Punch Shot: Who's the British Open favorite?

By Jason SobelJuly 12, 2013, 8:12 pm

With Tiger Woods coming off an elbow injury and several recent major winners playing with sky-high confidence, is there a clear-cut favorite for next week's Open Championship? GolfChannel.com debates who will be the man to beat at Muirfield.


I've often maintained that Tiger Woods is the prohibitive favorite every time he tees it up. While the oddsmakers apparently agree with that sentiment going into next week's Open Championship, I'll go with Adam Scott instead.

The rationale is in the numbers. Since the beginning of 2011, Scott has played 10 majors and finished top 25 in eight of them. He has one win, of course, and could've, should've, would've had another at this tournament one year ago.

The fact is, nobody seems better prepared for majors these days than the reigning Masters champion.

This is also a matter, though, of process of elimination. Woods is dealing with an injured elbow. Rory McIlroy is suffering through a disappointing season. Justin Rose will be hard-pressed to go back to back. Phil Mickelson never plays his best golf overseas.

That leaves Scott as the pre-tournament favorite, which should mean absolutely nothing. If there's anything we've learned from so many recent majors where Woods was installed in that position, being the pre-tournament favorite doesn't mean much once the tournament actually starts. 


There isn’t one, not a prohibitive favorite, at least. When’s the last time we could say that? A compelling argument could be made for five to 10 players, but each would be a flawed choice.

Forced to choose, however, any discussion must start with these three players:

• Co-favorite: Tiger Woods. Reason for caution: He’s rusty, not having played an event since the U.S. Open because of a balky elbow. Oh, and he also has that five-pound weight – his major-less drought, in pounds – strapped to his forehead.

• Co-favorite: Graeme McDowell. Reason for caution: He has three wins in his last eight worldwide starts. He also has five MCs over that stretch. So which G-Mac shows up at Muirfield?

• Co-favorite: Ernie Els. Reason for caution: You could argue that the Big Easy won at Lytham only because a.) Adam Scott collapsed; and b.) He miraculously brushed in putts with the belly putter.

But, you know, you could also add Lee Westwood to this list, since the Open is the major that least requires perfection on the greens, or Brandt Snedeker, who fits the mold of the next winner in this year of breakthrough major winners, or Adam Scott, looking to exact revenge on the major he lost last year.

This year, no pre-tournament favorite is no problem.


The betting houses say this is Tiger Woods’ Open Championship to win or lose, while sentimental types consider Graeme McDowell the man to beat. But both picks have awkward second sentences.

For Woods it is the elbow injury that forced him to miss the AT&T National, while G-Mac has endured almost as many valleys as peaks this season – winning three times around the globe, including last week’s French Open, and missing twice as many cuts.

Which leaves only Ernie Els, the defending champion and the last man to claim the claret jug at Muirfield.

The Big Easy seems to have everything on his side: a game that is rounding into shape at just the right moment, his health and a favorable history at the East Lothian gem.

Els won the BMW International Open with, of all things, a nearly flawless putter. Always considered one of the game’s top ball-strikers, the South African is taking new life from the belly putter for however long he’s allowed to use it.

He also seemed to team with karma last time around. In 2002, the last time the Open was played a Muirfield, Els teed off in one of the last groups on Saturday, was spared the worst of a storm that produced eight rounds in the 80s and survived a four-man playoff for his first Open title.

When picking a favorite, Els delivers the trifecta – good karma, good play and good timing.


Let's face it. Whether he's at full strength or playing with one arm (or one leg), Tiger Woods will be the odds-on favorite at every major in which he plays for the forseeable future – a position that he certainly deserves at next week's British Open.

In this unprecedented era of parity, there exists a large pool of logical contenders, deriving a single 'favorite' from which can be difficult. Major champions such as Graeme McDowell and Ernie Els appear to be rounding into form, but the former has displayed consistency issues this season and the latter must deal with the heavy burden of trying to hoist the claret jug in consecutive years.

