British Open: 5 Burning Questions
Just How Tough is Royal Lytham & St Annes?
Tiger Woods made headlines this week when he uttered the word "unplayable" in reference to some of the rough at Royal Lytham. So how tough is the course? An unusual amount of rain — even for England — has added extra thickness and gnarliness to the deep stuff, and when you throw in the penal pot bunkers, players will need an extra level of precision, particularly from the tee. Bottom line: As one writer described it, Royal Lytham is a beast, but a just beast, and will produce a worthy champion.
How will the marquee group perform?
For the first two rounds, Tiger Woods (No. 4 in the world) will be playing with Justin Rose (No. 9) and Sergio Garcia (No. 23). Tiger has called the British Open his favorite major, and there's no doubt that he wants this tournament desperately, having gone more than four years without a major title. But Sergio is the wild card. His game has shown signs of life — he hasn't missed a cut in more than a year — and the British Open has historically been his best major (seven top 10s, including a second). Maybe the golf gods will finally smile on him. Doubtful, but possible.
Will Duval make the cut?
The last time the Open Championship came to Royal Lytham & St Annes, David Duval won the first and last major championship of his career. For a guy who was once the No. 1 player in the world, that lone major title seems a long time ago. The winner of the 1999 Players Championship, Duval ascended to the No. 1 ranking, then two years later won the British Open at Royal Lytham. That happens to be the last of his 13 PGA Tour titles. Duval will be at Royal Lytham again, a perk of hoisting the Claret Jug. But will he even make the cut? This season alone, Duval has missed 10 cuts in 13 events; in Tiger Woods' entire career, Woods has missed nine. Signs for Duval aren't trending in the right direction.
Will an Englishman finally win?
The last Englishman to kiss the Claret Jug: Nick Faldo, in 1992. Coming into this year's Open, two of the top three golfers in the World Golf Rankings will carry the banner of St. George's Cross, and they'll feel the considerable weight of their countrymen's expectations. World No. 1 Luke Donald will be feeling the most pressure; his lack of success in majors, particularly his nation's championship (he has one top 10 in 11 appearances and missed the cut last year), has fans questioning his major mettle. Lee Westwood, meanwhile, has many more close calls on his resume, but like Donald, he missed the cut at the Open in 2011.
Who'll kiss the jug on Sunday?
It's tempting to pick a wild card, like Dustin Johnson, who was a wayward 4-iron from challenging for the win last year; Zach Johnson, the game's best putter right now; or Rickie Fowler, who has the talent and also has that elusive first win under his belt. Then there are the resurgent veterans, like Padraig Harrington; the perennial short-listers, like Phil Mickelson; and those seeking that career-defining win, like Westwood, Donald, Garcia, Steve Stricker, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter. But we'll go with the bookmakers' choice and pick Tiger, who is taking a thoughtful, veteran approach this week and looks ready to return the major winner's circle.
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