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The Fantasy Insider: The 2008 Open Championship
Disconnect the phones and change those sleeping patterns for the weekend -- when the schedule turns to the Open Championship, it's four days of must-see TV. You know how fantastic this one is, so there's no sales job needed. Let's get to the picks.
By Scott Pianowski, The Fantasy Insider
PGATOUR.com Pick 'em
We ask for one player in each of the six groups and a wild card selection. We snagged a win with Kenny Perry last week, like the rest of the free world.
Group 1 Pick: Stewart Cink
Other Options: Phil Mickelson, Anthony Kim, Ryuji Imada, Justin Leonard
The knee-jerk play here is to go for Mickelson, in a major with Tiger Woods out of the equation, but then you look at Lefty's across-the-pond resume and start to have second thoughts. Mickelson' got just one Top 10 finish at the Open Championship over 15 starts, and his Royal Birkdale appearance in 1998 wasn't anything special (79th).
Kim and Imada are making their debuts in this major, which gets them off my pick sheet. Leonard's got the head and the experience to compete here, but his Open Championship success all came in the 1990s (win in 1997, second 1999). He's got just two Top-20s since.
So in a roundabout way let's get to my pick, the underrated and steady Cink. He's having one of his better years on tour and he's improved his British game in recent visits (sixth at the Open last year, 14th in 2004). I can roll with that.
Group 2 Pick: Vijay Singh
Other Options: K.J. Choi, Geoff Ogilvy, Boo Weekley, Robert Allenby
This hasn't felt like a vintage Singh year because he doesn't have a victory, but let's not grade too harshly -- he's got five Top-10 finishes and 10 checks inside the Top 25. And while he hasn't hoisted a Claret Jug yet either, he has fared pretty well in this tournament: 16 checks in 19 starts, 13 runs inside the Top 30, and eight Top-15 finishes. As always with the big Fijian, it will come down to how well he putts.
I can't blame anyone for tabbing Ogilvy here -- he generally plays well in major events and he's contended in two of the last three starts here (16th, 5th). Choi also has a legitimate shot, given his creative play around the greens and his eighth-place showing at the Open in 2007.
Weekley finished 35th in his Open Championship debut last year, not bad, but I can't pick him in a field this loaded. Allenby gets a lot of love in this column but his resume isn't sterling here -- he's never been better than 10th through 15 starts.
Group 3 Pick: Sergio Garcia
Other Options: Jim Furyk, Trevor Immelman, Jeff Quinney, J.B. Holmes
Timing is such a huge part of life, and the timing couldn't be better for Garcia, who hasn't stopped smiling since his statement win at The PLAYERS two months ago. Confidence, check. Short game improvement, check. No Tiger around, check. He's always been a heck of a ball striker, you know that, and Garcia's got all the shots for a visit to the UK -- he's been in the Top 10 six times in his last seven starts. In any format you can this week, get Garcia at the top of your sheet.
bad consolation prize -- he was fourth at Royal Birkdale in 1998, and he's been in contention the last two years (12, 4). Immelman has made the cut five straight times in this major but only once did he crack the Top 40. Quinney and Holmes aren't experienced enough to be picked in this pool; both have one Open Championship start and didn't see the weekend.
Group 4 Pick: Steve Stricker
Other Options: Adam Scott, Rod Pampling, Bart Bryant, Sean O'Hair
It's a pool of big names, but these guys haven't played their best golf over here. