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Five Players To Watch at the Open Championship

July 19th, 2012 by The Golf Insomniac

Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Course – Lancashire, England

4 you know, 1 who is experiencing a rebirth late in his career.

Below are some of the Golf Insomniac's predictions for the British Open. He deprived himself of sleep for weeks leading up to the tournament, pouring over the stats and reports and putting together his best guesses at what might happen. As we draw closer to the end of the tournament, how do you think he did? Read on, for the record does not lie.

First and foremost on everyone’s mind has to be Tiger Woods. Tiger has three wins this year and when he is on his game the swing and attitude look great. Remember, Tiger also has 2 missed cuts, something we just don’t expect to see from the former #1 golfer in the world, a title that he held for 623, 282, and then 264 weeks in a row. For those of you counting at home that is just shy of 5.5 years as #1 player in the world. How good is that? Well Greg Norman held on to the top spot for 331 weeks in total and 96 weeks consecutively, and only three players in history have held the #1 spot for a full year: Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods. The world golf rankings were first adopted and used as a benchmark for invites to the Open Championship in 1986 by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and are based on a rankings system developed by the infamous sports agent Mark McCormick. McCormick developed the system and though it was unofficial until 1986. He used it to rank players from 1968-1985. In that time, the top spot was held by Jack Nicklaus (1968-1978), by Tom Watson (1978-1983) and then by Bernhard Langer (1983-1986). Sorry to digress, but however you may feel about Tiger personally you cannot doubt the talent and the will to win. If the 3 time winner this year shows up at Royal Lytham in top shape, his patience and sheer determination will certainly make him a contender.

Lee Westwood: The guy is just awesome from tee to green, his problems stem from his ability to get it in the hole once he is on the green. Royal Lytham is perfectly suited for him because the greens are relatively flat meaning that he can take the break out and jam it when he needs to. The speed of the greens are akin to what you and I play on a regular basis at our home courses so with the relatively flat greens and slow speed the players can be aggressive. I think a larger than normal percentage of long putts will be holed.

My pick for winner this year is Bubba Watson. I know the guy hits it less than straight but being able to work the ball in The Open Championship is going to prove very useful, especially when the wind kicks up. If you combine that with his unbelievable length and strength you have a guy who, when he gets it going, will be like a tank flying down a mountain. Unstoppable. I know he won the Masters and if you win the Masters you rarely win The Open Championship, but it has been done by 3 men before: the great Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Now I am not saying that Bubba is in that league yet but he certainly has the imagination and athletic ability to get there, and with the win at the Masters he may have begun to develop into the player I believe he can be. I just love this guy!

Phil Mickelson… Phil had a strong showing at Castle Stuart Last week carding 12 under par and I think getting a feel for the golf that was yet to come at The Open Championship. If you add that to his great imagination around the greens, his length off the tee, and his strength from the rough, he is a great choice. If Phil hits it offline (and we all know that he will), he can play from the rough. Being able to recover from bad shots will be the difference in this Open Championship. Phil has also learned patience over the years and realizes that everyone will make some bogeys and even doubles, but he knows that how you handle that kind of adversity is what makes a champion. The guy can gut it out and does not quit.

Paul Lawrie may be the Tom Watson of this year. He is a precision player, a asset which will be well rewarded at Royal Lytham where the rough, to paraphrase Tiger “may be some of the toughest he has ever played in.” I know I am stating the obvious here but it cannot be stressed enough. This golf course will be won and lost off the tee. The greens have very little undulation and the greenside bunkers can be played out of with minimal discomfort. The defense of the golf course will be off the tee. If the player hits it in the rough he will have to sacrifice one or even two strokes. If he finds any of the fairway bunkers off the tee, sideways will be the only option and in some cases even backwards.This tournament will be won and lost off the tee and not around the greens. Paul is a precision player who grew up playing this kind of golf. He has had a rebirth at the age of 42, something very few guys have the fortune to experience. It is this rebirth that may be enough to propel him into the winners circle. I think he’s really having fun, and we all know that when we are having fun we play our best golf. The game just becomes effortless.

I know there are many other great players in the tournament this week and I could give you reasons why they all could win. Luke Donald the world’s #1, he has the best iron game and is amazing with the flat stick. Steve Stricker, I’ll call him “Mr. Consistency,” along with last weeks winner Zach Johnson those two can certainly get it done, especially here where accuracy will be rewarded and loose shots will kill you. The bottom line is that this is a course and tournament where accuracy off the tee will propel you into the winners circle and anyone who keeps it in the short stuff will contend. I know I am being like John Madden here, stating the obvious, but it really is that simple and any player who qualified for the tournament and decides to be patient and play smart golf can win.

I think the guys I mentioned above have the best shot, but this is one of those tournaments where a little known can rise to the top. Not so long ago we had never heard of Graeme McDowell or Louis Oosthuizen and now they are household names. That is real gem of “The Open Championship,” it’s anybody’s tournament to win or to lose, and at 7,048 yards you don’t have to be super long. But you will have to be straight.

The Golf Insomniac