European Tour Starts in Earnest

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 12, 2004, 5:00 pm
European TourColin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood headline the field this week at the South African Airways Open at Erinvale Golf Club in Cape Town, South Africa.
 
Lee WestwoodIt marks the first event in 2004 for the European Tour and sets in motion Montgomerie's quest to extend his remarkable run of 12 consecutuive years with at least one victory on tour.
 
It also affords Westwood a fresh start on the year, a year in which he hopes he can prove to himself and to the rest of the world that he is all the way back from his golfing abyss.
 
Westwood, who missed the cut in six of his first nine starts last year and plummeted to 214th in the world, looks to bolster his confidence even further after two late season victories at the BMW International Open and the dunhill championships in September.
 
Defending champion Trevor Immelman will also be on hand, as he represents the handful of young players being touted as the next generation of great European golfers. Immelman, 24, can only hope to have the kind of start he had last year that saw him notch a win, a tie for sesond and a tie for third in his first three starts.
 
Joining Immelman in South Africa and among the ranks of up-and-comers is Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Nick Doughtery. Poulter, who finished fifth on the Order of Merit (money list), claimed two titles in 2003 and has hopes of making it onto this year's Ryder Cup squad.
 
Paul Lawrie, the 1999 Open champion, will round out the stellar field in the world's second oldest national championship. Though only on the European's International schedule since 1997, it already boasts a wonderful lists of past champions including Vijay Singh and Ernie Els.
 
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    Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

    Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

    Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

    Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

    12/1: Dustin Johnson

    16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

    20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

    25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

    30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

    40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

    50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

    60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

    80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

    100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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    Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

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    If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

    Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

    Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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    There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

    There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

    Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

    John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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    “I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

    Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

    “I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

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    “I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”