Tigers time at Turnberry
Tiger Woods has been here since Sunday trying to familiarize himself with a place hed never seen before. In 1994, when Turnberry last hosted the British Open, Woods was a month away from becoming the youngest player to win a U.S. Amateur. Now, he comes here as an overwhelming favorite to win his fourth Claret Jug.
You really have to hit your ball well here, Woods said. And you have to drive the ball well. You have to hit your irons well. You cant just fake it around this golf course.
Woods first-round scoring average in the three years hes won this event (2000, 2005, 2006) is 66.66 and its the first time he hasnt held a major championship title since 2004. If he shoots a first-round score somewhere in the 60s, the rest of the field could be in some trouble.
El Nino feels at home in Scotland
Sergio Garcia has never made it a secret that the British Open is his most cherished major championship. Its the one he grew up watching most and its the one that has always been closest to his home. Garcia said Wednesday that he feels that the Scottish galleries have adopted him ever since he won the 1998 British Amateur at Muirfield.
I feel like the support they give me and everything is just amazing and that really helps me to kind of push myself to a higher level and trying harder, Garcia said. Im looking forward to doing well and hopefully win one here soon.
Until he wins a major of any kind, hell continue to be known as one of the best players without one.
Padraig Harringtons pursuit of three consecutive Jugs
Some media types believe that Harrington will miss the cut and others have said that they believe once he gets through the first nine holes, hell remember that hes at the British Open and will find a way to grind his way into contention. Im not one to speculate but Harrington doesnt sound too positive that hell do the latter.
I would say its very sketchy obviously, Harrington said when asked about his hopes of a title defense. Not really showing much form in the last couple of weeks. I can only be hopeful rather than expectant to put in a good performance this week.
Can a Scot contend?
Scotlands two most popular golfers ' Sandy Lyle and Colin Montgomerie ' are at odds and the home country of this championship doesnt have a player ranked inside the top 100. There are eight Scots in the field here including brothers Lloyd and Elliot Saltman, and Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion who backed into the victory after Jean Van de Velde had a meltdown on the 72nd hole. Odds are not good that one will win this week, but itd be exciting to see one contend into the weekend
Weve got the game and weve got the ability to do well, Lloyd Saltman said about him and his brother. We know we can do it if we kind of go out there and play as well as we can.
There are surprises in each major championship but the British Open seems to have more than most. Last year Greg Norman turned back the clock, led through 54 holes and tied for third place. In 2007 at Carnoustie, little-known Andres Romero shot a final-round 67 and finished a shot away from victory. Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton won in 2003, 2004, respectively, and both were considered surprises. Frenchman Thomas Levet shot a final-round 66 in 2002 at Muirfield and was in a four-man playoff that Ernie Els won.
Who will be this years surprise?
An American not named Tiger Woods
Americans have fared well at the British Open the past 15 years. Of course, Woods has won three during that span, but his compatriots have hoisted Claret Jugs as well. If Woods is not in contention ' and thats a big IF ' people around here have debated aloud as to which other Americans have chances to make some noise.
Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Hunter Mahan get my vote. Furyk is as steady as they come and has a great short game, Stricker won last week on the PGA Tour and still gets overlooked, and Mahans confidence is at an all-time high after shooting a final-round 62 at the AT&T National. One of these three will finish in the top-5.
Oddly enough, the weather hasnt been talked about this year as much as in the past. There was a huge storm that came through the area Tuesday afternoon, but other than that, the weather has been nearly ideal. In fact, it was considerably warm here Wednesday. If players can get a couple days of benign conditions they can find some birdies out there. If the weather starts to go haywire, this place has the potential to turn into a beast.