By David Clark
Tiger Woods was the poster child for the game of golf for decades. The man was simply unbelievable—racking up 14 Major Championships in a ten-year span. Tiger was not only the best golfer in the world; he was the best and most dominant athlete of our generation. He transcended the game by dominating it like nobody ever has in the history of sport and golf was rolling in the dollars that he was attracting on a weekly basis.
Then, the unthinkable happened, and we realized that Tiger Woods was, indeed, human. The man who was on top of the world came crashing down to Earth in the blink of an eye. Ever since the man who wears red on Sundays lost his mojo, the game of golf has been able to promise one thing: uncertainty.
In the last 15 major championships, there have been 15 different winners. The Americans have come out winners on the first two of 2012: Bubba Watson captured the hearts of golf fans everywhere after staining his green jacket with tears fresh off one of the best shots ever hit at a major. Then, we saw Webb Simpson prove that consistency pays off as he held off Jim Furyk and a host of other big names to win the US Open. The Europeans are hungry to boast a winner on their home turf this weekend, but the top players are all feeling some pressure as Ryder Cup selections creep closer.
So, in a world full of parity and uncertainty, how can you possibly pick a winner for the 2012 Open Championship? You have bets ticking down and you need to choose a winner. Here are some points to think about below. But if any of your bets have an option for “The field,” you should:
(1) Gladly take it.
(2) Pinch yourself to make sure you are not dreaming.
(3) Thank the heavens for God granting you a ridiculously clueless friend who has enough money to give you.
*Lee Westwood is so due to win a major. Lee Westwood has found himself at the top of major championship leaderboards for years. His game is on right now and he will have the support of the fans in England. Westwood is a perennial top ten finisher in majors and is sure to be near the top again this weekend. But, can he finally finish?
*Go with consistency. Matt Kuchar has been the model of consistency this year. Kuchar has made 14 out of 14 cuts, including ten top 25 finishes and six top ten finishes. The Kooch is also ranked 2nd in scoring average on the PGA Tour.
*Drive for show and putt for dough. At the Open Championship, weather is always a factor. Drives will fly all over the place and irons become less and less reliable as the week goes on. One thing that does not change in blustery, wet conditions is a player’s ability to put the ball in the hole. Zach Johnson and Aaron Baddeley are ranked one/two in putting on the tour and Johnson is coming off a win at the John Deere Classic. Do not be surprised if he is at the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
*The Open Championship is not a tournament for Tiger Woods at the moment. Yes, I firmly believe that Tiger will find his stroke again and become dominant at a sport that he owned for years. But, his mental game is not where it needs to be to win a major championship. Tiger can’t put together a consistent round anymore. I love watching him win and will undoubtedly be rooting for him on the course, but I don’t think he has what it takes to keep the ball in play at a very demanding Royal Lytham golf course.
*The hot hand usually wins. Louis Oosthuizen ranks first on the European Tour in scrambling, greens in regulation, and stroke average. He finished in the top 15 at the Scottish Open last week and has been dialed in throughout the year. He was a magical stroke away from claiming gold at Augusta and is returning to a tournament that he won in 2010. The dude is playing well right now and has every reason to be confident this week.
*In a tour full of parity, I want a sleeper pick. Peter Hanson is your guy. The one thing that is certain this week is the players will be hit with bad weather throughout the tournament. The Open Championship is known for its unfriendly conditions. Hanson has been dominating the Race for Dubai, which is consistently played in bad weather. He is averaging 28.6 putts per round and has finished in the top five in five of the 11 tournaments he has played this year.
*What about #1 in the world? Luke Donald is still the top player in the world according to the official rankings with Rory McIlroy right behind him. Yes, these guys have proven that they can string together some good rounds. But, they both missed the cut at the U.S. Open. Donald is struggling with his irons and Rory is too busy worrying about his new girlfriend, Caroline Wozniacki. I now know why my dad did not want me having a girlfriend during my high school golf career. It has turned Rory from the next Tiger Woods to the next “Whipped Man of the Year” award winner.
With all of that being said, I believe Lee Westwood is going to be hoisting the Claret Jug on Sunday. The third ranked player in the world is way too good and too consistent of a player to not have a major. He constantly hits greens, ranking 2nd in GIR percentage on the tour. Sooner or later, his putts are going to drop. I think the English man wins on his home turf and robs the Americans from the Major Sweep in 2012. Enjoy the golf, enjoy the weather, and enjoy how wide open this tournament is for someone to win this year. One thing is for certain: Sunday is going to be exciting!
Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.