13 July 2011
Perched on the eve of the 14th Open Championship to be played at Royal St. Georges of Kent, we find the field wide open when trying to predict a winner. Ben Curtis, the winner in 2003 is in the field. The media, having already anointed Rory McIlroy as the ‘next coming’ are poised with pen in hand ready to declare him the winner.
But not so fast! It is true that Rory has very impressively lead after seven of the last eight rounds of the majors. And he barely missed out on the playoff at last year’s PGA. So perhaps the oddsmakers have correctly made him the favorite. He is followed closely by Luke Donald and Lee Westwood the two most recent top ranked players in the world – each hungry to win his first Major.
It is also true that seven of the past eight Majors trophies have been carried off by a first time Major winner. Will that trend continue this week? If so, who would we put up as contenders in addition to Donald and Westwood? How about Jason Day, the runner up in the past two Majors? Could Mr. consistent Matt Kuchar find the winner circle? Or could we see native sons Justin Rose or Ross Fisher break through? Or perhaps sweet swinging Adam Scott? Is Sergio Garcia really back? How about long hitting, shot shaping Bubba Watson, who also has a very imaginative short game? Or recent winner Nick Watney, perhaps the best of Americans in the field? Could Jeff Overton or Rickie Fowler recapture the magic of their Ryder Cup days? Or how about the young and very talented Matteo Manasssero or Ryo Ishikawa? Or Scotland’s long hitting Martin Laird? This could be the week that Dustin Johnson, Gary Woodland or Charles Howell III puts it all together.
And then there are the recent one-time Major winners like Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Martin Kaymer and Lucas Glover each of whom would like nothing better than to tip the bubbly from the Claret Jug. Lets not forget the seasoned Major veterans like Padrig Harrington, Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Olgilvy or Retief Goosen.
Now think of all the highly talented up and comers who have been winning this year around the globe. Never have I seen a Major begin with so many potential winners. I think Luke Donald said it right in his press conference: in windy conditions, the guy who scrapes it around, makes pars from off the green holes a few long putts and kind of keeps the momentum going will put himself in good position. Now whose game does that sound like?
I think the long knockers who can find fairways have a decided advantage here. But not those who can’t “flight” the ball nor haven’t the imagination to deal with the contours around and on the greens. So that leaves out Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Alvaro Quiros, Aaron Baddeley, Paul Casey, Hunter Mahan, Sean O’Hair, Mark Wilson and perhaps Gary Woodland and Kyle Stanley.
Let’s see, who is a long knocker who can find fairways, flight the ball and has the imagination to handle the contours on and around the greens? With Tiger out of the tournament, that would leave: Rory McIlroy, Robert Garrigus, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Justin Rose, Martin Laird , Ross Fisher, Sergio Garcia and JOHN DALY(if he can putt). Of those, Rory, on paper, is the best.
The only “short knockers” I would pick as potential winners are Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Lee Westwood (not putting well enough) and Luke Donald.
I will be very interested to see how Rickie Fowler, Kyle Stanley and Gary Woodland handle the wind and the contours. We have here three future American stars who can gain valuable experience this week if the wind blows.
So my top five for this week are: Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel, Ross Fisher and Martin Laird with Justin Rose as my longshot. My pick for top American finisher is Robert Garrigus.