Greetings, lads and lassies. The stakes have been pulled up on the Odds traveling circus and hammered down in blustery Scotland. Yes, I know Royal Birkdale is in Southport. It makes for a hellish commute.
I have the plaid kilt on with the tassels on the shoes and Ill let you figure out whether theres anything on underneath the kilt.
Judging by the volume of hate mail I received after the U.S. Open (none), you forget quickly. My analysis of Tigers comeback couldnt have been further off base. Remind me never to doubt him again, even if hes crawling down the fairway. I guess I had forgotten his romp at Bay Hill a few years ago when he had food poisoning.
On to Royal Birkdale and the names near the top are going to be a bit different than what has been written here in the previous three installments.
Sergio Garcia (3-1): El Nino had the claret jug on his putter face last year and the ball just kissed the edge of the cup. This year, its his to win. As always, Sergios fortunes rise and fall with that putter and he thinks he may have finally found something after a 23-putt final round at the European Open two weeks ago. For you fashionistas out there, Sergio has thrilled us the last two years with a Tweety Bird outfit (Hoylake final round) and the Burger King drive-thru look (Carnoustie third round). I suggest an Oakland Raiders fan look similar to what he wore in the final round of The PLAYERS. All he was missing that Sunday was the skull on his shoulder.
Lee Westwood (4-1): The stocky Brit had the U.S. Open on his putter face and somehow left the putt short to get into the playoff. Hes playing maybe the absolute best he has in at least five years. And you can bet that if he holes the winning putt on Sunday, the party that will commence will be a big one. Just remember us little people who picked you so high, Lee!!
Ernie Els (6-1): Golf Central asked the question last week if Ernie was ready to win another Open. The math world says that he is. Since a T29 at Royal Birkdale in 1998, the Big Easy has gone 2nd, Win, 2nd, and 3rd in even-year Open Championships. Throw in the fact that longtime caddie Ricci Roberts is back on the bag after an 18-month separation and Ernie might finally get his groove back.
Padraig Harrington (8-1): The last player not named Tiger Woods to win back-to-back Opens was Tom Watson 25 years ago when he completed the feat atRoyal Birkdale. Paddys been battling a neck injury he tweaked at the European Open but it didnt curtail him from winning the Irish PGA last weekend. These Open courses are set up perfectly for Paddys game and it would be something to see him hoisting his young son on the 18th green once again.
Phil Mickelson (10-1): Dear Phil, in the future, could you please drop a hint that youre going to plan to play a major championship without a driver before I install you as the favorite in that tournament? It would be much appreciated. Seriously, how does a golfer of his impeccable pedigree pull a stunt like what he did in the first two rounds at Torrey Pines? Creativity does not win you major championships. That being said, Birkdale is a prime place to test that creativity ' you know, how many different ways can you extricate yourself from fescue, gorse, and pot bunkers? Maybe Phil will put eight wedges in the bag this week.
Robert Karlsson (14-1): When Im captaining a game of pick-up ball at the local playground, I want this tall Swede as my small forward. At Torrey Pines, his game was nearly good enough for him to make a splash on the American stage. As it was, hes third on the European Tour Order of Merit and has finished outside the top 10 exactly once since March (thats eight tournaments).
Angel Cabrera (20-1): The Duck may have found his kryptonite on these Scottish courses when he took three shots to run it up a swale on the 12th hole at Loch Lomond on Saturday. And, of course, we know that Royal Birkdale doesnt have any of those collection area-type locations, right?
Anthony Kim (25-1): Hes already had a pair of impressive wins on a pair of classic courses (Quail Hollow & Congressional). A win on this track would be the ultimate breakthrough. I dont think AK has quite the game yet for links golf. However, hell be much higher when the PGA Championship odds come out in August. I wonder how the Brits will like his brash AK belt buckle that hes sure to wear this week.
Justin Rose (30-1): As a 17-year-old amateur, Rose holed out a wedge for birdie on the 18th hole here in 1998. And while he did win an Order of Merit last year, the expectations that came from that one wedge shot have not exactly been met. All of those problems will disappear if hes holding the claret jug on Sunday afternoon.
