2006 British Open Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2006 British Open | Preview | 18 Jul 2006
Thirty nine years after the then 44-year-old Argentine, Roberto Di Vicenzo, edged out Jack Nicklaus to win the 1967 Open Championship, the event returns to Hoylake on a peninsular of land surrounded on three sides by the River Dee, the Mersey River and Liverpool Bay, just south of Liverpool.
The golf course, designed by Robert Chambers and George Morris, was first constructed in 1871 and in 1897 staged the first of ten Open Championships it would play host to up until and including the last in 1967. Recent renovations by British architect Donald Steel have included the rebuilding of several greens and the re- routing of one or two holes to better accommodate the requirements of the Open Championship and to provide a more balanced finish to the course.
The course features significant fairway bunkering on most holes, adding even further demands to accuracy, and internal out of bounds on several holes including at the last which could well become a factor late on Sunday.
The course has had some 300 yards added since the Open was last played when the Di Vicenzo won with a score of eight under. It will now measure just a little more than 7200 yards.
Woods is the defending champion, following his five shot win over Colin Montgomerie at St Andrews twelve months ago. Although this will be only his third event since Augusta, one of which was his missed cut at the US Open, his impressive bounce back at the Western Open, when runner up to Trevor Immelman, gave warning to those who felt that his long layoff may well have seen him struggling. He will be well prepared in terms of course knowledge, but there is still that question mark, especially if the overhead conditions get difficult. He deserves to be the favourite but perhaps not the commanding favourite he has occasionally been.
Mickelson has had a very ordinary record at the British Open but since adopting a more strategic approach to his game two years ago, things have gotten a little better. He was third behind Todd Hamilton and Ernie Els at Royal Troon in 2004 and he does now have three majors behind him. In his only start since the US Open debacle he was a very ordinary 65th at the Western Open. Given his less than impressive record on this side of the Atlantic, it is difficult to get too excited about his chances but he is the number two player in the world and has won two of the last three majors and been runner up in the other.
Singh seems to have returned to form in recent weeks but in the main his record at the Open does not match his amazing feats elsewhere. His best finish was when runner up at a rather funky Royal St Georges set up in 2003, that being one of only three top tens in seventeen starts in the event. He was fifth last year and does arrive in very good form following his recent win at the Barclays and his 4th place at his last start at the Western Open. If conditions remain relatively benign then he can contend but if the going does get rough then he might struggle.
Goosen has not had a good run of late but following a good week at Loch Lomond last week, where he finished with a final round 67, he might just be peaking at the right time. He has played very well at the Open in recent years and with his form improving he might just be a factor.
Els would normally be one of the first chosen as a possible winner of this event but that will not be the case in 2006. While it has been more than two years since he has missed a cut in any event world wide, he is not quite back to his best form in 2006. A winner of this event in 2002 and three times runner up, if he can find the form he is capable of then he can at least contend but that is his task. He played well last week at Loch Lomond suggesting things might be getting a little better.
Ogilvy has not started since his stunning win at the US Open which is now five weeks ago. That is the concern about Ogilvy and that he now has the added burden, if indeed that is what it is, of being the winner of the most recent major. It was here at this event in 2005, when finishing fifth, where he first displayed the capacity to play the majors well and followed that with a 6th place at the PGA, a 16th place at this year’s Masters and the US Open victory. He is now a big event player but I would like to have seen him with another run under his belt before this week.
Furyk has occasionally played well at the Open Championship but not in recent years. He is playing consistently well at present but will have to turnaround a very ordinary Open record over the last ten years if he is to challenge. That this golf course will have perhaps greater emphasis on accuracy British Open venues might assist his cause.
Scott’s Open record speaks for itself. 34th his best finish in seven starts is hardly convincing for a player of his standing in the world. He has played well enough in recent months but I can’t get excited about his chances.
Montgomerie is, for the first time in many years, a good chance to win the Open. His runner up placing to Tiger Woods last year at St Andrews was the catalyst for the resurgence in his standing in world golf. Despite a lacklustre week at Loch Lomond, he is in good form at present and it would not surprise to see him amongst the contenders on Sunday.
Jose Maria Olazabal
Olazabal is an old war horse who must be considered. He was brilliant when third last year at St Andrews and has had a very good twelve months since. His record at the Open has not been as good as it should have been for a player of his class but he seems to be heading in the right direction at present, despite a poor last day at Loch Lomond.
