Form Guide - 2004 British Open
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2004 British Open | Preview | 14 Jul 2004
This year the British Open returns to Royal Troon for the first time since Justin Leonard’s win in 1997. This will be the eighth time the venue has hosted the Open Championship since 1923 when Englishman Arthur Havers edged out Walter Hagen. Winners at the venue since have been Bobby Locke (1950) Arnold Palmer (1962) Tom Weiskopf (1973) Tom Watson (1982) Mark Calcavecchia (1989) and Justin Leonard in 1997.
Royal Troon is situated on the Ayrshire Coast about an hour’s drive south-west of Glasgow. Opened in 1878, the course was designed by Willie Fernie, one of Britain’s great early golfers.
Not only is Royal Troon surrounded by golf history, it was very much part of the training ground for those preparing to head to Normandy in 1944. At its southern end lies the Prestwick Airport from where much Trans Atlantic air travel has taken place and which, to this day, provides quite an obstacle for those playing the holes around the turn. The noise can be deafening as can be the sounds of the trains which run close to the 10th and 11th holes.
Like all British Links courses, the degree of difficulty at Royal Troon fluctuates very much from day to day and with the course being situated adjacent to the Irish Sea, wind is a major factor. It measures 7150 yards but can be an absolute monster in the strong winds that can prevail there. The par five 6th hole is the longest in the Open Championship group of courses and the par three eighth is the shortest hole in Championship Golf.
The Leading Prospects
Comes into this event with perhaps some sort of question mark as to where he is at with his game. Still, he has played well enough of late to still be considered a major chance to win here and many previous winners have had far worse form coming into the event. He was 7th two weeks ago in Chicago, 17th at the US Open and 3rd at the Memorial. In fact he has four top tens in his last five starts on the USPGA Tour. He has not missed a cut in nine starts at the Open but his only win came in 2000 when he blitzed the field on a benign St Andrews. He finished 24th in his first Open as a professional here in 1997.
Surprised and disappointed many with his final round demise at the US Open after a comprehensive victory two weeks earlier at the Memorial and a 16th place at the Buick and after doing such a good job early at the US Open. We can forgive him for the Shinnecock Hills effort however as the there were strange things happening that day. Els won this event two years ago and has had seven top tens in thirteen starts at the Open Championship. He was tenth here at Royal Troon in 1997. Provided the last day at the US Open has not knocked him around too much, he will be back in the thick of things. He powered home at the weekend in Scotland to finish third, suggesting that he is on target.
Despite a very ordinary record at the British Open (11th his best in eleven starts) Mickelson’s hopes for this year soared with his performance at Shinnecock Hills when second to Goosen. There he showed us that a new and improved Mickelson has developed the type of shots, and is prepared to hit them, that could win him the Open Championship. He has missed the cut at the Scottish Open this past week in his first event since the US Open, but his mind might be several miles down the road.
Runner up to shock winner last year, Ben Curtis, and has had plenty of solid finishes in the event, missing just one cut in thirteen starts. His only other top ten however was at St Andrews in 1995 when 6th. He has played reasonably well of late but not at the same level he was earlier in the year. He played the John Deere Classic last week in defence of his win he had in 2003 which is scheduling out of character for him as he usually takes the week off before the British Open. He has finished well there but it is a tough schedule.
is the hottest man in golf right now having won both the US and European Opens in his last two starts. Not only has he won, but those two victories have been emphatic. Seven starts at the British Open have yielded two top tens with each of those coming in the last two years. He definitely can win this Championship. Will he? Well that’s another question.
is closing in on his first major surely. He was fourth at Augusta and 20th at the US Open when still in with a chance on the final day. His form in recent British Opens has been very solid with three top tens in the last three years. Garcia will win a major before too long and it if it was to be this year then it would be no great shock. He has not played since the US Open which is a concern, but only a minor one.
