By SEAN CLAIR
The Open Championship begins Thursday at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s Golf Club in Lancashire, England. The third major of the year should be entertaining, as players look to put their skills to the test on a difficult course.
Royal Lytham looks to play as a challenging test to the players, who return for the first time since David Duval’s victory in 2001. Playing par 70 and just over 7,000 yards, Royal Lytham is a classic links course. One big challenge to the players will be the 206 bunkers on the course, that will force players to work around them and perhaps change their approach. Also, expect the weather to play a major role, as it usually does, since the course is close enough to the coast where the wind could kick up and cause very tricky conditions for the players.
Tiger Woods says The Open Championship is his favorite of the majors, but admits that the course will be a major test to everyone. “Here you have a lot of different angles. And it tests your ability to hit shots and hit them the proper distances, more so than most links courses.”
Woods is being pegged as the favorite heading in, but it won’t be an easy task. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald are both slotted as the number two picks with Rory McIlroy and Padraig Harrington rounding out the top five picks. Donald, number one in the world, has been asked plenty lately of his number one ranking despite not winning a major. The same can be said for Westwood, who is usually tagged as the best player without a major championship.
The young American guns are always mentioned when a major comes around, but they are usually talked about at the other three majors as links golf is a completely different test than the American courses. Phil Mickelson is usually never mentioned in winning The Open, but in recent years he has embraced links golf. He finished tied for second last year, and could be a contender again this year.
Americans have fared well at The Open over the past two decades, taking 11 of 17 tournaments (three of those courtesy of Tiger Woods). However, they have only taken one of the last five, and the score to par the past five years (other than St. Andrews in 2010, which usually plays very easy) has been much higher than in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Royal Lytham proves to be another difficult test for the players, and it should be a great week. Look for a score to par to be somewhere around 7 or 8 under with a European raising the Claret Jug.