Open Championship PreviewDate: July 16, 2014
49 of the top 50 players in the world will be on hand as golf's best take to Hoylake for the 143rd Open Championship. With the youth of the PGA Tour making a big impact this season and many unanswered questions surrounding Tiger Woods and other veterans, that leaves a certain curiosity with golf's third major of the season.
While the Claret Jug, the conditions won't be. With the forecast predicting showers with a wind beyond 10 miles per hour, avoiding the bunkers at all costs has to be in the game plan. That's where experience could very well lead into a veteran taking the title. The youth of the tour may simply not be able to handle it on top of the enormous pressure.
Woods claimed to the media earlier this week that he can win. Talk is cheap. And unless Tiger pulls a rabbit out of a hat to shock the world, his game looks like it may only be seen for the first two days of competition. Still recovering from back surgery and having not won a major in over 2,000 days, there is no indication as to what the expectations should be for the No. 7 player in the world. He did win at Liverpool in 2006, but the course, which has been lengthened by 54 yards, has transformed
As for who comes in hot, Martin Kaymer is an automatic favorite. Once a 25-year old phenom that had potential to be the next great thing to hit the golf world, Kaymer has jumped back on the scene at 29. After having just 13 top-10 finishes in each of his past two seasons, the German aims for his second major title of the year after winning the US Open by eight strokes.
Adam Scott called the course "great" in his press conference with the media earlier this week. The world's best will almost automatically be playing on Sunday with the way that he has been swinging the ball. At 33, Scott has three top-10 finishes in his last four Major appearances. Not enough success? He has eight of those finishes in his last 14.
Who comes in as the hottest golfer? Justin Rose. Winning back-to-back titles at the Quicken Loans National at Congressional and the Scottish Open over the links at Royal Aberdeen, Rose has solidified himself as a favorite this week. But what is more convincing about Rose is the fact that he took the U.S. Open at Merion in 2013. It's that experience that has him at No. 3 in the world.
Like Woods, but not to that extent, 44-year old Phil Mickelson has not had putting efficiency by any means. Lefty created "grand slam" talk last season after winning the 2013 Open Championship. Now, there's just hope to be competing on Sunday. While Woods and Mickelson don't get a lot of considerations to win, the names carry a certain magic. Lefty just simply can't be counted out, but Mother Nature may have something to say about that.
Rickie Fowler has a lot to prove this week. He has not competed since taking second at the U.S. Open, and over a month of preparation has created a buzz and a pressure surrounding the former No. 1 amateur in the world.
Certainly, Rory McIlroy is a contender. While Mickelson and others have had tons of trouble finishing on the green, the 25-year old leads the PGA Tour in birdies per round. If he has his approaches working, the Irishman could run away with the jug. More than the three other major championships, The Open seems to bring out the dark horses. Sergio Garcia has seven top-10 finishes at the major and could make some noise this weekend.
My winner: I didn't want to go with the classic pick to win the tournament, so I'll go to experience and the solid approach game of Ian Poulter. The links golf lover should be able to handle the adverse conditions, and I do think it's his time to finally get over the hump. With little protection from the winds, that may only leave few on Sunday. A master of this kind of golf, I'll combine experience with a guy who is not at the level of Scott and the others at the top right now and will pick Poulter. If Rory gets rolling, nothing stops him, but I see Poulter getting the win.