Davis Love III
showed better form at last week’s Western Open than he has for some time. He is a big event player however and his 6th place at the Masters and some reasonable efforts since (apart from a missed cut at the US Open) suggest that he is not far away. He has played very well at the British Open in recent years with plenty of top tens and twenties, his fourth place at Royal St George’s last year his best ever.
played well here in 1997 when fifth, but has disappointed to some extent at the British Open with just the two top tens in eight starts. A reasonable effort at the US Open, but was disappointing in Ireland two weeks ago. Following his usual pattern he is not playing this week in Scotland. For mine, a win here would be a surprise, albeit a pleasant one for European golf with only one European (Paul Lawrie) winning in the last eleven years.
his fine fourth place effort at the US Open had followed a missed cut at the Buick and preceded a missed cut at the Western Open. After such a great start to the year he seems to have lost his way somewhat and with 28th place his best in five starts at the British Open then it I hard to get too excited about his chances.
Jim Furyk showed two weeks ago with his 7th place at the Western Open, that he is not far from a full recovery from his injury and the time off he had as a result of that. He has missed his last three cuts at the British Open but earlier in his career he did well including a fourth place here in 1997. It may be a bit much to expect a win but if he is as ready as his Western Open effort suggests, then perhaps he has some chance of a good finish.
I thought Appleby looked very good at the recent Western Open when fifth. His runner up placing in this event two years ago highlighted just how good he can be. He had finished fifth at the Western Open the week immediately prior to that coincidentally and the way he looked to be swinging the club in Chicago was impressive. I think he has a chance here. He was 20th here in 1997.
Despite a self confessed love of Links golf, Scott’s record on such courses hardly backs up his claims. He won at his last start in the US when leading for so long at the Booz Allen event, but the week prior had missed the cut at the US Open by some way. I’m not yet sure he can win a major. He will one day no doubt, but his record leaves little confidence to back him on the evidence available. He has made but one cut in four British Opens and that was when 42nd at the 2001 Open at Royal Lytham.
Ames has a serious chance of graduating almost immediately from his first PGA Tour win last week in Chicago to his first major win here. There is no question that Ames can handle the wind well as he showed on Sunday at the Western Open and has he displayed in Sydney in the 1998 Australian PGA Championship on a gusty New South Wales Golf Club. He has played so brilliantly on such a range of courses in recent months then he is worth a bet. He was 9th at the US Open and two weeks prior was 6th at the Memorial.
Clarke has not been so good of late but he was playing just beautifully in May in Germany, and at the Volvo PGA. He has had now four missed cuts since then, including that at last week’s Scottish open which is hardly inspiring, but Clarke has missed only two cuts at the British Open in thirteen starts so if he can’t use this to rekindle his form then I’m not sure what he can use. Importantly he was runner up to Leonard here in 1997 which may provide even further inspiration. Current form the biggest concern however.
His capacity to play well wherever he plays has been a feature of Choi in the last eighteen months. He is a versatile and adaptable player and while his record at the Open has not been good (22nd his best in four starts), he is more than capable, as he showed with his third at Augusta, of handling the big time.
Very early in his career Maruyama was 10th here at Royal Troon in 1997. He was fourth at the US Open three weeks ago and 11th at the Western. He was fifth at the Muirfield Open in 2002, so he has shown he handles the vagaries of British Open golf without too much in the way of difficulty. If he can withstand the expectation of Japanese mania, if he gets into contention, then he has a chance of doing well. A solid week at the John Deere in his lead up.
If there was a performance last year that signalled more than anything what was to come for Chad Campbell, it was his fifteenth place at Royal St Georges in his very first British Open start. It further highlighted a man with great versatility and talent. He has been a little ordinary of late since his runner up place at the Bank of America Colonial, but he is a player who will win a major before too long.
his missed cut at the US Open came after some good form earlier. He was sixth here last year in his best British Open and has shown over the last eighteen months that the next level is not too far away. He played the Scottish Open as his lead up event and has had a reasonable finish there.
