LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – Adam Scott carries a four-shot lead into the final round of the 141st Open Championship. Brandt Snedeker and Graeme McDowell are in second place. Tiger Woods is five shots back in fourth place. Who will win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes? Our team in England debates.
By JAY COFFIN
Adam Scott will keep the streak alive. When all is said and done here late Sunday afternoon, the 32-year-old Australian will become the 16th different winner in the last 16 majors.
Scott has been brilliant for 54 holes at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and has kept his cool every step of the way. Fifteen birdies and four bogeys are as clean a performance as one could expect.
But more than that, Scott exudes confidence. Best example came Saturday on the 17th hole when he blew his approach shot well right of the green and into a deep bunker.
Most watching believed Scott would do well to make bogey. Instead, he and caddie Steve Williams had a little side bet on whether Scott could hole out the shot for birdie. Scott just missed, but had an easy tap-in for par. Williams chided his boss.
The pressure was mounting in a difficult situation, yet didn’t seem to bother Scott one bit. That attitude, combined with a sharp game, will deliver Scott the claret jug and his first major championship.
By JASON SOBEL
Allow me to hit you with a mind-blowing stat on the eve of the Open Championship final round: On the PGA Tour this season, 54-hole leaders are 9-for-29 in converting for victory.
Using those numbers, that means Adam Scott actually owns a 31 percent chance of claiming the claret jug come Sunday afternoon.
Too often when trying to predict a winner from the 54-hole leaderboard, we examine only the first name and fail to dig deeper. Well, I’m digging deeper this time – but not too deep.
My pick to win right now is Graeme McDowell.
Playing in the final pairing with Scott, the inscrutable McDowell has proven himself to be one of the gutsiest players in the game. From claiming the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to clinching the Ryder Cup to defeating Tiger Woods head-to-head in his own Chevron World Challenge to nearly coming back from the abyss to force a playoff at last month’s U.S. Open, time and time again the man nicknamed GMac has shown a propensity for being clutch when the moment calls for it.
Four strokes may sound like a lot entering the final round, but a birdie here and a bogey there can mean the lead is cut in half early on. From there, it’s anybody’s ballgame – and I like the guy who’s been there before.
Recent history has shown that the experience of winning a major championship isn’t essential to winning another – each of the last nine have been first-timers – but it certainly doesn’t hurt, either. I’ll take McDowell, using his past history and more than a little moxie, to take home the hardware.
By REX HOGGARD
On Wednesday we used this space to explain why Tiger Woods would assume the top spot in the Offical World Golf Ranking on Monday and win the 141st Open Championship. Nothing has changed over the preceding 54 holes to change that reality.
While some have questioned Woods’ dogmatic and detailed approach to Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the results are beyond reproach.
For the week Woods is 61st in driving distance (277-yard average), yet second in fairways hit (37 of 42) and eighth in greens in regulation (39 of 54), a potent combination in 2006 at Royal Liverpool, where he first trotted out the bunting experiment, and at Lytham, a splashier version of the original but still of the same genre.
Equally encouraging if you’re Woods is Sunday’s forecast, which calls for wind gusts to 30 mph and a golf course that by then will be two days removed from the last rain.
And, of course, Woods has been there before. He’s won three claret jugs. Adam Scott, who is five strokes clear of Woods and four ahead of the field, has not. In fact, Scott has never held a 54-hole lead at a major, and has never felt the Sunday pressure of the last group.
Spotting Scott five shots won’t be easy but winning a major never is, and no one in the game right now knows that better than Woods.