Parsing The Open Championship


The British is coming.
Or should that be, The British are coming.

Actually, it's both. And a whole lot more.

The British Open IS coming. So IS the British. So IS The Open Championship. All three are the same thing that just happen to be called different names by different people. We here at The Golf Channel take our majors pretty seriously and lean heavily toward calling this event, which begins Thursday at The Old Course in Scotland, 'The Open Championship.'

That doesn't mean anybody should be sent to their room for calling it The British Open or even The British. What you will be sent to the corner for, however, is calling this thing, 'The Open.' There are no strict rules here. But when I hear 'The Open,' I think more of the U.S. Open, our national championship on this side of the pond.

Anyway, the British ARE coming as well. England has produced its best young crop of golfers in years. This group is led by Luke Donald, David Howell, Ian Poulter, Paul Casey (all four of whom played on the European Ryder Cup squad at Oakland Hills last year) and Nick Daugherty and Justin Rose.

Donald will be the most scrutinized of this bunch for two reasons: He ranks highest among them, in the world rankings at No. 15. And he has played in five previous Open Championships without breaking an egg (missed cut in all five).

I still remember following the grouping of Donald, Paul Lawrie and Peter Lonard, the first two days at the Carnoustie British Open in 1999. Donald was the hot American collegian from Northwestern at the time. And you could see his potential even if it didn't show up on his scorecard that year.

You could also see what a naturally low ball flight Lonard had which makes him one of my dark horse picks along with Argentinean Angel Cabrera (dark duck?) at St. Andrews.

I called Lonard, Lawrie and Donald the three apostles--Peter. Paul and Luke. All Lawrie did, by the way, was win the golf tournament.

There are so many story lines this year. It will almost certainly be the last major championship for Jack Nicklaus. (If he was entertaining the notion of one last victory lap at Augusta National next year, that notion was dampened by the recent announcement of significant added length for next year's Masters.)

If the favored Tiger Woods wins at St. Andrews, it will mark his second victory there. It will also make him the only other player besides Nicklaus to have won all four professional majors at least twice. And it will crank up Woods' victory count in majors to 10. Only Walter Hagen with 11 and Nicklaus with 18 have more.

Vijay Singh, the No. 2 ranked player in the world behind Woods, has never won an Open Championship, but has three top 12s in three British Opens at St. Andrews. Want a dark horse? Try South African Tim Clark, who has won two national opens already this year--his own and the Scottish last week.

Don't take your eye off of Garcia or Mickelson or Goosen. Don't get your hopes up over Colin Montgomerie. Don't figure on a U.S. Tour rookie winning The Open Championship for the third straight year.

Pray, instead, for severe weather. That's what brings out the spices in the stew that is The Open Championship. Woods' winning total here five years ago was 19-under. It was a Tour de Force by him. But I'd rather see gale force winds and a winning score of even par.

The British is coming. It is the year's third major. And something unexpected almost always happens at it.
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Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - British Open