Recorded his first major finish inside the top ten at the recent US Open with a brilliant last day of 70 when 79 was the average. His best British Open finish has been tenth interestingly enough here at Royal Troon in 1997. He has played well in his two starts since his seventh place at the US Open. Is this his week to step up to the plate?
here is a man who has finished third at the PGA in 2003 and at the recent US Open was 13th. If you were looking for some good odds for someone who has slipped under the radar somewhat he could be your man. He produced a very good week for last week at the Scottish Open when fifth.
Lonard has yet to win an event outside of Australia but has been playing reasonably well of late making his last eight cuts in the US and Europe (Volvo PGA). He has not missed a cut in five attempts at the British Open but 14th has been his best. He was 24th here in his first ever British Open in 1997. Lonard’s last two starts this season in the US, before this week’s Scottish Open, have yielded 31st at the US Open and 24th at the Western Open. He has the type of game to do well in this event. He was a very solid fifth at the Scottish Open and is reaching his peak.
Leaney could now be considered a big event player but he has a shocking record at the British Open, missing five out of seven cuts. He is a much improved player with his experience in the US but he is hard to like here, even as the best Australian, on that form. Is playing solidly if not spectacularly of late.
O’Malley has found form at the right time with several solid finishes of late culminating in his runner up placing at the European Open. His best finish in a major was at this very course in 1997 when he finished 7th behind Leonard. He is the type of player who should do well in majors, especially when he finds form, as he is such an accurate driver of the golf ball and percentage player. Has just sneaked inside the cut line at the Scottish Open but finished a long way back.
Parry had the lead five years ago in this tournament with six holes to play only to finish one behind the playoff at Carnoustie. he has played fifteen British Opens but while he may have experience on his side, his close up form is not encouraging.
Well he has two British Opens to his name but this won’t be another. Playing too seldom these days to do anything better then just making the cut which, if he does, will be a good week.
Jones is one of the game’s hottest golfers at present with recent wins in Japan and on the Nationwide Tour. This will be his first British Open however and he has had little experience in this environment. At this stage in his golfing career, making the cut would be a good result and in talking to him last week he seemed a little concerned with his immediate form.
It probably seems like an eternity since, at his only start at the British Open at Carnoustie in 1999, Pampling led after round one only to miss the cut. He has developed in leaps and bounds since that time although he has yet to win outside of his home country. Missed cuts at this last three starts in the US are a concern.
Green has really struck a great patch of form. His British Open record is ordinary but until last week’s Scottish Open, where he has missed the cut, he has been playing some of his best golf in recent weeks.
Baddeley has had just the one start at the British Open when he missed the cut in 2001. His recent USPGA Tour results hardly inspire confidence either.
Update: Stolz has withdrawn from the 2004 British Open. Stolz is really struggling at present. He is here via his runner up placing on the 2003 Australasian Tour money list.
Flanagan is here for the experience and is his last tournament as an amateur before turning pro on the Monday after the event. He played last week’s Scottish Open, missing the cut by two.
Sheehan is a rapidly improving young Australian with a win in Japan this year. First British Open and in the future it is likely he will contend, but not this year.
Qualified via International qualifying in the US two weeks ago. First British Open start and although he is playing a bit better of late including his playoff loss last week on the Nationwide Tour, it is not well enough to do much here.
Coming off three consecutive Von Nida Tour wins suggests he is in his best form but that will not be good enough for here. He has done well to make the field.
Started his professional career as if he could do anything, but it has been a struggle since. If he makes the cut he can consider himself to have had a great week.
Adam Le Vesconte
It has been a great effort just to get here.
Surprise qualifier through International qualifying in Asia earlier this year but that is the best I can say about his chances. Great for him just to be here.
Really struggling with confidence at present and his third placing at St Andrews in 1995 does not look like being beaten. His best since that great debut has been 23rd in 2001. His only top ten of the year, until last week’s Scottish Open, came at the Heineken but apart from that there has not been too much to get excited about. At the Scottish Open he has finished second which will be no doubt a huge confidence boost.
Surprisingly he gets a start here as a result of his 2002 Players Championship win but did not at the US Open. Apart from one surprise performance from left field at the Bank of America Colonial and weekend work at the Byron Nelson, he has missed nine of his last eleven cuts. That tells the story.