Each of the newest major champions, Adam Scott and Justin Rose, appears as likely as ever to contend, but choosing who will play better among the two is tough enough, let alone tabbing one of them as the pre-tournament favorite over the other 155 participants. And while the game boasts a deep stable of talent still in search of a maiden major win, top-ranked players such as Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Luke Donald likely must first follow in the footsteps of Scott and Rose before earning the role of favorite.

So we are left with Woods to lead the field, and with great reason. He has won this event three times prior, and tied for third just a year ago. Though injury kept him from defending his title at Congressional or teeing it up at Greenbrier, he has won four (four!) times already this season – including against an elite field at TPC Sawgrass, where his ailment apparently originated. Woods has earned his spot atop the world rankings with dominant play this season, and despite struggling in his last two starts he deserves to be installed as the favorite at Muirfield next week.


The elbow injury makes Tiger Woods suspect as a favorite.

The last time we saw him, he was shaking out pain after dozens of shots at the U.S. Open. With his sluggish form there and at the Memorial and with his withdrawal from the AT&T National, who really knows where his game is at? As much as his four victories this season may warrant it, he doesn’t go to Muirfield looking like a true favorite.

The view here is that Adam Scott and Justin Rose are the men to beat. They’re my co-favorites with their confidence high going to a championship where they have special motivation to prevail. Scott, winner of the Masters in April, looked like he had the British Open wrapped up at Royal Lytham & St. Annes last year before bogeying the final four holes. Rose, winner of the U.S. Open last month, introduced himself to the world tying for fourth as an amateur in the ’98 British Open at Royal Birkdale before turning pro and missing his first 21 cuts.

Scott and Rose have the confidence, form and momentum to help them win an event that ties up loose ends in their British Open histories.

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(Not that) Jutanugarn shares lead with (not that) Ko

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 1:58 am

LOS ANGELES - A player eager for her first win and a rookie top the leaderboard at the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open. Lurking two shots back is a Hall of Famer.

Winless Moriya Jutanugarn overcame a poor start and birdied the 18th for a hard-earned 1-under 70 to tie rookie Jin Young Ko at 9 under on Saturday at Wilshire Country Club.

Ko shot a 66 in her bid to become the year's first two-time LPGA winner. She won the Women's Australian Open in February, her first victory as an official tour member after a successful run on the Korean LPGA circuit.

''I'm ready for win or top 10, so maybe tomorrow I will really focus on shot by shot,'' said Ko, who added an exclamation point to her golf bag for each of her wins on the KLPGA. ''I won 11 times, so if I win tomorrow, maybe I change to 12. I need more, I need every time motivation.''

Jutanugarn is trying to match younger sister Ariya as a tour champion. Seven-time winner Ariya was tied for 27th after a 72 in the third round.

Usually when one of the Thai sisters is in the lead, the other will watch when her round is finished.

''If she's not too lazy, she is probably going to come out,'' Moriya said about Ariya.

Playing in an all-Korean threesome, Hall of Famer Inbee Park was two shots back in third after a 69. Her birdie putt for a share of the lead on 18 slid just by the hole. The group drew a large contingent of Korean fans.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

''I kind of started off a little bad. I was able to come back strong, so I'm really happy with that,'' Park said. ''I left a few putts out there. The greens around this golf course are just really tough. You just don't know what's going to happen.''

Moriya Jutanugarn's round included a double bogey on the par-4 first hole and a bogey on the par-4 sixth. She eagled the par-4 14th after holing out from the fairway 93 feet away. The ball took once bounce and went in, eliciting a stunned look from Jutanugarn before she high-fived her caddie.

''Today was kind of a pretty rough day for me with not a very good start and like trying to come back,'' Jutanugarn said. ''I just try to play my game and be patient out there I think is the key.''

Jutanugarn, the second-round leader, read the break perfectly on a long putt to make birdie on 18 and share the lead with Ko.

