The Open - English trio in prime position to strike at Portrush

Three Englishmen head into the weekend of the Open Championship within striking distance of lifting the Claret Jug.

England's Tommy Fleetwood on the 18th (Picture: PA)

Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose and Lee Westwood are all well-placed to claim the game’s most prestigious trophy in the tournament’s return to Portrush.

Fleetwood admits he has to seize the limited chances he gets to win a major but he will not allow the quest to consume him.

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His best two finishes came with back-to-back top-four places at the US Open in 2017 and 2018 and they remain his only two top-10 finishes in 17 visits to golf’s premier events.

England's Justin Rose on the 18th green during day two of The Open Championship 2019 at Royal Portrush Golf Club. (Picture: PA)

But he has been in the thick of things more often than that in recent times, albeit failing to convert good chances to win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Players Championship earlier in the year.

“When these chances come around you want to take them. It’s your chance of putting your name in the history of the game,” said the Southport golfer after a second-round 67 lifted him to seven under and back in contention again.

“For sure all of us dream of having majors in our career and taking those opportunities.

“I think the other side of that is you don’t know how many times you’re going to actually get the chance to compete at the back end of a draw on Saturday or Sunday in a major and it’s important to embrace it and enjoy it whatever happens.

“You have to realise what a lucky position you’re in and how well you’ve done to get there.

“For sure, I’m not going to tee off tomorrow and say I’m going to love this whatever happens. I want to make it happen. I want to win a major.

“You’ve put yourself in contention with half of the event to go.

“But it really is important not to look at how much I want to win The Open, how much I can picture myself with the Claret Jug.

“It’s about having lunch together, spending time with my family, getting up tomorrow, warming up, the first tee shot and that’s as far as we can go for now.”

The scrutiny the Ryder Cup star has come under is a consequence of not being able to match his consistency in last year’s majors.

He finished 17th in the Masters, second in the US Open after a record-equalling 63 in the final round, 12th in the Open and 35th in the US PGA.

Twelve months ago he was in a similar position to the one he finds himself at Royal Portrush, one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.

However, he began the final day four shots off the pace and finished five behind eventual champion Francesco Molinari, who became his close friend with a brilliant partnership in September’s Ryder Cup.

“All you can do is put yourself up there and gain the experience that way. You can’t do it any other way,” he said.

For Rose, he welcomes the expectations placed on him as he heads into the weekend at Royal Portrush hoping for a repeat of last year’s Open.

At Carnoustie 12 months ago he made the cut right on the mark with an 18-foot putt at the last on Friday.

He promptly went out the next day and shot 64, followed it up with a 69 and finished tied for second.

Rose admits a repeat of those two days would go a long way to him adding to his 2013 US Open victory, so far his solitary major, especially after his third-place finish at the US Open last month.

“That weekend would be worth everything if you could put it all together when it counts,” said the Englishman, whose second-round 67 lifted him to six under.

“Obviously last year it almost counted. It was great. But it was important for me to have that weekend because it made me believe I could win this tournament.

“I’m probably one of the best players in the world and there should be expectation when you’re in contention to be able to continue to play well in that situation.

“But (is there) too much expectation, no, I don’t think so. I think I should go out and be who I am and be comfortable with it tomorrow. I don’t think there’s any more expectation from outside than I have for myself.

“I think when you have to deal with everyone else’s expectation and it’s not in line with how you feel that’s difficult.

“But I’m comfortable with how much I expect of myself and that makes it easier tomorrow and the next day.”

Westwood is breaking the golden rule of mixing business with pleasure – and reaping the benefits.

The 46-year-old’s girlfriend Helen Storey has been working as his caddie at a major tournament for the first time.

Westwood revealed Storey knows just how to keep him calm and focused, and the former world No 1 has promptly hit form.

The Worksop native shot 67 on Friday to add to Thursday’s 68 for a seven under score to sneak into contention for that elusive maiden major crown.

“Helen said she’d love to do it and I said I’d love her to do it, so that was a very easy decision,” said Westwood, happy to be light-hearted as well as serious when discussing their working partnership.

“It’s no mean feat carrying that golf bag around, especially in this weather, because it is fully loaded. I don’t give her an easy break or anything!

“She’s delighted to be caddying at a major because she doesn’t have to rake the bunkers and get sand on her trainers!

“She doesn’t know too much about golf but she knows a lot about the way my mind works, so she keeps me in a good frame of mind, and keeps me focused on the right things at the right times.”