St. Andrew’s is as classic a major venue as you’ll find, and provides a familiar scene for Tiger Woods. He’s won here twice, and the wide open design may be perfect for his wild ways off the tee. On the other hand, he’ll also have to stare down the British media, which make American tabloids look as inflammatory as the New York Times.
As for world number two, can Phil Mickelson finally solve his links blues at the birthplace of golf? And just who will emerge with the claret jug?
Winner and Score?
Ron Varrial: Had my heart set on Westwood, until I looked at his Open record which is less than stellar. This is as wide open a major as I can remember, so I’ll go with Ian Poulter, who’s got major champion talent to emerge at 280 (-8).
Danny Ottmann: Justin Rose at 273 (-15). He is arguably having the best year on the PGA Tour. It is his time to go big in a major championship and this is it.
Justin Pucheu: Tiger at 277 (11 under). Putts start dropping.
Alan Olson: Ernie Els at 283 (-5). He’s played well this year and has a great history at the Open with only failing to be in the top ten twice since 2000.
George Promenschenkel: I would have picked Westwood (again), but even if he does tee it up that calf injury will make it difficult to walk St. Andrews, let alone play the Old Course. Maybe it’s time. No one has won the Open Championship at St. Andrews more than twice. Tiger has won it the last two times, and you know how he likes records. He’s either going to go out there and drive it into gorse and onto the beach, or he’s going to win. Actually, he might do both. Let’s say it’s one of the latter at say, 278 (-10).
Erik J. Barzeski: I told myself I wouldn’t do it. But I’m doing it anyway. Dammit. Tiger gets off the lousy run (for him) that he’s been on at 278 (-10).
Donald Mackenzie: Ryo Ishikawa at 14-under 274. I feel like this is a year for a youngster to shake things up, and Ishikawa is a master craftsman. Rory McIlroy could also fit this bill.
Name three players who will contend on Sunday, including one we’ve barely heard of.
Ron Varrial: Ernie Els is rock solid. Alvaro Quiros has the length to overpower the golf course à là Daly. As for a semi-sleeper (he’s top 35 in world rankings), the name’s familiar because his big brother is a former U.S. Amatuer champ, but Francisco Molinari is the pick to contend following a strong stretch of play in Europe.
Danny Ottmann:Tiger will contend for three rounds but one poor round will kill his chances. Phil Mickelson will be in it until the end when he will undoubtedly do something foolish that will cost him his shot. Instead of picking an unknown I am instead picking a has been to compete. I am going with John Daly to make an appearance on the leader board.
Justin Pucheu: Els, Woods, hmmm… is Stephen Gallacher obscure enough??
Alan Olson: Padraig Harrington, Davis Love III, and Chris Wood.
George Promenschenkel: Tom Watson (Yes, really), Ian Poulter, Alvaro Quiros (He’s a long hitter with a lot of talent, sort of the European version of Dustin Johnson. If he can master St. Andrews’ subtleties, he could win.)
Erik J. Barzeski: JB Holmes. He’s known, but in a major not so much. Bombers who can putt – and JB’s putting has improved remarkably this year – play well at the Old Course. Oh, and two more? Ernie and Tiger. Why not?
Donald Mackenzie: I think Graeme McDowell is going to be around, showing his U.S. Open win was no fluke. This Tiger Woods gentleman is also going to find a way to wrangle himself onto the leaderboard. A dark horse? How about Zane Scotland – a former hotshot amateur who qualified for the 1999 Open at age 16, then had his career nearly ended by a terrible car crash. He’s back as a qualifier, and he’s got a great name for the week. It’s like playing in the U.S. Open as Chuck America, or in the Masters as Cliff Greenjacket.
More compelling battle: Tiger versus his demons or Phil versus links golf?
Ron Varrial: Given that we’ve asked for years who could take down Tiger, and the answer seems to be Tiger himself, his inner battle remains highly interesting to me. The longer this poor run (by his standards) continues, the deeper into his head it gets. Mickelson’s game is so suited to fly it and stick it that I fear an Open title will forever elude him.
Danny Ottmann: Speaking as someone growing quite weary of Tiger and the drama I am going with Lefty vs. Links golf as the more compelling story simply because he has the ability at any time to either hit a miraculous shot or take himself out of the tournament with a completely bone-headed play.
Justin Pucheu: Tiger, vs. his problems. Phil has the potential to make any course an adventure, though links golf has certainly gotten to him more often than not. I think Tiger’s problems are more compelling because I’m really interested in seeing how he comes out on the other side. Personally, I think once he does that, we’ll see a return to his domination, in a big way.
Alan Olson: Currently, Tiger vs. his demons seems more compelling at this time.
