Say what you will about the other Majors, but for the true golf purist there’s nothing that compares to The Open Championship. For over 150 years, this historic event has seen the world’s best players battle on the toughest courses for one of the most prized trophies in the game, the illustrious Claret Jug.
This month, from July 14-17, the world’s top golfers will descend upon Royal St George’s Golf Club in Kent, England, for the rare privilege to lift the Claret Jug, and add their name to the trophy that features such iconic names as Morris, Hagen, Thomson, Nicklaus, Palmer and Woods.
Having hosted the Open Championship 13 times (including 1993 when Greg Norman hoisted his second Claret Jug), Royal St George’s (www.royalstgeorges.com) is arguably one of the sternest tests of golf. With all the traditional links-style characteristics of firm fairways, thick rough, nightmarish bunkers and speedy greens, the course also features massive dunes, blind tee shots and round-destroying hazards, notably the “deepest bunker in championship golf”, which is located on the fourth hole. Indeed, players will need to be dead-accurate off the tee and possess a strong short game for any chance of victory.
So who will lift the Claret Jug this year? As with any tournament, it’s anyone’s guess. There will be 156 players contesting the Championship, with the top 70 (plus ties) making the cut. And there will doubtless be the usual surprises atop the leaderboard on any given day (like John Daly being T3 in Round 1 last year, or Tom Watson nearly winning it in 2009), but for those of you in the office Tipping Comp, here are some of the names to watch:
There’s no doubt that Rory McIlroy comes in as the hot favourite. Having shattered a host of scoring records at last month’s US Open, McIlroy returns to Europe full of confidence. His performance at last year’s Open Championship at St Andrews was a roller-coaster ride, opening up with a course-record-tying 9-under-par 63 (the lowest in the 150-year history of The Open Championship), followed by a weather-battered 80 in Round 2. He fought back with rounds of 68-69 to finish a respectable T3. We believe in this kid (read our May issue for more on this), and we feel that he could well and truly become golf’s next dominating force.
Luke Donald comes into the Open Championship having missed only one cut in ten events this year, including an impressive nine top-10s. While his game isn’t terribly exciting, it is solid and consistent, thus justifying his World No. 1 ranking. Following his T45 at the US Open, Donald announced that he was taking a short break/holiday, and was going to “put his feet up” for a bit. He did the same thing prior to The Masters and ended up T4. So keep an eye on him.
Hot on Donald’s heels is Lee Westwood, who is doubtless looking to improve on his runner-up finish behind Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews last year. Having finished T3 at the US Open, and with a string of top-20s on the European Tour this year, Lee will certainly have his eye on the prize.
Dark Horses: Watch out for Robert Rock, Y.E. Yang, Graeme McDowell and anyone from South Africa or with the last name of Molinari. And if you’re expecting a Curtain Call from a “Legends” golfer, give Bernhard Langer a look.
What more can we say about Jason Day? The young Queenslander has secured second place at the last two majors, has made 11 of 13 cuts, and secured 7 top-10 finishes. He’s racked up over US$2.7million in prize money this year, and it looks like he is just getting warmed up. Day’s final score of 8-under at this year’s US Open would have been good enough to win any previous US Open in the history of the event, barring Tiger Woods’ victory in 2000. This kid is the real deal.
Geoff Ogilvy comes into the Open with a question mark surrounding his game. Plagued by a pair of minor injuries, Ogilvy has been up and down throughout 2011. He hasn’t cracked the top-100 in his last three Open Championship appearances, and with a missed cut at the US Open, it’s anyone’s guess as to his form coming in to the event. On the bright side, he’s made 8 of 11 cuts this year with two top-10’s, including a T4 at The Masters and T9 at the WGC.
Another big question mark surrounds Adam Scott. Adam is in a bit of a ‘transitional phase’, having changed putters, caddies, girlfriends and who knows what else in the last 12 months. Despite missing the cuts at the US Open (with Tiger’s caddy Steve Williams on his bag), and at The PLAYERS Championship, Adam’s 2011 campaign includes 6 of 10 cuts with a pair of top-10s, including T2 at The Masters. The key: If his flatstick gets hot, he is as good as anyone out there.
As of press time, other Aussies in the field include Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley, Kurt Barnes, Richard Green, Nathan Green, Rick Kulacz, Matthew Millar and young Amateur Champion Bryden Macpherson. We’ll be pinning our hopes on Macpherson to follow in the footsteps of fellow Melbourne resident Jin Jeong and bring home the Silver Medal for Amateurs.
No matter how you score it, the Open Championship is sure to have its share of excitement. It always does.
More information at www.opengolf.com
SCORECARD – Royal St George’s