World’s Top Players Come to Royal St. George’s for Golf’s Oldest Major

2011 British Open Championship
Royal St. George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, Kent, England
Par 70, 7,211 yards Links Course
Thursday, July 14 – Sunday, July 17, 2011, TV: ESPN
Defending Champion: Louis Oosthuizen

lee westwood british open
Lee Westwood is among the favorites with Rory McIlroy and Luke Donald to win the 140th Open Championship this week at Royal St. Georges. Westwood has never won a major tournament in his career.

The Royal St. George’s Golf Club was the first course outside of Scotland to host the British Open. It hosted many Opens until 1949 when it was removed from the rotation. It came back into the rotation in 1981 and has since hosted the Open Championship 4 times when Bill Rogers won the championship. The last time was in 2003 when Ben Curtis won. Other past winners include Greg Norman in 1993 and Sandy Lyle in 1985.

Like most English and Scottish golf courses it is a links style course, which basically means they carved it out of some sheep pasture and it is difficult to tell the difference between the fairways and the rough. The course is right on the North Sea in Sandwich so wind will be an issue as it usually is at the Open Championship. As of this writing, winds were gusting up to 25 miles an hour, and were expected to be even worse by the weekend.  The biggest difference is the wind is blowing from the opposite direction then it normally does, so the longer holes are playing longer and the shorter holes are playing shorter than they normally would. The players have said it was difficult to judge distance in practice rounds with the wind blowing like it that.

The prevailing wisdom is a European player who is familiar with Links style golf will have the advantage. That would point to Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, or U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy, arguably the three best players in the world with Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson  battling injuries right now. Tiger is not playing in this event as he recovers from knee and Achilles’ tendon injuries on his left leg.

Here is a look at some of the contenders and their odds to win courtesy of bodog. I will also give you some props and match-ups that I like. In another article I will give you some sleepers and long shots that have a chance to pull the upset.

Rory McIlroy (7/1)

After his record breaking romp at the U.S. Open last month, the hype machine is in full motion. People are saying he can challenge Tiger for best player alive and Jack Nicklaus’s records for majors won. Though he is very talented, we do need to remember he is only 22 years old. We also need to remember had he not melted down at the Masters in April, that he would be going for the Grand Slam right now. He only has 2 career wins, but is getting better all the time. He is from Northern Ireland so he has played links courses all his life. He will certainly contend but I don’t know if he will win.  I do like him to finish in the top 5 at 3/2 odds or the top 10 at -130.

Lee Westwood (11/1)

Westwood is probably the best player to have never won a major. He has come close with 5 top 3 finishes in his last 7 majors. He will break through eventually, and this could be one. He is from England so he is familiar with Links style courses. He has finished in the top 15 in his last 8 starts. People are kind of overlooking Westwood with the all the McIlroy  hype and the way  Luke Donald is playing right now.  You can get Westwood at -115 to beat either McIlroy or Donald. You can also get him at 2/1 to finish in the top 5 and -110 to finish in the top 10. I like all three of those props because Westwood is my pick to win his first ever major.

Luke Donald (11/1)

Donald has won 3 times this year including last week at the Scottish Open by four strokes. He is the number one player in the world. Like Westwood, he is English and has never won a major. No player has ever won the Scottish and British Opens in the same year, but Donald certainly has the tools to break that trend. He is hitting the most greens of his career, is excellent at the short game, and is clutch with his putter. All of those are necessary to have success at this course. I like him to finish in the top 5 at 2/1 and top ten at -120.

Martin Kaymer (22/1)

The German Kaymer is a former #1 player in the world and won the PGA Championship last year. He has been disappointing this year as he missed the cut at the Masters  and tied for 38th at the U.S. Open. However, a recent 4th place finish at the French Open in Paris has led many to believe he might be back to his top form. I don’t buy it. I don’t see him contending this week. Bodog has him as a -120 favorite over Sergio Garcia head-to-head. I don’t even like that prop as I think Garcia is playing better right now.

Nick Watney (28/1)

It isn’t much of a stretch to say that Nick Watney might be the best American golfer right now with Tiger and Phil struggling. You could argue Steve Stricker or Matt Kuchar perhaps, but I think Watney has been more consistent. Watney has never won a major but did finish in the top 10 at St. Andrew’s last year. No American has won a major since Mickelson won the Masters last year. That is the longest drought ever for the United States. I don’t see that trend being broken this week. I do like him to beat Stricker at -130 and to make the top 10 at +250.

Sergio Garcia (28/1)

Garcia has never won a major but has 6 top tens at the British Open. He finished tied for 7th at the U.S. Open and followed that with a second place finish at the BMW Championship. I don’t think he will contend this week but I do like to beat Kaymer head to head at -110.

Graeme McDowell (30/1)

McDowell is from Northern Ireland and won the U.S. Open last year at Pebble Beach. He knows links style golf and could be a nice dark horse pick. He has 3 top 10’s this season. I like him to finish in the top ten at +230.

Steve Stricker (30/1)

Last week, Stricker sunk a 20 foot putt to win the John Deere Classic on the last hole of the tournament. He is the best putter on the PGA tour, a skill that will serve him well at Sandwich. He also leads the tour in scrambling and bogey avoidance. He has 2 top 10’s at the British Open in his career so he does well on links courses. I don’t think he will finish in the 10 ten this week, but it is hard to count him out just because he is so consistent.

Jason Day (33/1)

The young Aussie has two runner up finishes in the first 2 majors of the year in his debut in both tournaments. He has 7 top ten finishes this year. He leads the PGA tour in sand saves, but he has never seen bunkers like he will at the Open Championship. I like him as a +110 underdog to beat Matt Kuchar head-to-head.

K.J. Choi (35/1)

The  Korean Choi has one win this season plus a 2nd and a 3rd, and 6 tops tens. One of the most consistent players in the world Choi doesn’t make many mistakes and has a game that is well suited for Royal St. George’s. I like him to beat Retief Goosen at -110.

Those are the favorites, and in part 2 of my Open Championship preview I will discuss some of the sleepers and long shots.

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