Something different today, as Romney’s quarterly fundraising numbers are not due until tomorrow and this site takes no interest in the latest chapter of the Palin family saga.
The 2010 British Open begins in just a few hours at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. The weather during St. Andrews tournaments is notorious – 3o mph wind is the norm and a bitter cold rain in July is not unheard of. In fact, Wednesday’s Champions events at the course have been canceled due to “adverse weather conditions.” The course features a number of short holes that would be considered eagle opportunities almost anywhere else, but instead can prove difficult pars in the face of a blustering wind. Changes have been made to the course, lengthening the second, thirteenth, and fourteenth holes, and accentuating the likelihood of bunker play – as if the course needed to be made more difficult. The fourteenth in particular has been extended to an amazing 618 yards. If one manages to get through there, it is only to face the famous seventeenth and eighteenth holes, in which a slightly errant tee shot can mean hitting the ball out of bounds. It is a course that challenges the best of golfers, and the best of golfers will soon convene on this course to vie for the Claret Jug.
Lee Westwood – All eyes are on him as the favorite of those in the know. He is the third ranked golfer in the world at an event that does not favor the second ranked golfer, and during a career slump for the man in the top spot. Westwood has been excruciatingly close to getting that major win on several occasions over these past couple of years. He’s coming off of a second place finish at the Masters, a fourth at TPC Sawgrass, and a top 20 in the U.S. Open. As for the British Open, last year saw him finish in a tie for third. Some may see this as an inability to finish, but it really shows a remarkable consistency to get into Major contention. Is it too much to expect this will be the time that he is able to get it done in the big event? Westwood goes out in the afternoon, alongside Australian contender Adam Scott, and Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Padraig Harrington – The Irishman has to be considered a contender at this event. Although his play has been a little off over the past two years due to some self-imposed swing adjustments, Harrington tends to get strong when the weather conditions get terrible. In the final round of the British Open in Carnoustie in 2007, Harrington drove steadily in a duel with Sergio Garcia, consistently dropping eight foot putts for pars before hitting a legendary second shot to the green at the par-5 17th. With heavy winds at Royal Birkdale the following year, Harrington shrugged off the weather to win more convincingly, fighting off a charge by Ian Poulter. Harrington’s play lately has been strong, but inconsistent. He has the skill to get the job done this weekend, but will have to avoid the snowman that occasionally graces his card of stolen birdies and hard-fought pars. Every player out there this weekend will find a spot in which the course pushes them to the limit. If Harrington can braves his in the way he did in 2007 and 2008, he will once again hold the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon. Harrington begins play in the morning, alongside beloved veteran contender Tom Watson, and popular young Asian phenom Ryo Ishikawa.
Phil Mickelson – As stated before, this event does not suit him. While Mickelson is always on his game at Augusta, and has regularly contended in the U.S. Open, British Open contention is a rarity for the second ranked golfer in the world. History aside, though, he has the ability to win at St. Andrews. He can hit the ball far. He is amazing at finding his way out of trouble spots. If his putting is on, Phil Mickelson wins majors. Don’t count him out. Mickelson starts late in the day on Thursday, alongside the Iceman, South African Retief Goosen, and hometown course veteran Colin Montgomerie.
Graeme McDowell – The defending U.S. Open winner is always worth considering for the Britsh Open. However, that applies this year far more than it has recently, as this year’s U.S. Open champion is from the British Isles himself. Graeme McDowell, of Northern Ireland could have been considered about due for a Major victory last month at Pebble Beach, In avoiding a collapse that took 54 hole leader Dustin Johnson, while overcoming charges from Phil Mickelson and Gregory Havret, he held firm to take that victory. At thirty years old, one must consider if that was only the first salvo of a winning campaign by a talented player coming into his prime. The British Open will be a worthy test if so, and it is expected that he will hold up well. McDowell goes out tomorrow afternoon with notable American player Jim Furyk, and Australian former U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy.
Justin Rose – This Englishman has earned his way into British Open contention by getting good at the right time. This season has seen a streak of good play from Rose that began with a third place finish at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, and included wins at the Memorial Tournament and the AT&T National. Although the stringent qualifications of the U.S. Open kept Rose from playing in Pebble Beach last month, the two victories and second place FedEx cup standing show a great deal of momentum for this weekend’s event. The Claret Jug could be a glorious cap on what has been an amazing summer for Rose. Rose will have the cameras on him as he begins play in the morning tomorrow. He’ll start out alongside popular Colombian Camilo Villegas, and some American player… hard to remember his name but he is still #1 in the world. Everybody wonders if Tiger will hold up well to the scrutiny overseas, but how will Rose hold up in this pairing?
Chris Wood – Yes, Chris Wood. He may not be considered in contention on too many lists, but this young player comes into St. Andrews having notched a top five in two straight British Opens. Wood does not get a lot of recognition in the United States, but over on the European tour he has become something of a contender, and still yet to reach his prime. His British Open history and his talent make him worthy of at least being considered as a dark horse pick. When Wood begins play tomorrow morning, he’ll have American veteran Kenny Perry with him, and young Byron Nelson winner Australian Jason Day.