Of all the major championships, the British Open is most prone to flukes. In 2003, Ben Curtis won at Royal St. George’s. The then-26 year old American hadn’t ever played a round of tournament golf at Royal St. George’s, nor had he played in a single major championship. The following year, Todd Hamilton won at Royal Troon. Although he had won the Honda Classic earlier in the year, Hamilton entered the British Open as a tour rookie at 38 years old. Yet, he somehow managed to fend off 3-time major championship winner Ernie Els and capture the claret jug. Since then, Hamilton hasn’t won a single event on the PGA Tour.
The unpredictability of the British Open, then, can only be matched by the recent parity in golf. Tiger Woods, although he’s won a PGA Tour-best three tournaments in 2012, isn’t dominant. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson is struggling to simply stay under-par, and Rory McIlroy has missed three cuts this year, all of which have come in the last three months. Perhaps the most telling statistic: 15 different golfers have won the last 15 major championships.
Forecasts at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, site of this year’s British Open, call for rain. Coupled with the wettest few months in England’s history, the course should play extremely long, and the greens will be very slow. The conditions, in turn, could spell trouble for 3-time British Open champion Tiger Woods; slow greens have troubled the former world number one recently, including at last week’s Greenbriar Classic.
As expected, Lee Westwood is a popular pick to claim the claret jug. The Englishman has come achingly close in so many major championships, and the abnormally slow greens benefit Westwood tremendously. Nevertheless, the spotlight will probably be too much for Westwood, faced with immense pressure. No Englishman has won the British Open since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Adam Scott is my pick to win the British Open. Like Westwood, he’s one of the sport’s premier ball strikers. Furthermore, keeping the ball in the fairway is paramount, especially this year. The added rain has ramped up the rough to unbelievable levels. Scott, however, is excellent with the driver; his only real weakness comes with the putter. Although he has made considerable strides since changing to the belly putter, Scott isn’t going to win a major championship on the greens. This year’s British Open, then, is his prime opportunity to finally breakthrough. Not to mention he finished tied for second at last year’s Masters and inside the top 30 in both major championships in 2012.