The most prestigious golf tournament in the world tees off this Thursday, as Muirfield golf club in Berwick, hosts the 142nd British Open Championship.
Along with The Masters, this is the major that all golfers look forward to. Even with the great travel involved for most PGA Tour pros and the unpredictable weather that our coastlines promises, this is the tournament that every golfer wants to play in and dream about lifting that famous Claret Jug.
As with every course on the Open rotor, Muirfield is heaped in nostalgia and difficulty. Some of Golf’s greatest players, including Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Watson and Sir Nick Faldo, have all tasted open victory on this fantastic course.
The holes are long, the rough is even longer, the wind will be blowing and there may be some rain in the air. This course will push every golfer to the limit and only those who can play consistently well for four whole days will be in contention to be the 2013 Open Champion.
Last time The Open came to Muirfield, in 2002, Ernie Els walked away as the champion. Incidentally, ‘The Big Easy’ will return as the defending champion after winning last year at Royal Lytham. Since then, Ernie has had a good season, winning the BMW International Open last month, but some erratic play and indecision with the putter have meant that this has been his only victory since last year’s Open and with that said, I can’t see him defending his championship.
Around Muirfield you cannot afford to miss the fairway, course management will be crucial as you pick your way around, finding the best spots to be putting on the greens, knowing when to attack the pins and knowing when a par is a very good score.
Bearing this in mind, I would rule out players like Rory McIllroy, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia, who are just too inconsistent from tee to green and will find themselves in the overgrown rough a little bit too often. Other American players with this tendency, like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, will also find it difficult to bring their all-out-attack style to this year’s Open.
Golfers like Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar are known for their accuracy off the tee, this will stand them in very good stead this week, but if their putter doesn’t get hot, they’re not going to win.
Like every tournament he enters, Tiger Woods is the favourite. He has been known over the last few years to be very inconsistent off the tee and his driver has probably cost him a few tournament victories. But Tiger can never be ruled out, he has the knowledge, experience and ability to be able to hit 3 woods and even irons off the tee’s and still put himself in the position to compile a tournament winning score.
The other favourites include Phil Mickelson, who has played well all year and won the Scottish Open this weekend, the perfect preparation for The Open.
Justin Rose, fresh off his victory at the US Open last month along with a fantastic display at the Ryder Cup, is in the form of his life and his confidence will be sky high.
And finally Adam Scott, who since acquiring the services of Stevie Williams as his caddy, has become an incredibly consistent player and won the Masters in 2012. He should have won last year’s Open, and may go all the way this year.
The great thing about golf though, is that there are always outsiders who will be close come Sunday afternoon, and you can never underestimate the influence of form and experience.
Take 2011 Open champion Darren Clarke, who claimed his first major championship at the age 42, on his 20th attempt at winning the Claret Jug.
Thomas Bjorn has been very consistent this season on the European tour, playing really well and finishing in the top 5 or 10 in almost every tournament. The same can be said for Jim Furyk, racking up a number of high finishes and leading the PGA tour on driving accuracy. Their experience could prove vital this week, especially if the conditions start to worsen.
Three other players to watch out for will be Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace. South African golf is going through a very successful period, with both Schwartzel and Oosthuizen winning majors in the last 5 years. Grace has burst onto the European Tour with a number of wins in the last 2 years, and was very close to another victory this weekend too, before losing a playoff to Phil Mickelson.
All three of these guys have got a good chance, especially Schwartzel, who has proven to be a world-class golfer and a big championship performer.
The Open is usually the most exciting week on the golfing calendar, with brilliance and unpredictability lurking around every corner. There are a great number of quality player’s in the field that are well in form and a few who could just turn it on when they need it most.
This week’s Open has the potential to be one of the best ever and trust me, you don’t want to miss a shot because you might just miss a moment of history.
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