I THOUGHT I’D GET SOME HELP figuring out the British Open, so I turned to the scribes, a few national golf writers and sports columnists. I dashed off an email to three and heard from one, Ian O’Connor, a FoxSports.com columnist and the New York Times bestselling author of Arnie & Jack.
(Ian was a recent guest at ARMCHAIR GOLF BLOG. You can read the Q&A here.)
“I’m soliciting your thoughts on the British Open,” I wrote Ian.
He wrote back a couple of days ago. Here’s what he told me.
“Obviously the British Open isn't going to be quite the same without Tiger Woods in the field, but I don't buy the argument that the winner needs an asterisk next to his name.
“Tiger's won the Open three times in 13 starts, a remarkable feat. But he didn't go 13 for 13. He was hardly a gimme winner at Royal Birkdale before the injuries and the surgery knocked him out of the event.”
Fancying Lee Westwood
“On the other hand, with Tiger out, it's a great opportunity for the major-free likes of Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood to finally break through the way Padraig Harrington did last year,” Ian continued.
“I'm going with Westwood. He played great at Torrey Pines in nearly winning the U.S. Open, and the guy's just got too much talent to go without winning a major for the balance of his career.”
Mickelson: Great Mystery of the Universe
“As for Phil Mickelson, he just never plays well in the Open, with only one top 10 finish in 15 starts,” Ian mentioned.
“It's one of the great mysteries of the universe. Phil's got a great imagination for the game, and the Open requires imagination as much as anything else. I don't see him being a factor, if only because he's had a hard time being a factor in any Grand Slam event since his meltdown on the 72d hole at Winged Foot.”
OK, my turn. The usual names come to mind at the majors: Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, defending champion Padraig Harrington (although he has a wrist injury), Lee Westwood, Justin Rose, Geoff Ogilvy, Adam Scott and more.
Frankly, after just checking it, Westwood’s record at The Open Championship isn’t very good. There’s also added pressure to win for British golfers.
I can see Els winning another British, especially with Tiger out of the picture. And I keep expecting Garcia to break through. Among the majors, I think the British Open is Sergio’s best opportunity. Maybe he redeems himself at Royal Birkdale.
Then there’s the chance of a surprise winner, a Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis, or Paul Lawrie.
Dark horse choices? Perhaps Anthony Kim in his first British Open or the revitalized Justin Leonard, the 1997 winner.
The 137th Open Championship tees off tomorrow.
−The Armchair Golfer
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