With so many questions about the Open Championship this week, it's probably wise to just jump into it, but before I do, a tip of the cap to the John Deere Classic, which has long suffered in its position on the calendar either right before or after the Open Championship. Due to the big names in the field actually showing up, the John Deere Classic was again very entertaining.
Now, as for the burning questions this week; of course they start with Tiger, but there are plenty more items to talk about entering this week, such as ... will Phil again find the magic at the Open and go back-to-back? Will Bubba or Kaymer grab their second major of the year? Will there be a fat guy grouping at this Open? It's funny, though Phil hasn't played up to his standards this season and Tiger hasn't played much at all, those two remain the top storylines entering this week.
Tiger's chances appear slim considering his most recent outing, but for Tiger it's not so much about his physical game as it is his mental game. Is he mentally prepared to win a major? Apparently he wasn't last year, a year in which he won five times, so what are his chances this year? As for Phil, if you recall, entering the Open Championship last year, we all wondered how he'd react after a heartbreaking defeat at the U.S. Open. As it turned out, he was just fine, so the questions about his chances this week, after not playing so well the entire year seem a little pointless. While Tiger and Phil dominate the storylines entering the week, chances are it will be someone else above the fold come Monday morning, let's just hope it's as entertaining as the John Deere Classic.
This week: The Open Championship - Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake - Merseyside, England
Last Year: Phil Mickelson shot a final-round 66 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Henrik Stenson.
Players to Consider:
Scott has come oh-so-close to capturing this major, but this year could be the year he breaks through at the Open Championship. Scott has finished in the top-3 at this event the last two years and also played well on this course in 2006 when he finished T8. Scott has missed the cut at the Open Championship just once in the last 10 years.
He's said himself that he doesn't putt well enough to win a major, but the funny thing about putting is that it comes and it goes quickly for most guys. If Sergio can find that putter even for a short time this week, he may have the goods to win this week. He's generally in the mix at this event, and he played well here in 2006, so odds are he'll be in contention at some point during the weekend.
There's no denying that Stenson has a good feel for the layouts at the Open Championship as evidence by three top-3s in his last five tries at this event. The question is, will that feel carry over to Royal Liverpool? He finished T48 his last time here, but let's be honest, he's a much better golfer than he was eight years ago.
This may be Ernie's last best shot at another major championship. Els won this event just two years ago and finished T3 here in 2006. No, his game is not in great shape, but the Open Championship can often be the great equalizer and Ernie knows how to play links-style golf.
This isn't typically his best major, but he did finish in the top-10 on this course in 2006, and we all know how Cabrera gets up for the majors. A win this week, or at least a good showing isn't out of the question.
Players to Avoid:
It sure would be a great story if Watson were to find the magic at the Open Championship once again, but the odds of that happening again lessen each year. Watson made the cut in 2006, but managed only a T48 and that was eight long years ago. Hopefully he can make the cut, but anything beyond that, say a top-10, would be miraculous.
Raise your hand if you fell for the hype on this guy entering the year? Since it's difficult to type with one hand, I'll lower my hand now. Uihlein played extremely well overseas last season, but that form has not carried over to this season. As such, I don't expect much of anything from him this week.
Couple things working against Day this week. First, he pulled out of an event a couple weeks back with that nagging thumb injury and second, this has never been his best event. We are used to seeing Day compete at the majors, but he's never really done that well at the Open Championship. If his thumb is still an issue, it could be a short week.
Clarke won this event just three years ago, but his overall track record at this event is a little spotty, and he failed to make the cut here in 2006. It's certainly possible that he catches lightning in a bottle this week, but the odds are against it.
There was a time when Harrington was on everybody's short list entering the Open Championship, especially after capturing consecutive championships in 2007 and 2008, but his play has really fallen off since. To make matters worse, he missed the cut here in 2006 - when he was at the top of his game.
ONE AND DONE GOLFER
Last week: Kevin Streelman (T44) - $15,640; Season - $3,088,847
This week: Sergio Garcia - There's no doubt in my mind that Garcia's comments about his slim chances at winning a major were in an effort to take the pressure off himself and not an accurate depiction of the state of his game. He has the game, and although he may be a bit of a head case, not every major champion has been mentally strong.
Group A: Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson
Group B: Angel Cabrera, Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer
Group C: Sergio Garcia, Paul Casey
Last week: Kevin Streelman (T44); Streak - 5
This week: Sergio Garcia - Sergio has a habit of falling apart at the worst time, but generally, he puts himself in a good position to do so. In other words, I'm not worried about Garcia making it to the weekend; it's what he does on the weekend that scares me.