Open: Ten to Watch
It’s very difficult to say who might do well in the Open, thanks to the unpredictable nature of the tournament and plethora of top-quality professional golfers in today’s world. Ben Curtis showed in 2003 that anyone in the field can win on any given day, but here ten players I’ll be keeping my eye on this week....
1. Tiger Woods
As each major goes by, Tiger Woods will become more and more agitated about his ever-extending major hiatus. In truth, his game isn’t completely back to where it was and the golfing talent pool has extended significantly in recent times. That said, he’s a class act and a phenomenally determined golfer, and it will only be a matter of time before he wins a 15th major. The firm conditions should also play into Woods’ hands, as he’ll be able to hit lots of two-irons off the tee instead of risking his unpredictable driver.
2. Justin Rose
Justin Rose’s US Open triumph will undoubtedly be the catalyst for more majors, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him challenge at the Open. He made headlines around the world by finishing fourth as an 18-year-old at Birkdale in 1998, showing his proficiency for links golf, and he possesses every attribute needed to succeed at the Open. His long game is imperious and his short-game prowess should help him get up and down more often than many in the field; a key trait in a tournament where players tend to miss more greens than normal.
3. Adam Scott
Adam Scott suffered a harrowing final-round collapse in 2012, but a lot has changed since then. He played supreme golf to claim his first major at this year’s Masters, and he’ll return to Muirfield knowing his game is more than good enough to win the Open. He was the best player by some distance for 68 holes last year and now he’s a major champion, pressure levels will always be lower in the biggest tournaments.
4. Ernie Els
It might seem like a bit of a far-fetched fairytale, but many factors are pointing to Ernie Els defending his Open title in 2013. The Big Easy seems to have rekindled his love for the game in recent times, and he’s playing with the poise, fluidity and freedom that was so prevalent during his haylcon years. The Big Easy won his 28th European Tour title at last month’s BMW International Open and he’s returning to the scene of his first Open triumph. In golf, you simply never know.
5. Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler impressed everyone with his performance at the Open in 2011, where he demonstrated a wonderful array of shots and a tremendous ability in the worst conditions to compile a best-of-round score on Friday. He’s been in good form this year and showed markedly improved levels of consistency, so he’ll be in good spirits heading to the Open.
6. Sergio Garcia
Sergio Garcia has been a picture of consistency this season and he’ll be desperate to win a major after watching good friend and fellow TaylorMade staff player Justin Rose break his duck at the US Open. Garcia came desperately close to winning at Carnoustie in 2007 and he’ll be relishing to prospect of returning to Muirfield – a course he is very fond of. The dry conditions should play into his hands and his great imagination and shot-making will be extremely useful attributes.
7. Graeme McDowell
It’s been a brilliant season for Graeme McDowell and no one in the field will be more confident heading to Muirfield. The Northern Irishman has won three times thus far in 2013 and he’s a fine links player, having grown up at Royal Portrush. McDowell is one of the straightest drivers and best scramblers on tour and when he’s in the hunt, he’s an incredibly steely competitor and a very difficult man to beat.
8. Lee Westwood
Lee Westwood has been very steady in 2013 but it’s now been 13 months since his last professional victory. The Englishman spoke recently about drawing inspiration from Rose and he’ll need to act quickly if he wants to avoid the dreaded ‘best player never to have won a major’ label. His short game has come on considerably since he moved to America and he remains one of the best ball strikers in the game, so I’m expecting a good showing from Westwood this week.
9. Shane Lowry
Shane Lowry has been in fantastic form over the last few months and I genuinely believe he has the ability to win a major championship. The Irishman has lived and breathed links golf all his life and his imagination on the golf course is second to none. At the Open Championship, someone unexpected generally puts in a good performance. Whether you class Lowry as unexpected or not is a matter of debate, but I’d not be at all surprised to see him mount a challenge.
10. Nicolas Colsaerts
Nicolas Colsaerts has turned into one of Europe’s best golfers over the past couple of years, as highlighted by his stunning performance at the Ryder Cup. The Belgian Bomber finished inside the top 10 at Royal Lytham last year and comes into the tournament off the back of a top 10 at the Aberdeen Asset Scottish Open. He’s a talented golfer at the peak of his career and, much like Lowry, I think he has the ability to win a major championship.
Keep your eye on...
Alex Noren – The talented Swede has been extremely consistent in 2013 and he’s a proficient links exponent. Noren is certainly capable of winning a major and the Open has thrown up a fair few surprises since its inauguration in 1860.
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