Stewart Cink (40-1): Hes gonna win one, folks. Stewie finally got the monkey off his back with his win at the Travelers Championship. Hes been close in a number of big-money events in the last 3 years and either this week or the PGA would be a prime place for him to finally grab that first major championship.
Adam Scott (40-1): Odds seem a bit low for the worlds No. 3 player? Maybe so, but since winning the Byron Nelson back in April, Scott hasnt exactly followed up on it. Add to that his still tender right pinky that he slammed shut in a car door (Jeff Kent still snickers at that story) and his propensity now to miss 2-foot putts (see 18th hole, round 2 at U.S. Open and 10th hole, final round at Scottish Open). That spells a very dangerous brew.
Andres Romero (50-1): The good news: there are no walls bordering burns that might send a 3-wood from deep rough ricocheting out of bounds on the 71st hole when hes got a 2-shot lead in the Open Championship. The bad news: despite winning the week after that disaster at Carnoustie and in New Orleans back in March, he only has two other top-10s worldwide this year. However, he can still win low Argentine.
Mark OMeara (100-1): Dont say I didnt give you a big-time longshot. The 1998 Open Champion at Birkdale hasnt really done anything this year to warrant a mention but you have to give some respect to the last guy to win at this venue.
OFF THE BOARD
Tiger Woods: With Tiger missing a major for the first time since the 1996 PGA, the rest of the field wont know what to do. Just to stay in practice, a number of them will roll over in the final round. Tiger, I hope watching this event on TV isnt too much to bear. Get well soon.
Kenny Perry: If I was doing an Odds write-up for the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, hed be the even-odds favorite. But there wont be any odds for opposite-field events. Perry has used three wins in the last six weeks to cement his place on the Ryder Cup team and has even taken over the FedExCup lead (if you subtract Tiger from the mix). So riddle me this ' how many Ryder Cup moments do you remember? Certainly, the Justin Leonard putt in 99 and Jack Nicklauss concession to Tony Jacklin in 1969 come to mind immediately. My point is: golf memories are made at major championships not Ryder Cups. Perry is skipping his second straight major championship opportunity, and at age 47, he doesnt have many good ones left. So hell go to Milwaukee and has a great chance to win there and hell be at Valhalla representing the Red, White, and Blue. No truth to the rumor that hell skip Bridgestone to play Reno-Tahoe or sign up to play Mayakoba and Puerto Rico next season.
Mother Nature: In my opinion, the best part of watching Open Championships is to see just how well the players adjust to the elements. Whether its sun or wind or hail or sideways rain, Britain never disappoints in throwing some extremes at the players. And just so you know, Mother Nature could win this championship. Storm (Graeme) and Blizard (Rohan) are exempt into the event.
A ROSE-Y BEGINNING
*10 years ago, then amateur Justin Rose splashed on the world scene with that electrifying hole-out on the 72nd hole. With that in mind, who will be this years low amateur?
Ben Hebert +200
Rohan Blizard +300
Chris Wood +350
Thomas Sherreard +450
Reinier Saxton +500
AN UNFUL-PHIL-ING MATCH
*Also in 1998, the third round was met with some of Mother Natures finest fury ' rain, wind, and cold. No players broke par that day, including three who topped out at 85. One of those three players was Phil Mickelson (bonus trivia ' name the othersanswer below).
Number of players shooting 85 or worse this week ' 2
*He may have to beg for sponsors invites to get into PGA TOUR events but John Daly can play the Open Championship until hes old and gray, thanks to his 1995 playoff win at St. Andrews. So with one hand over our eyes as we watch him traverse Royal Birkdale
Dalys highest score on a hole this week ' 8
SCORES ON THE FORES
*The most important props of all (par 70):
Lowest score shot this week ' 64
Highest score shot this week ' 85
Winning score ' 275 (-4 )
TRIVIA ANSWER ' Dudley Hart and Bob May were the other two unlucky souls who tied Mickelson on that wet, blustery day in 1998. Hopefully for all involved, Mother Nature keeps her nose out of this Championship.
Email your thoughts to Chris Datres