The Open's leading chances assessed
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2011 The Open Championship | Preview | 12 Jul 2011
The Open Championship is played this week at Royal St Georges on the south eastern coast of England. The event was last played at the venue in 2003 when Ben Curtis surprised all with his first victory on the PGA Tour coming in a major championship. Other recent winners at Royal St Georges have been Greg Norman 1993 and Sandy Lyle in 1985.
Iseekgolf.com’s Bruce Young takes a look at some of the leading hopes and assesses their chances.
Could this be the week for Westwood to break through for his first major championship title? On six previous occasions Westwood has finished either second or third in major championships, two of those coming in this event in the past two years. Given his current form everything points to him being the one to beat. It was only a reasonable tournament for him last week at the Scottish Open but that was hardly a fair guide.
Donald’s record at the Open Championship leaves a lot to be desired although as he has developed into the quality player he has become over the past two years he has played this event a lot better. He is one of the game’s most consistent players although like Westwood is seeking a first major championship title. His brilliant final day in Scotland has him primed for a good week but he will need to turn around his overall Open Championship record to date if he is to have one.
McIlory put to bed any suggestion of frailty in the heat of the battle with his stunning win at Congressional. The 22 year old has played only three Open Championships making the cut in all three and finishing third in what was a roller coaster effort at St Andrews last year. Has not played a tournament since the US Open and whether that works in his favour or not remains to be seen but he will be the favourite in many people’s eyes.
Kaymer produced a good tournament at St Andrews last year when 7th and has played well enough in recent weeks to be a very good chance on improving on that. He displayed at last year’s PGA Championship that he has what it takes to handle the heat in a tight major championship finish and is not without hopes this week.
Stricker might not be perceived as the stereotypical Open Championship contender but he has missed only two cuts in eleven starts in the event, although only two top tens in 2007 and 2008. One of the games most consistent players in recent times but despite his great win last week at the John Deere Classic I can’t necessarily be convinced of his chances in this particular event.
Mickelson’s record at the Open Championship speaks for his chances this week. Seventeen appearances for one top ten is hardly enough to convince me of him having any chance of significant improvement. He was a big disappointment at an event he was much more suited to at Congressional and only just made the cut last week. He is one of the modern greats but the stats don’t lie for this event.
Day has played in only four major championships but has already proved he has what it takes to contend at the absolute elite level. He is the only player in the world to have recorded top tens in the last three major championships including his runner-up finishes in his last two. He made the cut after a late call-up to this event last year when on debut and although a little disappointing last week in Illinois he should improve sharply.
McDowell sent out the signals early in the week in Scotland that he is right on track for a good week at Royal St Georges. His 14th place at the US Open was impressive enough but although he has made five of seven cuts at the Open Championship has never really contended. His final round at Castle Stuart was a concern but he has done enough to be a consideration at least this week.
Watney is in the middle of an outstanding season on the PGA Tour with victories at Aronomink and Doral and six other top tens. He has played the Open Championship well in his three starts in the event including when 7th last year at St Andrews. It would not surprise me if he led the Americans and perhaps even the field at week’s end.
The Masters Champion has played well enough since that breakthrough major victory to believe he could again contend in a major although this time without the surprise it was at Augusta. For a player of his ability he does not possess a good record at the Open Championship although his 14th place last year at St Andrews was an improvement. He finished 9th at his last start at the US Open.
Johnson is playing well at present and while he might have let a couple of majors slip from his grasp in the last twelve months he does appear to be a big event player. In his second Open Championship appearance last year he finished 14th which all things considered was a good effort and he has become a significantly better player since then.
Choi is having a great season in 2011 but with one or two exceptions has not played this event well. He disappointed at the US Open but bounced back with a near miss at the AT&T National. Even allowing for that, however, his record at the Open leaves me unconvinced about his chances.
Watson is too much of an enigma for me. He has shown a capacity to play links or at least quasi links courses well when finishing runner-up to Kaymer at last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits although he has missed both Open Championship cuts.
Casey appears to have lost his way of late. He was very unlucky in this event last year when applying pressure to the winner Louis Oosthuizen in the middle of the final round. He found the scrub at the 12th hole and took a triple bogey at just the wrong time. On his current form he is hard to like.
Scott has played well this season since moving to the long putter. He missed the cut at the US Open but only narrowly and has played well since when third at the AT&T. His record at the Open is very ordinary for a player of his class but he is oozing confidence at present and could better his previous best of 8th at Hoylake in 2006.
Karlsson played nicely in Europe earlier in the year then put together several good tournaments in the US more recently. He has played this event well in the past and it would not surprise me to see him perform well.
Rose is it would seem on the verge of some very good form. Not that he has been playing badly but for a month or so he seemed to lose his way in the US. He has put together a couple of better finishes of late however including a solid lead up tournament in Scotland last week. He has a solid if unspectacular record at the Open but this could easily change this week.
Yang has generally played the majors well including when winning the PGA and when third at the recent US Open. His record in this event is poor, however, which is a major concern for those who would otherwise fancy his chances.
The defending champion was an impressive 9th at the US Open, a much better effort than his two missed cuts leading into the Open Championship last year. He did however miss the cut last week at the John Deere Classic which seemed, on the surface, to be a strange preparation for him. Because of his annihilation of the field last year he can’t be discounted but I can’t get excited about his chances of doing it again.
Goosen is in good form at present and has an exceptional record at the Open Championship. He has missed only one cut in his last fifteen attempts at this Championship and there is a lot to like about his game right now. He has missed only one cut worldwide in the last twelve months. He is a genuine chance at longer odds. His week last week at Castle Stuart was good enough.
Garcia is playing a lot better of late than it appears at first glance. He has missed only one cut in his last 15 events and his 7th at the US Open and his runner-up finish in Germany three weeks ago suggest he is ready to do well. He plays this event as well as any of the majors having recorded six career top tens. He has a real chance to win his first major this week.
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