Wednesday, July 13, 2005

British Open Preview

The British Open golf championship begins tomorrow at the famed St. Andrews Old Course. This course hosts the Open championship for the 27th time, and it is the acknowledged home of golf.

The fairways are extremely generous, the greens are large, and the fairways are faster than any greens you can find around here. And then there are the bunkers. With names like The Principal's Nose, Hell Bunker, and The Beardies, you know these hazards have a lot of history and will play a role in the championship.

Traditionally, Opens played at St. Andrews have been one by hall of fame caliber players - Jones, Snead, Nicklaus, Faldo, and Woods. There is every reason to believe that will happen again this year.

Here is my analysis of the four contenders, the top five players in the world, and my pick to win:

Tim Clark: Coming into his own as pro with several good finishes on tough courses. Probably needs the wind to blow to make course harder, so his short stature would be an asset - top 30 finish.

Fred Couples: He does not play a lot of competitive golf these days, but he still plays very well when he does. He has a solid history in Opens (eight top tens), and I think this will be a good week for him - top 20 finish.

Darren Clarke: Long hitter with deft touch. Grew up in UK and can handle wind. It's time for Clarke to start contending in majors - top 10 finish.

Sergio Garcia: One of the best drivers in the world and knows how to play the bump and run. Won earlier this year at US Open rota course, Congressional. His marginal putting is less of an issue on slower greens - top 10 finish.

Vijay Singh: #2 player in the world, and the slower greens will mitigate his relatively weak putting. His exceptional ball striking gets him a top 20 finish.

Retief Goosen: Had his first meltdown in a major one month ago in US Open. Usually has an unflappable demeanor, but probably needs the weather and course conditions to be difficult to contend. Top 20 finish.

Phil Mickelson: Phil never played well at the Open until last year's third place finish, when he finally stopped playing flop shots and committed to low chips instead, a must at Open courses. He could break through to win, but I suspect he will finish in the top 15.

Ernie Els: Past champion with seven top-6 finishes in Open. He has had a down year, but I think he will rise to the occasion at one of his favorite courses. A definite threat to win if he gets it going, I predict a top 10 finish.

Tiger Woods: Won the last Open at St. Andrews in record fashion. His weakness is driving accuracy, but the fairways at St. Andrews are twice the width of normal courses. Jack Nicklaus says goodbye to the Open this weekend, and Tiger has won at Jack's farewell to the other three majors. He is my pick to win.


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