Playing two groups ahead of Jutanugarn, Caroline Inglis also eagled the 14th from 180 yards. She briefly jumped up and down and smiled after three bogeys and a double bogey. She shot a 69 and was four shots back in a tie for sixth with Minjee Lee.

''It was like one bounce and then it like trickled in,'' Inglis said.

Aditi Ashok eagled 14 early in the round.

Ko did some scrambling of her own. Her ball found a sandy hazard on the 17th with a scoreboard and a winding creek in between her and the green 190 yards away. Her approach landed just off the green and she made par. Her round included six birdies and a bogey on 16.

Eun-Hee Ji (70) and American Marina Alex (72) were tied for fourth at 6 under.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng shot a 70 and was in a six-way tie for 12th at 2 under.

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Defending champs Singh, Franco take senior lead

By Associated PressApril 22, 2018, 12:15 am

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco took the third-round lead Saturday in the windy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Singh and Franco shot a 7-under 47 in wind gusting to 20 mph on the Top of the Rock par-3 course to get to 19-under 145, a stroke ahead of the teams of David Toms-Steve Flesch and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett.

''It was a tough day,'' Singh said. ''The wind was swirling, have to get the club right and we made some putts. Carlos played really well on the back nine and I played really well on the front nine, so we ham-and-egged it a little.''

Toms and Flesch also shot 47, and Broadhurst and Triplett had a 33 on the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course.

''We just paired well together,'' Toms said. ''I don't think either one of us played great. We picked each other up out there.''

Wind and rain is expected Sunday when the teams finish at Top of the Rock, again playing the front nine in alternate shot and the back nine in better ball.

''Make as many birdies as possible and see what happens,'' Singh said. ''That's all we can do.''

Singh and Franco are trying to become the first to successfully defend a title since Jim Colbert and Andy North in 2001. Singh won the Toshiba Classic in March for his first individual senior title.

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Flesch won the Mitsubishi Electric Classic last week in Georgia for his first senior victory.

Tom Lehman and Bernhard Langer had a 34 at Mountain Top to join Spanish stars Miguel Angel Jimenez and Jose Maria Olazabal at 17 under. Jimenez and Olazabal had a 33 at Mountain Top.

''It's great for me to be able to play with him as a team member,'' Olazabal said. ''We do have great memories from the Ryder Cup and other events, and it's always a great pleasure to play with a great player and a friend.''

Langer took the final-round forecast in stride.

''We've done it hundreds of times before and we'll probably do it again,'' Langer said. ''We'll make the best of it. We both have a good attitude. We're known to play in all sorts of weather and I just look forward to playing one more day with my partner here.''

Wisconsin neighbors Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly were 16 under after a 48 at Top of the Rock.

John Daly and Michael Allen, the second-round leaders after a 46 at Top of the Rock, had a 37 at Mountain Top to drop into a tie for seventh at 15 under.

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Landry shares Valero lead, eyes first career win

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 11:15 pm

After coming up just short of a breakthrough win earlier this season, Andrew Landry has another chance to earn his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open.

Landry came within inches of winning the CareerBuilder Challenge in January, ultimately losing to Jon Rahm in a four-hole playoff. He struggled to find form in the wake of his close call, missing the cut in each of his four starts following his runner-up finish in Palm Springs.

But Landry took some time off to welcome his first child, Brooks, last month and he made it to the weekend in his first start back last week at the RBC Heritage, where he finished T-42. He made a move up the standings Saturday at TPC San Antonio with a bogey-free 67, and at 13 under shares the lead with Zach Johnson heading into the final round.

"I just did everything really good," Landry told reporters. "I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat, and I had a couple bad putts that I didn't really make. I'm happy with it, it's a good 5-under round. Gets me in the final group tomorrow and we'll see what happens."

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

Landry started the day one shot off the pace and in the final group with Johnson and Ryan Moore, and at one point he took sole possession of the lead after birdies on three of his first six holes. Now he'll have another chance in the day's final tee time where he's grouped with Johnson and Trey Mullinax, who sits one shot back after firing a course-record 62 in the third round.

