July 21, 2012

British Open — 16 for 16

Can Adam Scott do it?/Wikipedia photo
While Tiger Woods is certainly in the running, and Graeme McDowell not too far off, they're the only two golfers in reasonable position to keep this year's British Open from producing the 16th different consecutive winner of one of golf's four majors. Indeed, they're the only two within nine shots of the lead (and in the top 27 after two rounds, although 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and this year's Masters' winner, Bubba Watson, are just one stroke further back, tied for 28th).

It all depends on Saturday's rounds, I think. Weather Saturday is supposed to be at least as good as Thursday and Friday, which means low scoring is there for the taking.

UPDATE, July 21: Looks like my guesses below, made after Friday's second round, were right, at least No. 1 and No. 3, who (Scott and McDowell) will be in the final twosome. The only thing "wrong" is that it's not Scott and Woods as the final twosome, with Scott's current caddy, former Woods bagman Steve Williams, and tension as thick as a British fog.

But ... winds are supposed to be up on Sunday. Now, not gale force, like at some Opens, but 15 mph is definitely in the forecast. Add that to any tricky Sunday pin placements, and greens drying out, and, while there may be plenty of "backward" motion by golfers who struggle, don't look for major low numbers on Sunday.

Beyond that observation in general, I'll expect the winner to come from one of the last two pairings on Sunday. And, in keeping with form, for Tiger not to win if he's only in the second-last pairing.

I'll go out on a limb, without saying any of these will win, and make some guesstimates:
1. Adam Scott. Being close in a major, and Stevie Williams on the bag, could be enough.
2. Paul Lawrie. Sentimental favorite, and certainly he'd like to "earn" an Open on his own, but at 43, he may be a bit long in the golfing tooth. Flip side is that he knows the conditions,  if weather gets bad.
3. McDowell. Ditto on the weather knowledge, and he's been in other "hunts" besides his 2010 U.S. Open win.
4. Ernie Els. He would be the most sentimental non-British crowd favorite, I think. But, can he "close"? That's been part of the question mark on him for a few years. Still, he may know this could be his last, best shot at Major No. 4.
5. Brant Snedeker. "All" he has to do is stay steady. If he can't do that well on Saturday, he certainly won't on Sunday.
6. Luke Donald. Even more sentimental than Els, but, a stroke further back.
7. Woods. I think he needs a strong, intimidating start Saturday. If he gets that, it could be him. However, with the Sunday weather forecast, he could hold the Saturday lead and still lose it; his bad-weather track record at the British has been somewhat iffy.

Also, half of those first six, by winning, would also make us 10 straight in different first-time majors winners.

Stay tuned!

Sidebar — Woods won't get to No. 1 in the world rankings, but he will finish ahead of Donald here, I predict, and close enough ground to have a good shot by the PGA Championship. At the least, he's almost guaranteed to pass Lee Westwood into third and quite likely to pass Rory McElroy into second.

UPDATE 2, July 21: If Scott wins, he had better enjoy it now; the USGA and R&A are looking at making "anchoring" of a long putter, at least, illegal.

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