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The Very Open Open Championship

by Josh Powell | July 14, 2010

They weren’t the most morally desirable bunch, but Tiger’s mitresses certainly boosted the gate.
We’ve been watching the golf world intently in recent weeks. And with all the silly pants, beer-bellies and Sergio Garcia, it hasn’t always been easy. We’ve been trying to pick out who’s likely to lift the Claret Jug next Sunday and after much debate, statistical analysis and consultation with a psychic octopus, we’ve come up with one clear and definitive conclusion – we don’t have a clue. With the top players out of form, some of the middling players bang in form and the Open's knack of throwing up some real surprises, we're not sure where we stand.
Tiger Woods triumphed at St. Andrews the last time the Open rotated it’s way to Perthshire, but his circumstances this time around are very different. Considering the ‘difficulties’ he has had, his results haven’t been terrible, just not what we’ve come to expect. But he’s got a plan, he’s going to try a new putter for the Open. We’ve got an idea for your putting, Tiger €“ try putting it in your pants. Boom, boom! Neither a new putter nor a lame joke are going to do much to help his wayward driving, but Tiger is Tiger and it’s difficult to rule him out entirely.
Generally the only time you hear the word ‘nine’ associated with Phil Mickelson is when he’s just been asked to leave the US of A to attend a tournament in Germany, but his performance at Loch Lomond showcased his continuing struggles in Europe. His quintuple bogey on the 18th gave him the weekend off, but not much in the way of confidence for the Open. With Tiger not playing well, Lefty is normally the obvious second choice, but such is his poor form, he’s only the obvious joint 4th choice.
Lee Westwood has been playing extremely well of late, particularly in the Majors and it only looks like a matter of time before he finally lands a big one. Sadly, it’s also a matter of keeping your head when the opportunity presents itself and that’s where the likeable Westwood has stumbled. But in being a previous winner of the Dunhill Links Championship, he has kind of brought home the bacon at St. Andrews, so he has nothing to fear. Whilst we’re on the topic of English golfers who are in good form but will probably disappoint, then we must give Justin Rose a nod. A couple of recent wins on the US Tour has made us think twice about the choker tag we’ve labelled him with and an Open win might get rid of it altogether. Might.
The fact that we already know what type of stupid pants Ian Poulter will be wearing at St. Andrews suggests he has been spending even more time on his wardrobe than normal. As that was already rather a lot of time to begin with, we can only assume he hasn’t touched a golf club in weeks. They’re tartan by the way and the rumour is he’ll continue the cultural sensitivity by painting his face blue a la Braveheart and head-butting Ernie Els and Stewart Cink on the teebox on Thursday morning. That links us cleverly to another golfer who'll be wearing stupid pants, probably won't win and may also engage in a couple of random acts of violence. It's 15 years ago and two wives since John Daly claimed his Open and as that counts as relative stability in his life, he could be an interesting outside bet.
Graeme McDowell struck a blow for Irish/Northern Irish/British/European/Mid Atlantic golf by winning the US Open at Pebble Beach and the difficult conditions he experienced in California won’t be too dissimilar to what lies ahead on the Scottish coast €“ although hopefully the greens will be a little less like a recently harvested potato field. As we saw with Padraig Harrington, the snaffling of that 1st Major can make capturing subsequent titles all the easier. And speaking of Padraig Harrington, there's always Padraig Harrington. His mixed bag of form so far this season doesn't scream ‘likely winner’ and that makes it pretty much exactly how it was on those occasions when he won his Majors. If goodwill was enough to land you a Claret Jug, then Darren Clarke would win the Open by 15 strokes. It's not of course and actual talent will be needed. Clarke has always had plenty of that and combined with the form that saw him win the JP McManus & Friends Party and come close in Loch Lomond, he once again looks like a viable option for the Open. And then there’s Rory McIlroy. If a head of awesome curls was enough to win the Open, he’d have it in the bag.
If you like to take one event and link it to another completely unrelated event, seeing Spain win the World Cup and then backing Sergio Garcia could be right up your street. He seems to think Iker Casillas lifting the trophy has improved his chances of finally winning a Major. Saying “we’re dubious” is the polite way of putting it. “Utter bollocks” is the rude way. After going so close to a fairytale result last year, Tom Watson could go close. He’s another year older and another year wiser, so maybe he’ll eradicate the mistakes of his impetuous youth.
Then of course there’s the course. If the picture already held a muddy kind of clarity, then the contribution likely to be made by the North Sea further complicates matters. The conditions can change so quickly between morning and afternoon at St. Andrews, it can feel like two very different days €“ and it can feel a lot longer than that if you've been listening to Peter Aliss for most of that day. All we know is it’s going to be a fascinating few days at the Open. And a new putter isn’t going to solve Tiger’s problems.
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