For Landry, it's another opportunity to break into the winner's circle, and it's one for which he feels prepared after coming so close three months ago.

"I mean, I don't want to go too deep into it because I don't want to sound cocky or anything, but I just believe in myself. There's no other explanation for it," Landry said. "You can totally get out here and play with Zach Johnson, Ryan Moore, two top players in the world, and you can go out there and fold under pressure or you can learn a lot.

"Zach's always been a role model to me the way he plays golf, I feel like we have very similar games, and it's just going to be fun tomorrow getting to play with him again."

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Z. Johnson, Landry share 54-hole Texas Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 10:56 pm

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson birdied the par-5 18th Saturday at the Valero Texas Open for a share of the third-round lead with Andrew Landry, a stroke ahead of record-setting Trey Mullinax.

Johnson shot a 4-under 68, holing a 10-footer on 18 to match Landry at 13-under 203 at TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks. Landry birdied the 16th and 17th in a 67.

Johnson won the event in 2008 and 2009, the last two times it was played at LaCantera. The 42-year-old Iowan is trying to win for the first time since the 2015 British Open.

''I've got 18 holes to get to that point,'' Johnson said. ''I've got to do exactly what I did on the back side and that was give myself opportunities on every hole. I'm putting great, I'm seeing the lines well, my caddie's reading the greens well, so it's just a matter of committing and executing down the stretch.''

The 30-year-old Landry is winless on the tour.

''I'm a good putter and I just need to give myself a lot of opportunities tomorrow like I did today,'' Landry said. ''I'll be looking forward to tomorrow.''

Mullinax had a course-record 62. He played the back nine in 7-under 29, going 6 under on the last five with eagles on the par-5 14th and 18th and birdies on 16 and 17. He also birdied Nos. 10 and 12 and bogeyed 11.

''It's probably one of the best rounds I've ever had,'' Mullinax said. ''To go out there and shoot 62 on a hard golf course is really good.''

Johnson played the front nine in even par with two birdies and two bogeys. He birdied Nos. 11, 14, 15 and 18 on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open: Articles, photos and videos

''Different wind today early on, misjudged some numbers, misjudged some wind, made some bad swings, all of the above,'' Johnson said. ''But truthfully, my short game was actually pretty good, my putting was great. I missed some putts, but I hit some really good ones, hit some lines and I gave myself opportunities especially on the back side.''

Landry had a bogey-free round.

''I just did everything really good,'' Landry said. ''I was staying patient and just trying to make a bunch of pars. This golf course can come up and bite you in a heartbeat.''

Ryan Moore was two strokes back at 11 under after a 70. Sean O'Hair had a 65 to join 2015 champion Jimmy Walker (67), Chris Kirk (68) and 2013 winner Martin Laird (69) at 9 under.

''I just feel like I'm getting closer and closer to playing better and better golf, more solid golf, putting rounds together,'' Walker said. ''I'm excited for the opportunity tomorrow.''

Mullinax has made 42 of 44 putts from inside 10 feet this week.

''They just kind of remind me of greens from home,'' Mullinax said. ''My caddie, David (Flynn), has been reading them really well. We trusted each other on our reads and I've been hitting good putts. Been working hard on putting on the weeks off that I've had so it's good to see some results.''

The 25-year-old former Alabama player chipped in for the eagle on 14 and the birdie on the par-3 16th.

''It was just a little bit down the hill,'' he said about the 16th. ''All you had to do was just land it just past that little light grass spot. My caddie told me just read it like a putt, so I tried to just read it like a putt and it went in.''

On 18, he hit a 3-iron from 255 yards to 15 feet to set up his eagle putt. He broke the course record of 63 set by Matt Every in 201 and matched by Laird in 2013. The tournament record is 60 at LaCantera, by Bart Bryant in 2004 and Johnson in 2009.