I’ve already taken some of the drama out of my selection this week because I wrote a couple of days ago that I am not wagering on Tiger Woods to win a major until he actually wins one. I’ll discuss him among the favorites because he is still that good but I’m not suggesting you lay the cash on him yet in a major championship.
The tournament this year is being held at Muirfield in Scotland. The course will play to a par 71 with two long par five’s on the front nine and just one (the 17th) on the back. Muirfield will play at its’ longest for an Open Championship at 7,192 yards. This will be the 16th time the Open has been played at Muirfield and it has seen some tremendous winners in its’ day.
Americans Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson have each won at Muirfield while Englishman Nick Faldo has captured two Claret Jugs on the course. South African Gary Player has won at Muirfield as has fellow countryman Ernie Els who last won here in 2002. Ironically enough, Els is also the defending British Open champion having won last year at Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club.
Like most British Open courses, the weather can play a tremendous role in the outcome of the tournament at Muirfield with wind and rain coming off the North Sea. It was this location in 2002 where Tiger Woods was going for the ‘calendar’ Grand Slam but an 81 destroyed those hopes in what were monsoon-like conditions.
This year the British Open begins with two first-time winners in the two major championships ahead of it being Justin Rose (US Open) and Adam Scott (Masters). The Open is no stranger to first-time winners and I think that could be the case this time around as well. Here’s a look at the favorites.
Tiger Woods 8-1 Woods enters without the elbow strain that hampered him at the U.S. Open a month ago. Although he hasn’t played a competitive round since then, he claims to be pain free and ready to go. As I’ve mentioned, I can’t buy into Woods until he proves he can win another major.
Justin Rose 16-1 Rose burst onto the scene of golf in a British Open as a teenager and went pro immediately after finishing fourth. While there was a long period of struggle, Rose is now at the top of his game and should play well at Muirfield.
Phil Mickelson 16-1 Lefty recently won the Scottish Open which has many people thinking this is finally his year to break through in the British Open. He’s kind of like Tiger for me. Until he proves he can win the Open I just don’t have the faith to wager on him. Besides, the Scottish Open weather wasn’t exactly typical as it was more like San Diego.
Adam Scott 20-1 Scott had a whirl-wind life after winning the Masters in April. Since winning the green jacket Scott has had finishes in the States of T-19, T-13, T-45 (U.S. Open) and T-57. Those finishes don’t inspire much confidence in me.
Graeme McDowell 22-1 The 2010 U.S Open Champ has been due in the eyes of many. He has wins in France and Bulgaria on the European Tour over the last couple of months and a horrendous T-115 at the U.S. Open. The elements will not be an issue for the Northern Ireland great who could be a nice pick.
Other Guys to Think About…. Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are both listed at 25-1 and both fit the pattern of first-time major winners this year as both are still searching for one. Rory McIlroy is also at 25-1 but just doesn’t seem to have his game together enough to be considered unless you think this is his spot.
The Prediction: One guy I haven’t mentioned yet is Australian Jason Day. The 25-year old finished second at Merion in the U.S. Open and third in Augusta at the Masters. He’s a got a solid all-around game and he is my pick this week. He goes off at 28-1.