage. As for Rose, he has twice made the US Open top-10 before.
Of the rest of the British contingent, Graeme McDowell, Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson are all capable of world-class golf, but any would represent a big upset were they to win. Then again, perhaps they shouldn't be dismissed as that's often the way jinxes begin and end. After all, none would represent the same level of shock rating as the last British major winner, Paul Lawrie.