A Quick Nine: Who will win the Open Championship?

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Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter each made the list of potential Open Champions. Where did they rank?
By
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer
PGA.com

Series: A Quick Nine

You’d be hard-pressed to find a tournament more special than an Open Championship played at St. Andrews, golf’s Holy Grail.

Luckily for all of us, that’s exactly what we have going down in Fife, Scotland, this week for the season’s third – and oldest – major championship. One spectacular aspect of many British Open venues is that anyone can win. The links courses lend themselves to a host of potential contenders rather than just one favorite. Example: Tom Watson’s unlikely run at Turnberry last summer.

(Ed. Note: OK. Who are we kidding? We know. Tiger has to be considered a/the favorite at St. Andrews in spite of everything. He’s been the winner of the last two Opens at St. Andrews – an eight-shot romp in 2000 and a five-shot win in 2005.)

Anyway, we all know Tiger hasn’t necessarily been on his game this season, though he tied for fourth in both the Masters and the U.S. Open. With that, we asked our PGA.com Facebook fans a basic question for this week’s, “A Quick Nine,” feature: Who’s your pick to win the Open Championship?

Here’s what you told us, in order:

1. Tiger Woods. Surprise, surprise. As we said, Tiger has won the last two Opens at St. Andrews. Can he make it a hat-trick this week? Your guess is as good as ours, but he’s already proven at the Masters and at Pebble Beach this year that he has the ability to be dangerous at a course that he likes – and, St. Andrews is his favorite.

Facebook fan quotes:

“Tiger will get his 1st come from behind victory.” – T.J. McNulty

“Tiger is the man to beat, I think he'll be ready.” -- Paul Derrick

“Eldrick Woods will shock the world.” -- Paddy O'Shea

“Tiger -- is there anybody else?” -- Greg Blankenship

“Tiger followed by a close Phil three strokes back.” -- Peter Lawrence

“If Tiger gets that putter working look out.” -- Jim Paavo

“I take Tiger for Major #15.” -- June Moore

“Tiger has won twice there and he'll do it again!” -- Luis Anduiza

2. Phil Mickelson. This one surprised us. Clearly, Mickelson is always one of the first two names that come to mind when you’re drawing up a list of favorites. But that probably shouldn’t be the case for an Open Championship.

Hard as this may be to believe, Mickelson has just one top-10 finish in 16 appearances. That was a third-place showing in 2004 at Royal Troon. Being so close to the No. 1 world ranking, could this be the week Mickelson shakes off the Open rust?

Facebook fan quotes:

“Phil will thrill us all with a first British Open Championship.” -- Greg Nuss

“Go lefty. Mickelson will dominate.” -- Winter Minteer

“Stickin’ with Phil!!!” -- Vanessa Proehl

3. Padraig Harrington. The Irishman hoisted the coveted Claret Jug in two of the last three years – he went back-to-back in 2007-08. The victory at Carnoustie in 2007 made Harrington the first Irishman to win the Open in 60 years and the first ever from the Republic of Ireland.

A proven force in links golf, it will be fun to see Harrington take on St. Andrews. He tied for 20th there in 2000 and did not play in 2005.

Facebook fan quotes:

“Harrington will be the winner, watch this space.” -- Adrian Mc Intyre

“I’d like to say Tiger, but I think his ball striking is not quite where it needs to be right now to handle the Open conditions... I am going to go with Padraig... although Justin Rose has been playing well this year... and I guess you can’t count out Westwood or Phil... love watching them play the Old Course... should be another great major.” -- Chris Candelaresi

“Just to throw a name out there: Paddy Harrington!!! Two-time champ out for a third one.” -- Jorge Perez

4. Justin Rose. If Rose could possibly pull off a win at St. Andrews this week it would have to be one of the best stories ever told, don’t you think? Talk about a career going full circle. This guy had all the promise in the world as a 17-year-old child finishing in a tie for fourth in the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale.

The next day, he turned pro and slipped into a monumental slump. Through the years he showed flashes of brilliance, especially in 2007 when he won the European Tour’s Order of Merit. Still, he never quite lived up to the hype everyone expected.

Now, however, that may have changed for Rose. He’ll head to St. Andrews riding the confidence of two PGA Tour wins – his first two – in his last three starts. And, if it weren’t for a bad Sunday in Hartford, Rose could be looking for his fourth straight win this week.

This guy has earned his stripes and he’s the hottest player on the planet at the moment.

Facebook fan quotes: “I love Phil but Justin Rose is on a winning streak!” -- Renee Sturkie

“Justin Rose sure seems to have all his ducks in line to post a victory!” -- Greg Burwinkel

“Justin Rose… Not that I am his big fan but he is definitely in a great form.” -- Maleek Misbah

5. Ian Poulter. No longer just the guy with the crazy clothes, Poulter is now also the guy with the crazy game and a threat to win any major he tees it up in.

No doubt, there’s no major Poulter would rather win more than the Open. And, it’s the closest he’s come to winning a major yet. He finished second in 2008. Like Rose, Poulter picked off his first Tour win this year and it might be just the extra boost of confidence he needs to get over the top in a major.

Facebook fan quotes:

“No one on this whole forum has mentioned Ian Poulter ONCE! That's my pick for the week.” -- Ryan Joseph

“I think it is time for Ian Poulter to surprise us all and not collapse on the weekend.” -- Nicole Condit Duncan

“It is about time for Ian Poulter to step up.” -- Allan Kinlaw

6. Ernie Els. We would have expected a little more love for Els. There are four players on the Tour this year with multiple wins and the Big Easy is one of them. Also, he’s a former Open Champion (2002 at Muirfield).

Add all of that to the fact that Ernie has finished no worse than a tie for eighth in the last four Opens and tied for second at St. Andrews in 2000 and you’d better look out for the South African this time around.

Facebook fan quotes: “Ernie always plays well there!” -- Jeff 'Longball' Richardson

“Ernie...no one is better on the links and out of the bunkers.” -- Justin Russell

7. One of the young guns – specifically, Rickie Fowler or Rory McIlroy. Combined, this duo accounts for two Open appearances. Both of those belong to McIlroy. Until this week, Fowler had never played at St. Andrews.

Both of those are pretty bold picks. If you were going to give one the nod over the other though, it would have to be Rory, no? Fowler is a great young talent, but hasn’t won as a professional just yet.

Facebook fan quotes:

“I like Fowler or Rory. I think one of these young guys are gonna take it. Tiger won't even make the cut.” -- Chris Troiano

“Rory is gonna go way low. Tiger will be the first loser at second.” -- Jared 'Jbob' Hans

8. John Daly. We did a double-take too when we read this. But, he did win at St. Andrews in 1995. Could he possibly do it again?

Facebook fan quotes:

“John Daly. At St. Andrews he’s money.” -- Nicco Faris

“JD... History repeats itself!” -- Stephen Lippold

9. Lee Westwood. Among the big names, Westwood had the least number of nods and we’re trying to figure out why that is. He’s been knocking on the door at the majors for so long now he’s practically put his fist through it.

Mark our words – Westwood is the best player never to have won a major. He sheds that title soon.

Facebook fan quotes:

“Westwood will finally break through and win.” -- E.J. Michelson


Comments

mrutrough

Rory has never shot a round higher than 69 on the Old Course.. That is pretty salty, so I am going with the youngster from Lough Erne..