George Promenschenkel: Phil vs. links golf will be quite entertaining in the same way that watching someone get hit in the face with a fish might be amusing. Tiger, though, will be the compelling story of the Open.
Erik J. Barzeski: Is this a trick question? Since when has “Phil vs. Links Golf” ever been interesting?
Donald Mackenzie: Tiger vs. demons, hands-down. Phil vs. links golf is predictable and boring. Tiger’s road back is anything but either.
Key to Winning at St. Andrew’s? Length, Accuracy, or Something Else?
Ron Varrial: Give me a bomber at St. Andrew’s. With the massive fairways and greens, I like the guys hitting the shortest irons into the huge (but relatively flat) greens, where you’ll plenty of putts fall this week.
Danny Ottmann: The key to winning at St. Andrews is putting. With the giant greens at the Old Course keeping the 3 putts to a minimum with good lag putting is imperative.
Justin Pucheu: Accuracy, definitely. There are only two holes that stand out where bombers would have an advantage. I think the much more important thing will be to avoid the deep bunkers and have good lines into the greens.
Alan Olson: Something else: recovery. Links golf offers up some crazy bounces, wind, and weather so the golfer who can recover from or have the fewest mistakes should come out ahead.
George Promenschenkel: The key to winning at St. Andrews is taking what the course and the weather give you. To do that, players need a good ground game. They need to be able to land it short and run it up to the flag, to chip it somewhere close, and to putt it to makeable distance from the next shire.
Erik J. Barzeski: Imagination. That wasn’t a choice, but I don’t care – I’m picking it anyway.
Donald Mackenzie: More Euros. The general level of talent from the Euro players is much better now than even five years ago, and they seem to have fewer problems with general mental softness than the Colin Montgomerie prototype.
Will the Top 10 Have More Americans, or More Europeans?
Ron Varrial: All year long I’ve been high on the Europeans playing in the U.S. and across the pond. Add the fact I don’t expect either of the top two Americans (Woods and Mickelson) to contend and I’d say it shapes up as a solid European leaderboard.
Danny Ottmann: The Americans will come up big on the leaderboard at the Open Championship. If you look back, Americans seem to play well at St. Andrews.
Justin Pucheu: As much as I hate to say it, there are a lot of Europeans playing some really good golf right now. I think they will have the majority of the top 10 spots.
Alan Olson: Europeans. Americans don’t get to play this style of golf often so I give the nod to the Europeans.
George Promenschenkel: Euros. The European Tour plays the Old Course every year. That’s got to pay off one of these years.
Erik J. Barzeski: I’m going with a tie at three apiece. People from the rest of the world will make up the remainder of the top ten. Just a feeling I have – even though I can’t name four players from outside the U.S. or Europe that I think will finish in the top 10. Is Angel Cabrera still playing good golf? No? Hmmmm… Like I said, going with a feeling here.
Donald Mackenzie: The key is avoiding the big number. There are so many chances to score on this course for professionals, and a small number of places to throw a spanner in the works. Beyond that, the most important thing is long putting, and having the right patience and pace to handle having a few 50-yard two-putts during the week.
Which poses the greater challenge to Tiger? His struggles on the course, or the persistent British media?
Ron Varrial: You cannot convince me the soap opera isn’t the primary issue behind Tiger’s struggles. The British media is only going to pour salt in the wounds, especially if Woods continues to stonewall. Unlike the U.S. media, which has to deal with him week in and week out, the British press is relentless and well versed in covering celebrity scandals.
Danny Ottmann: Tiger knows how to handle the media, even the British media. He will have his hands full enough dealing with the Old Course and his inconsistent game.
Justin Pucheu: The media, no doubt. It’s something he can’t control. He can/will work out his problems on the course, that’s definitely within his control, but British media (really, all media) is going to be on his back for quite a while and unfortunately there’s nothing he can do about it.
Alan Olson: Struggles on the course. The field no longer fears him and by his standards, his game is nowhere near to what it’s been in the past. As for the British media, they at least ask questions the US media is too scared to even consider. Tiger gives the same non-answer to either group.
George Promenschenkel: The course will be a refuge. Get ready to hear a lot of platitudes, short answers, and redirections of the subject during his media sessions.
Erik J. Barzeski: Neither. If you think Tiger gives a rat’s behind what the media thinks of him or says to him you’ve apparently never seen a Tiger Woods press conference. The course, well, we’ll see. It will depend on the wind. Tiger’s never been a great wind player.
Donald Mackenzie: Tiger’s troubles are with the driver and the putter, not with the tabloids. Believe me, he didn’t like them any more or less last year or the year before that. The tabs are the least of his worries.