I am going to start this epic post off by giving the Donk a shout out. He had a great title for this post had I decided to go in that direction; "The Re-Birth of Tiger at the Birthplace of Golf." Pretty good, no? Unfortunately, my prognostications will not lean towards that result, even though I am thoroughly entrenched in the Tiger camp, and I went with a nice little quote from Braveheart to keep with the Scottish theme. The Old Course at St. Andrews truly is a test of manhood. I have always said (I think) that the British Open is the truest test of a golfer, and St. Andrews is quite possibly the best of the British Open courses. Tiger won here in 2000 and 2005, but five years later the golf landscape has changed dramatically and Tiger is no longer the favorite. Let's take an in depth look at what makes the British Open such a great tournament and survey who might kiss the Claret Jug on Sunday.
As the Donk's title highlighted, St. Andrews is the birthplace of golf. Established in 1552, St. Andrews is the oldest golf course in the world and to this day continues to be one of the best. At only 6,400 yards, it is one of the shortest courses the golfers will play all year. No matter though, as this rattlesnake bites back in many different ways. Winding burns, super narrow, fast and undulating fairways, tall fescue for rough, lightning fast greens, constant wind, and of course, the dreaded pot bunkers make St. Andrews an extremely difficult course where excellence is commanded on every shot. Expect to see players taking shots that you wouldn't see them take at any other course, such as putting from upwards of 20 yards away, consistently hitting irons off the tee, and hitting backwards out of bunkers. That is just part of what makes St. Andrews and the British Open so great. You really need to plan and execute every shot perfectly or you are going to put up a big number. No advantages here for the bombers, accuracy and execution are king. That is why you often see guys like Tommy Watson and Greg Norman at the top of the leaderboard. They are complete golfers.
Another great thing about St. Andrews in particular is some of its very unique holes. Take the "Road Hole" for example. Where else would you see a tee shot set up like this? Its fabulous, and rumor has it they are moving the tees even further back to make it even tougher this year. The Road Hole will most likely make or break the championship for the players out there. Or what about the picturesque 18th hole? It is one of the most beautiful in all of golf. To learn more about the history and character of this great golf course, check out this link. It will tell you more than I can.
The British Open is really the best championship in all of golf in my opinion. Besides being the best test of a golfer, it is also the little things that make it so special for us Americans. Just a small example of how everything is a little different, there are Rolex (disregard Jeev Milkha Singh, he is a dumby) clocks everywhere. Moreover, the fact that the British Open is across the pond means that over here we have to wake up really early to watch it. It is a real treat to wake up and watch golf with breakfast. Furthermore, it gives us time to squeeze in a round afterwards. If you do not see why the British Open, especially the Open at St. Andrews, is so amazing now then you will never see it. Let's cut to the chase and figure out who is gonna win this thing, or at least be cursed by TPLIYP.
As we have seen with Tiger Woods, heavy is the head that wears the TPLIYP crown. This time, I am going to spare him and give the kiss of death to Ernie Els. Save for his first year playing in 1989 when he missed the cut, the Big Easy has never finished worse than 34th at the British. He also has eight top-five finishes, including a win in 2002 and a runner up to Tiger at St. Andrews in 2000. He is playing great golf this year as evidenced by the fact that he is first on the money list and in FedEx Cup points, and has two wins to his credit already. Ernie is the man to beat this week, and I very much like his chances to bring home the Claret Jug for the second time.
Other than Ernie, there are so many Englishmen prepared to invade Scotland that William Wallace is probably rolling over in his grave. Or in pieces, or whatever they did with his body. Here are some other guys that could give Ernie a run for his money:
Justin Rose- Rose set Aronimink on fire a few weeks ago, and won at the Memorial before that. He is playing the best golf of anyone on tour right now, and is a limey to boot. As an amateur in 1998 Rose came in fourth at the British, and is looking to build on that success after several disappointing finishes since then.
Lee Westwood-Westwood has long been considered the favorite Englishman to take home the next British Open. Every year he is close, and every year he disappoints. This year though, Westwood is coming in with a thrilling victory at the Masters, as well as another win at the St. Jude Classic, under his belt. 2010 could just be the year of Lee.
Graeme McDowell- The reigning U.S. Open champion finished 11th at St. Andrews in 2005, and has stayed cool under pressure all year. Plus, he looks like he would be a good guy to drink with. Can't underestimate that.
Ian Poulter- The Poultergeist also finished 11th in 2005, and second in 2008, so he is a good bet to do well here. That is, if he doesn't get murdered by the ghost of William Wallace for those pants.
Nick Faldo- A geezer seems to do well at every British Open, and Faldo is a past champion at St. Andrews, so I will throw him in as a possibility here. I would pay a lot of money for that sweater too.
Tiger Woods- Tiger has won the past two British Opens at St. Andrews, but he is just not chipping or putting the way he needs to to win. The one thing I keep coming back to is how far Tiger is off from his prime days when he could do things like this. Nowadays, he'd probably chip that about eight feet short and miss the putt. Don't get me wrong, I'm rooting for Tiger more than anybody, but I just don't think he is polished enough to win it right now. I'd welcome a nice surprise though; and he did change putters this week.
Ryan Moore- This is the Donk's boy (along with Masters Par 3 Challenge Champion Louis Oosthuizen of course) and I felt that another American should be named. I don't like his skater shoes or his stove pipe hat, but Moore's game is solid.
Well, that about does her. Wraps her all up. I hope that you folks enjoy the British Open as much as I do, and I hope that the TPLIYP curse does not befall any of these fine golfers. Let's hear what you the readers have to say, and who's up for drinks tomorrow morning at 4 a.m.?