Garcia, Harrington lead European contingent

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. -- Sergio Garcia was still more than nine years away from being born when Tony Jacklin won the 1970 U.S. Open at the Hazeltine National Golf Club, the last time a European won the U.S. Open. Not only is Europe in the middle of a 34-year U.S. Open drought, but no European has won a major since Paul Lawrie captured the British Open in 1999.

With two wins in his last five events, Garcia comes to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club with a good chance to end that drought.

"It would be great to get a European guy to win here," Garcia said. "But the field is so strong, and everybody can play so well. So everybody has their chances. But hopefully we can get a European up there and at least threaten."

While Garcia enters on a roll, so does Padraig Harrington. The highest ranked European in the World Rankings (No. 7), Harrington has won $1,912,617 in only six PGA Tour events in 2004, finishing second twice (The Players Championship and Buick Classic).

Harrington knows a major win would be huge for the European Tour, but he doesn't want too much pressure on that win having to come this week.

"I think there are good young players in Europe, and I think the future is bright for European golf," Harrington said. "If a European player doesn't win this week, it's not going to lessen anything about European golf. I see some good years ahead for European golfers. It doesn't have to happen tomorrow or Sunday. It will happen in the next few years."

One positive for the European contingent could be the links feel of Shinnecock, which seems more like a British Open course than a typical U.S. Open layout.

"This type of course, it kind of has a European look to it, although we're in New York, Long Island, it feels like you're back in the British Isles," Garcia said.

Garcia and Harrington are both playing strong golf and should be in contention this week. Here are some other Europeans to watch:

  • Darren Clarke (Northern Ireland): Currently ranked No. 14 in the world, Clarke has the game to win a U.S. Open. Accurate (No. 33 on the PGA Tour) and long off the tee, Clarke is currently first on the PGA Tour in total driving. Whoever wins this week will have to play well off the tee, making Clarke a favorite. Clarke's increased interest in fitness should also help during a week that can be as physically demanding as it is mentally demanding. Clarke has made the cut in his last seven U.S. Open starts, although his best finish in that span was a tie for 10th (1999).

  • Fredrik Jacobson (Sweeden): He has played well on the PGA Tour this year, making 11 cuts in 13 starts and finishing in the top 10 in his last two events (FedEx St. Jude Classic and Buick Classic). Jacobson's undoing might be his wayward driver. Ranked 179th in driving accuracy, a few drives in the fescue could ruin Jacobson's chances. Jacobson, who is ranked No. 23 in the world, has played in only one U.S. Open, finishing T-5 last year at Olympia Fields.

  • Paul Casey (England): Arguably the best of a crop of young European players, Casey is currently ranked No. 27 in the world. Casey showed at The Masters, where he finished tied for sixth, that he has the game to compete in major championships. A college star at Arizona State, where he won three straight Pac-10 championships and broke a number of Phil Mickelson's school records, Casey is comfortable playing in the U.S. Casey missed the cut last year in his only U.S. Open.

  • Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain): The hottest player on the European Tour, Jimenez, ranked No. 31 in the world, has won three times in 2004 and is third on the Volvo Order of Merit (behind Ernie Els and Clarke). Jimenez, who hasn't played in the U.S. Open since 2001, recorded his best finish in 2000 when he tied for second -- 15 strokes behind winner Tiger Woods. The last time the U.S. Open was held at Shinnecock Hills in 1995 Jimenez finished tied for 28th at 8-over par.

  • Justin Rose (England): Rose burst on to the golf scene at the 1998 British Open finishing tied for fourth as an 18-year old amateur. Despite that early success, Rose struggle to find his game, finally breaking through in 2002 with his first victory on the European Tour. Rose was the leader at The Masters heading into the third round this year, and while he floundered on the weekend, the experience should serve him well. Rose finished tied for fifth last year in his first U.S. Open appearance.

    Peter Lawrence-Riddell is an editor for ESPN.com. He can be reached at peter.lawrence-riddell@espn3.com.