Open Championship form guide
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2012 The Open Championship | Preview | 16 Jul 2012
The Open Championship returns to Royal Lytham & St Annes near Blackpool this week for the first time since David Duval’s victory there in 2001.
The layout was also the scene of Sir Bob Charles’ victory 49 years ago and has seen the likes of Tony Jacklin, Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros (twice) and Duval victorious since.
A very strategic layout where avoiding the numerous fairway bunkers and playing the demanding finishing stretch well are the key to success, Royal Lytham has regularly produced high class winners and should again do so in 2012.
Australian golfing analyst Bruce Young takes a look at many of the leading chances and assesses their prospects in what promises to be a wide open event.
Woods will start as the favourite given his return to winning form in recent months. The disappointment of his weekend at the US Open was eased with his impressive victory at the AT&T although a missed cut at the Greenbrier two weeks ago still leaves an element of doubt. Woods is a three time winner of the Open Championship, but since his last victory in the event in 2006 Woods has played on only two of five occasions and without any real success. He will be the main talking point of the week whichever way it goes. He finished 25th in his only appearance at Lytham in 2001.
The number one player in the game but yet to have a major championship to his name. Donald’s missed cut at the US Open gave cause for concern but despite a month off between that effort and the Scottish Open last week he was able to play well enough when finishing (16th). In ten Open Championship starts Donald has recorded only one top ten and perhaps on that basis alone it is hard to get excited about his chances but he is after all the world number one.
Westwood must surely be the great hope amongst those who have yet to win a major. He was unlucky at the US Open, when building momentum in the final round, to lose a ball in a tree but he has generally played well enough this season to be a great chance this week. He was hindered a little by a leg injury at the French Open but all seems fine now. His record at the Open Championship is generally good having finished 3rd and runner-up in 2009 and 2010.
It is hard to be confident about McIlroy’s chances given the roller coaster nature of his form of late. At his best he could win but there is little evidence that he is at that point with his game at present. He did finish off the recent Irish Open well and maybe his chances are not totally forlorn but he needs to improve sharply if he is to contend and potentially win.
Watson is the Masters Champion and so already has a major to his name which is a step ahead of many on this list and proves he can do it. Watson has improved in each of the three Opens he has played but with a best of 30th in those starts there is a question mark about his record on Open Championship layouts. He finished runner-up at his last start in Hartford so his current form is good but whether he is ready to win this event is questionable.
Dufner has been one of the standouts on the PGA Tour this season. He has missed only one cut all year and in his last five starts he has been inside the top five on four occasions including two victories. Like Watson however he does not enjoy a good record at the Open having missed the cut in his only two appearances. In his defence however is the fact that he is such an improved player now that he could turn that record around quickly.
The planets appear to be aligning for the two time champion. After a long period rebuilding his game, Harrington has put together several good tournaments of late including when 4th at the US Open, 7th at the Irish Open and is having a solid enough week in Scotland. He looks a very good chance to join the elite group of golfers with three or more Open Championships to their name.
McDowell was a little unlucky to narrowly miss winning his second US Open recently but surprisingly for a player of his calibre he has yet to record a top ten at an Open Championship. His two starts since the US Open have been solid enough including a strong finishing round in Ireland two weeks ago and a top twenty at the French Open. He is playing well enough but his Open record is the concern.
One of the game’s most consistent players, Kuchar has a shocking record at the Open Championship with only one cut made in seven starts. Despite the class of his game it is hard to be convinced of his chances given that history.
Mickelson’s runner up finish in this event last year gave an indication that he is perhaps now coming to terms with Open Championship golf. While he appears to have gotten that side of things worked out, his current form until last week’s effort at the Scottish Open was a little concerning. He played well there through the middle of that event and his confidence and the confidence of his fans for the Open has perhaps been restored.
Rose finished 4th as an amateur in the Open at the age of 17 in 1998 and, although he has yet to produce a top ten in nine starts since, his game at present is such that he is likely to do at least that and maybe more. Rose has been inside the top ten in four of his last five starts this season suggesting he is where he needs to be with his game entering the event.
Kaymer’s recent form has been a little indifferent although he did play well last week in Scotland. Earlier in the season he was putting together several good solid tournaments and he has played the Open Championship reasonably well with a 7th and 12th place finish in his past two starts.
Mahan finished 6th at the Open Championship in 2007 but, that aside, there is not a lot to get excited about by his Open record. He is playing solidly of late although not at the level he was earlier this year when winning two titles on the PGA Tour. Again his Open Championship record means I can’t get excited about his winning chances but a top ten is not beyond him.
Stricker has made all but two of tens cuts at the Open but has seldom contended. He has, though, played well this season and Royal Lytham, given its emphasis on strategy, might just be a course that suits him more than others on the Open Championship list of venues. A very good week in Illinois last week has him arriving in good shape.
Garcia has seven Open Championship top tens to his name including a runner-up finish at Carnoustie in 2007. Garcia has not missed a cut anywhere in more than twelve months and is playing better than perhaps his overall record suggests. If he can make a good start this week and build confidence through the week he could do better than many think as it appears the only thing lacking is self belief.
Scott has played very well this season but his chances of contending in recent starts have been bought undone by poor opening rounds. At both the US Open and the AT&T he played the last 54 holes better than most of the field and if he too can make a better start this week then he is in with an outside chance. His best at an Open Championship came in 2006 when 8th so his record is not great and he does have the weight of major championship expectation on him but he is playing well at present.
Johnson has shown a capacity to play well anywhere as his runner-up finish at the Open Championship last year would suggest. Five weeks ago Johnson won in Memphis and while his form since has not been great it has been good enough for him to still be a consideration this week.
Johnson is in rare form at present having won in Fort Worth two months ago and again last week in Illinois. It is always difficult to back up after a victory but his form can’t be faulted at present and although he has a poor record at the Open Championship his current form might assist him to something much better.
Schwartzel is already a proven major championship winner although it is only in the past two years where he has begun to play well at the Open. He has produced two top twenty finishes in the past two years and although he has not played since a midfield finish at the US Open he could do very well. His level of consistency wherever he has played over the past two years has been exceptional and provided he has his preparation right he is a very good prospect.
Els was an Open Champion in 2002 and has been three times runner-up in the event. He gave an indication at the recent US Open that he could again contend in major championships when he finished a close up 9th and overall his form in 2012 has been slowly but surely improving. Els appears to me to be a genuine contender, especially considering he has been 2nd and 3rd at his previous Open starts at Royal Lytham. He had a good solid hit out at the Scottish Open.
Fowler surprised many last year with his very impressive 5th place under difficult conditions at the Open Championship at Royal St Georges. Since then he has gone on to win his first USPGA Tour event and play well in many events. His win against a quality field and against quality opposition at Quail Hollow highlighted the class of player he is. He might not yet be capable of winning but a good showing is expected.
Bo Van Pelt
Van Pelt finished runner-up at his last start at the AT&T to none other than Tiger Woods and actually gave Woods a run for his money on the final day. Van Pelt is emerging as a genuine star of the PGA Tour and having made four of five cuts at the Open Championship he appears to be learning the subtleties of Open Championship golf. He might well surprise at longer odds.
Molinari has played only four Open Championships with a best of 13th in 2009. He has found a rich vein of form at present however and might well carry that over to a much improved effort at Lytham. I can’t necessarily see him winning but could see a top ten finish easily enough. His great week in Scotland has him primed and ready to go.
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