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Golf Barometer: Predicting the British Open

David Ferris

Ferris covers the PGA Tour for RotoWire. He is an award-winning sports writer and a veteran fantasy columnist. He also is a scratch golfer.

With the third major set to go at Royal St. George's, we'll look ahead and project what some notable players will do this week. Get your rest, we'll be rising early all week to catch the action.

Luke Donald:
He's been the best player in the world for most of the year, on dominance and on consistency. He has all the shots to win on a links course, and with the tees likely moved up, his length is even less of an issue. Result: Win.

Rory McIlroy:
He can't be all that sharp off a three-week layoff, and while he's the type of player who can contend anywhere, you wouldn't draw up this sort of track for him. He also will have the most media obligations before and through the tournament, all else equal. Asking for a second major right away is asking too much. Result: T17.

Steve Stricker:
His birdie on No. 18 to win the John Deere Classic summed up Stricker in a nutshell. Yes, the driver gets leaky at times, especially in the clutch. Yes, there's a steely resolve here. And you bet, he's one of the best putters on the planet. Stricker has a couple of Top 10s in his last four Open Championships, but you wonder if he'll regret not coming over a week early and getting his body and schedule in order. Result: T12.

Phil Mickelson:
He's a contention machine at the other three majors, but you send Lefty across the pond and everything grinds to a halt. Mickelson has just one Top 10 in this event, a third-place finish in 2004. He has 30 Top 10s in the other three majors combined. Try to stay dry, Felipe. Result: T45.

Matt Kuchar:
He doesn't have a lot of Open experience, but he did run T27 last year, and he has the confidence and the nerve to handle the challenges around the greens. He also knows he's due for a deep run in a major, after bagging a pair of Top 10s last year and finishing a respectable T14 last month at Congressional. Kuchar looks like a four-day story. Result: T10.

Lee Westwood:
He's as overdue as anyone for a major, running in the Top 3 six times since 2008. And this is the event that best suits his game, no one disputes that. But how come Westwood couldn't make the cut when we last went to Royal St. George's in 2003? And is the weekend pressure too much for him to handle if he's in a horserace Sunday? What's it going to take to make Westwood a closer? Result: Solo fifth.

Sergio Garcia:
This would be the perfect time for him to backdoor a major victory. Remember, he had a T9-T8-T10-MC-T5-T5-2 run in this major from 2001-2007, and no one's expecting the world anymore. And as messy as the last four years have been, he's still made the cut in 11-of-14 majors, including the sneaky T7 at Congressional. The joie de vivre is back, watch out. Result: T3.

Padraig Harrington:
Everyone knows all about the three majors he bagged in 2007 and 2008, but how often do we talk about the five cuts he's missed in majors since then? His last contention was a T10 showing at the 2009 PGA. Harrington hasn't trusted his swing, or his long irons, all season.
Result: Missed cut.

Dustin Johnson:
You think of him bombing it off the tee and launching those lunar irons, not the type of game we'll be playing this week. Johnson was a respectable T14 at the Open last year, but this is his first go-round at Royal St. George's. Result: Missed cut.

K.J. Choi:
The worse the collective weather, the better off Choi will be - he's an unflappable sort who won't lose his cool even in poor conditions. His scoring average exceeds what the component numbers suggest, so you always have to give him a chance on a different type of course. Maybe Choi will figure things out quicker than the majority of the field. Then again, you have to get some timing to win a British Open; you can't draw the bad half of the weather more than once and expect to win. Result: Solo 20th.

Ben Curtis:
He's had a strange British Open history since his shocking win in 2003: he's finished in the Top 8 twice, and he's otherwise missed five cuts. The familiar stomping grounds should be enough to keep Curtis around all week. Result: T33.

Ian Poulter:
He's getting close to the crossroads: is he going to eventually get over the hump and win some significant tournaments, or is he going to be another Robert Allenby type, spectacular in spurts but don't look for trophy grabs? It's hard to bag on a guy who has 11 European Tour victories, but it's stunning that he has just one triumph in PGA Tour competition. He finished second at the British Open three years back but otherwise hasn't made a dent here, another shocker. Result: T27.

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