Sunday, July 15, 2012

2012 The Open Championship (Or British Open) Preview and Predictions

Ah, the Open Championship.  Golf's oldest major and the only major championship not played on American soil.  All of the game's greats have fought tirelessly on the timeless links layouts throughout Great Britain and Ireland.  The 2012 Open Championship makes another stop at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England, the course's 11th Open Championship.  The previous time the Open was hosted here, David Duval triumphed for his sole major in 2001.

The course is unique in the fact that it begins with a par 3.  The 205 yard first hole will be a stern test for the players to open.  A more forgiving hole awaits players teeing off the back 9, with the 387 yard par-4 10th.  The course has 3 par 3s on the front nine, one on the back, and only one par 5 per side.  Playing at just over 7000 yards, the par 70 layout is one of the shorter courses on the PGA and European tours this season, but the wind and weather, along with 206 bunkers will give the players a stern test.

So who is going to come out victorious?

Winner: Tiger Woods

I told myself after the last two major championships that I would not pick Tiger Woods to win another major this year.  But who in the world is playing better golf right now?  I know that he missed the cut last week at the Greenbrier, but Woods is the only three-time winner in the world this year on any tour.  Woods' driving game is excellent right now, and on a links golf course he will not have to pull driver from the bag very often at all.  His last Open Championship victory included only one tee shot with the driver at Royal Liverpool Golf Club.  If Woods can control his iron and wedge game and keep the putter going, he will be tough to beat at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.  I predict a 3+ shot victory for Woods' 15th major championship victory.

Contender: Lee Westwood

Pretty much a sure bet for a top-10 at any major u which he competes.  Westwood may have been a lost-ball-in-a-tree away from his first major championship victory at the US Open at Olympic Club.  But another top-10 showing bodes well for the Englishman to become the first Brit since Sir Nick Faldo to win The Open Championship.

Contender: Dustin Johnson

After returning from a 3-month layoff with a back injury with a victory in his second tournament, Dustin Johnson has not returned to the winners circle this season.  But last year's strong showing gives me confidence that Johnson will have another solid finish at this year's Open Championship.  As long as he keeps it in play, he will be on the leaderboard on the last day.

Strong Finish: Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler's best finish in a major championship was last season at The Open Championship.  I think Rickie's game sets up real well for the Open Championship, with his creativity and youthfulness giving him plenty of shot options on each hole.  With his first win out of the way earlier this season, he should be firing on all cylinders and have a good showing in England.

Other Contenders: Harris English, Padraig Harrington, Luke Donald

Missed Cuts: Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson

Middle of the Pack: Rory McIlroy, Hunter Mahan, Justin Rose

Top 20: Matt Kuchar, Tom Watson

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