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An English lesson with varied interpretations

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Who’s the best English golfer? John Hawkins likes Tommy Fleetwood, despite his lack of a victory in the U.S., but Mike Purkey counters with Lee Westwood, a prolific winner in Europe

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Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on MorningRead.com, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Who is England’s best golfer right now?

It’s like choosing the prettiest bridesmaid at a supermodel’s wedding. There are four legitimate candidates here, only one of whom (Justin Rose) has won a major title, and that occurred almost seven years ago. Lee Westwood has the most decorated past and recent victory of the bunch, having triumphed in Abu Dhabi in January, but the win barely got him into the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Enough said there.

Paul Casey hasn’t done enough, and neither Rose nor Westwood has done enough lately, which leaves us with Tommy Fleetwood, who blew a three-stroke lead at the Honda Classic on Sunday. For what it’s worth, Fleetwood is by far the highest-ranked player in the world without a PGA Tour victory. He’s 18 spots ahead of Westwood, who also squandered a great chance at the Honda, and three ahead of Rose, who has plunged from second to 13th in the OWGR over the past 12 months.

Since a solo second at last summer’s British Open, Fleetwood’s portfolio is cluttered with high finishes: six top-5s around the world, including a win in South Africa. A man has to play a lot of really good golf to rank in the top 10 without a U.S. victory, and Fleetwood has done just that. Really good might not be great, but it’s better than any of his countrymen.

Purk’s take: If the criterion is strictly current form, Lee Westwood is England’s top player, and there should be no argument. Yes, it’s true that Westwood is only No. 28 in the Official World Golf Ranking, behind fellow Brits Paul Casey, Matt Fitzpatrick, Justin Rose and the aforementioned Fleetwood.

But Westwood has one thing that the others lack in 2020: a victory. And that trumps all else. Westwood, at age 46, won the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour in January, beating a field rated stronger than those at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Honda Classic.

To make the case that Fleetwood is the best from England, you have to take his body of work that goes back to late 2019, when he won the Nedbank Golf Challenge against a field on about a par with the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Fleetwood finished tied for second in Abu Dhabi, two shots behind Westwood but only thanks to a final-round 63, which never put him in position to win.

Westwood was one shot behind Fleetwood’s third-place at Honda, but Fleetwood drowned his chance to win on the 72nd hole. Had Fleetwood not spit the bit, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But the best players win.

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