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British Open Preview: Weathering the Storm

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

The Open Championship is upon us, and just in case you haven't heard ... the weather could be a factor this week. Breaking news, I know, weather a factor at the British Open, but ignore the warnings at your own risk. It is perhaps the only week all year when weather can eliminate half the field. Find yourself on the wrong side of the draw and it could be curtains. That said, the weather is so unpredictable across the pond that it's often hard to tell when it will hit and how bad it will be. What to do? Well, check the weather, of course, and look for not only precipitation and wind, as you would any week on the PGA TOUR, but check the temperature as well. How could the temperature come into play? If you've watched The Open Championship, you've surely seen players adorned in head-to-toe rain gear and winter caps. They aren't wearing those caps to be fashionable; they're wearing them because they need to. And when they need to, golf becomes difficult. Add some rain and golf becomes nearly impossible. The weather is just one of the reasons why you'll likely see some unfamiliar names on the leaderboard this week, but before you discount those names, just remember that those guys, those no-names, they are the ones who know how to handle this weather ... in case you haven't heard.

This week:
The Open Championship

Last Year:
Darren Clarke shot a final-round 70 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

Unlike the first two majors this year when Tiger won his previous event, this week he comes in off a missed cut. Perhaps that will help in some strange way. Hey, it's not a lot to go on, but he's just playing too well this season to miss at all four majors.

2. Martin Kaymer

Remember this guy? Kaymer hasn't accomplished much since his first major win two years ago, but he's due to make something happen. He's played well at the British Open the last two years and is well under the radar this week, which usually helps.

3. Rickie Fowler

Fowler picked up his first win earlier this season. Can he pick up his first major as well? This might be his best chance this season as the American has shown the ability to play well in Open conditions.

4. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson is rarely the first name you think of during British Open, but he does have his share of top finishes at this event. This is probably the only week all year where you can grab an "under the radar Mickelson."

5. Miguel A. Jimenez

Jimenez is seemingly always in the mix at majors, but for some reason, he rarely finishes well. That wasn't the case in 2001, though, when he finished T3 on this course.

Players to Avoid:

1. Martin Laird

Laird is one of the few Euros who plays better on American soil than he does abroad. Laird has failed to make a cut at the British Open in three tries.

2. Aaron Baddeley

Speaking of poor records at the British Open. Baddeley hasn't played the weekend at the Open either, but in his case, that's zero cuts made in six tries.

3. Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy is on a run of his own, missing the cut in his five most recent tries at the British Open. He also missed the cut in 2001 when the Open was last played at Royal Lytham.

4. David Duval

Surprised to see Duval in the field this week? You shouldn't be, it was his win here in 2001 that gained him entrance into this year's event. But don't expect anything like his performance in 2001. Duval is nowhere near the same player.

5. Chad Campbell

Campbell finished in the top-5 last year at the British Open, but that was the exception to the rule. In six tries at the Open, Campbell has missed the weekend four times.


This week:
The Open Championship

Group A

1. Sergio Garcia
2. Phil Mickelson

Group A is loaded with talent, but unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of success at this event. Garcia and Mickelson have had their moments, though. Garcia played well on this course in 2001, and Mickelson is coming off a runner-up finish last year.

Group B

1. Tiger Woods
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Rickie Fowler
4. Dustin Johnson

Group B is loaded with talent as well this week, but unlike Group A, there are more quality options than spots available. More than a few good options were left off the roster this week, including Justin Rose, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan, but those players have nothing on the four I've chosen. Two of the four are in my top-five this week, and the other two, Johnson and McIlroy, have the high-end potential that you look for during majors. McIlroy is not playing anywhere near the level he was last year at this time, but the potential for a great week is always there. As for Johnson, he is playing pretty well and is coming off a good showing at the Open last year.

Group C

1. Martin Kaymer
2. Miguel A. Jimenez

Group C is a little thin this week, but fortunately, two of my top-five come from this group. There are a couple of big names in this group, though, so if this pairing plays well, I should gain some ground on the competition this week. I expect both players to make the weekend, with Kaymer possibly contending for the win come Sunday.

Starters Round One

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Rickie Fowler
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Miguel A. Jimenez

The weather will play a factor in all decisions this week. Unfortunately, the opening round is tough to gauge because we won't have the benefit of hearing the commentators talk about the upcoming weather like we will once the play starts Thursday. Still, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself. Start with the weather web sites, of course, and follow that with the pre-tournament coverage on the Golf Channel. I don't as yet have an accurate forecast, so I am listing the four golfers I would start under normal circumstances. This might change, however, so keep an eye on my line-up heading into round one if you are interested in my round-one starters.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Again here, weather will play a factor, but I don't want to completely discount how the golfers themselves. Pay attention to the commentators during the first-round; they often give good tidbits about the weather forecast, information that you can't necessarily get from a weather web site. Beyond the weather, Group A is up for grabs after round one. Garcia has shown the ability to get around this track, so that could come in handy later in the week. If he starts well, I'll likely find a start for him Friday. Group B should be fun this week with these four uber-talented players. As I did two weeks ago, I will hold off on Tiger until he shows signs of a good week. I'm too low on starts with him to risk an early start. I expect big things from Fowler this week, so he has a decent hold on one spot, while the other spot should be a toss-up after round one. Jimenez starts Thursday in Group C, but that's only because of his reliability over the years. Kaymer start as soon as he posts a decent round.

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