Garcia has struggled of late but there were encouraging signs late in the tournament at Loch Lomond. At his best he could win anything but he seems to be out of sorts at present. He has a reasonable record at the Open but he will need to continue the improvement he displayed last week
Howell’s record at the Open is a little hard to fathom for a player who is now the number one player on the European Tour money list. That record can hardly get much worse so there is room for improvement but whether that will be enough to see him contend this week remains to be seen. He has made the cut just twice in seven starts and has missed the cut at the Open in each of his last four attempts.
Donald has a very ordinary record in this event although many of those starts were at a time when he was not the player he has become in the last two years. He is playing very well at present but does have to overcome what appears to be a voodoo at the Open Championship. He has finished the Scottish Open off very well.
Immelman has benefited from his time in the US in 2006 as his recent Western Open success would suggest. He has continued to improve at the Open in the last few years and now that he has risen to the standing he now has in world golf he might be a chance for his best finish in the event. That his wife is expecting their first child as the event is being played will be a distraction for him
Clarke has played well at Open Championships previously more especially when runner up in 1997 and when third in 2001. Despite a perhaps disappointing Sunday at Loch Lomond, he has found some very good form of late and can be expected to do well.
Harrington is in immaculate form at present and seems on the verge of something very special. He was the forgotten man to some extent at the US Open as he too let slip a great chance over the last few holes. He has hardly been a star performer at previous Open Championships but his current form can’t be ignored.
Clark proved at Augusta when runner up to Phil Mickelson that he is well and truly up to this class. He has made great strides in the last twelve months in world golf and it would not surprise to see him improve even further this week. He has nothing of note to his name at the Open in previous years but he is now a class player. A very nice week at Loch Lomond has him ready to go.
Stenson seems to have gone off the boil in recent months after looking as if he could be anything earlier this year. He might yet be but he will need a form improvement to contend here.
Campbell continues to baffle form analysts and everyone else for that matter. After a missed cut at the US Open when defending, he finished third at the French Open then missed the cut at the European Open. He did play well at St Andrews last year but he is just too inconsistent to be confident about his chances.
Poulter has not missed a cut in five starts at the Open and has improved each year. He had a good week at the US Open recently and followed that up with a third place at the French Open and another good week in Scotland last week. A very good finish by him would not surprise at all.
O’Hern has played very well in recent weeks including a runner up placing at the Booze Allen tournament and his superb 6th place at the US Open. There is little doubt of his capacity to handle the big events and the demanding golf courses. A very strategic golf course such as Royal Liverpool will very much suit the style of player that is Nick O’Hern.
Cabrera seems to be playing a little better in recent weeks and although his best finish in seven starts in this event was when fourth in 1999, he could well continue on with the good form he displayed last week in Scotland.
Casey is in the middle of his best season to date on the European Tour and has been very consistent in recent months. He has been less than impressive in Open Championships in his career until now but surely he must do better this year.
Bjorn appears to be close to his best after his recent wins at the Irish Open, his 4th place at the Johnnie Walker event at Gleneagles. His form at the Open has been a bit like a box of chocolates – you never quite know what you are going to get. There have been plenty of missed cuts but he has been twice runner up also. He has had a good week at Loch Lomond in his final lead up.
Ferrie surprised all at the US Open and did well to hold on for 6th. He has continued to play well since and his last round of 65 at Loch Lomond on Sunday will have him arriving at Hoylake with greater self belief than ever.
Other leading Australasians
Appleby has the capacity to do very well in this event, his runner up placing behind Els in 2002 a good example of this. He missed the cut at the recent US Open but, that aside, his form of late, while not being brilliant, has not been bad.
Allenby has had only one top ten in thirteen Open starts so if he was to contend it would be a surprise. He has played quite well in the last two months but it is hard to be enthused about his chances of contending.
Pamling will play in just his third Open Championship, an event that provides mixed emotions for him no doubt. At his first start in the event he led at Carnoustie before missing the cut, but on his return in 2004 he was the leading Australian in 27th place. He has gone to another level again in 2006 with his win at Bay Hill and he stands a good chance of again being the leading Australian
Green is playing well of late and will play his 7th Open this week. He has again played well on the European Tour in 2006 with several good finishes. It is difficult to see Green contending for the championship but a top twenty is not beyond him.
Lonard has been a disappointment in the majors for one who has, in many respects, a game suited to such. He has made plenty of cuts on the PGA Tour in 2006 but seldom contended. He has missed only one cut in six attempts at the Open but it will take more than that for him to be a serious contender this year.
Elkington has occasionally played very well in this event including when runner up at Muirfield in 2002. He played quite well at the John Deere event last week but his current form has been generally rather ordinary. His overall record at the Open, the runner up placing aside, has not been good but as he has showed at the PGA last year he does have the capacity to occasionally bob up in the big events.