The Open Championship begins Thursday with European players dominating headlines and the betting parlors. But which American has the best chance to win this week at Royal St. George's? Jay Coffin and Rex Hoggard weigh in with their thoughts:
BY JAY COFFIN
SANDWICH, England – If Uncle Sam is smiling Sunday afternoon it’ll be because Nick Watney just won the Open Championship.
For starters, Watney fits the bill lately where there has been a rash of first-time major winners. Secondly, he’s good, really good.
Watney, 30, has played as well as any American this year, capturing the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March and the AT&T National two weeks ago in Philadelphia. He has eight top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season and he’s only missed two cuts.
It usually takes Americans several trips across to pond to develop an affinity for links courses. But Watney seems to have done that in a relatively short period of time, easily making the cut in all three Open appearances. Last year he opened with a 67 at St. Andrews and tied for seventh place to be low American along with Sean O’Hair. In his first Open Championship in 2007 he tied for 35th place and in 2009 at Turnberry he tied for 27th.
Good recent form combined with an appreciation for links golf make this American the one to beat if the red, white and blue is to take home the claret jug.
BY REX HOGGARD
SANDWICH, England – The red, white and blue has officially reached Mendoza Line territory in the grand (slam) scheme – batting a sluggish 1-for-6 in the major championships dating to the 2009 PGA Championship. So forgive our reluctance to maintain confidence with the status quo.
That’s not to say an American won’t win the British Open, it’s just not likely that player will be a Nick Watney or Dustin Johnson or Phil Mickelson. No, if the claret jug is on a transatlantic flight next Monday back to the States it will be a player like Justin Leonard that will break the schnied.
Leonard, who won his Open in 1997 at Royal Troon, fits the modus operandi of a Royal St. George’s winner – low ball flight, good putter, more pinpoint than power.
Weeks of drought have turned St. George’s dry and hard, somewhat mitigating the advantage normally held by the game’s bombers; and the quirky layout on the south English coast has a history of producing equally quirky champions, like Ben Curtis in 2003, Sandy Lyle in ’85 and Bill Rogers in ’81.
At 39 and with just one top-10 in his last 11 Open starts Leonard may not be the sexy pick, but he fits the St. George’s MO and may be the USA’s best chance.