Get the coffee maker ready – it is time for our favorite early morning golf viewing opportunity of the year – the Open Championship! Sure, you can watch replays at various points later in the day but rising early to see it as it happens is a special experience for fans of one of the world’s great sporting events.
Royal St. George’s will again present a difficult challenge for the world’s best players. Situated on the southeast coast of England overlooking the English Channel, Royal St. George’s is all about wind. If a stiff breeze is blowing off the sea, count on players to struggle. At 7,200 yards this par 70 track is lengthy and the wind could change the character of the course, making some par 5s two-shot drive and wedge adventures or some par 3s a full driver off the tee.
Consistent with most Open links courses, the undulating terrain, wind and rain combined with Royal St. George’s challenging hole layouts will make it one tough go. Ball striking will invariably be central to the outcome and contenders will have to bring a patient attitude, creativity, resourcefulness and resilience with them to succeed. Shots don’t always end up where intended and challenging lies are a given. This is links golf – not the manicured fairways of American golf.
Who could step forward and claim this year’s title? Bookmakers currently favor Rory McIlroy at 7/1, not to be confused with Richard McEvoy at 500/1, and Luke Donald and Lee Westwood at 11/1. Let’s take a look and come up with our own handicapping.
A number of golfers are playing well and have the game and qualities that fit the Open. International players comprise the majority of those who should contend while the U.S. contingent has some intriguing competitors. For example:
“Hot”: Luke Donald, Steve Stricker, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, Rory McIlroy
“Hungry”: Lee Westwood
“Solid”: Zach Johnson, K.J. Choi, Y.E. Yang, Padraig Harrington, Charl Schwartzel
“Legends”: Tom Watson, Tom Lehman
Rory wins his second major this week. Phil Mickelson, with his best Open attitude ever, has his second Top 10 Open finish. The other noted players could all contend – I like Lee Westwood and Zach Johnson for their mental toughness.
If it makes it feel more authentic, buy some scones and greasy sausages to go with your viewing time java. No matter though, the Open Championship will be a treat in itself.
Follow Matt Anctil’s British golf updates and conversations on Twitter.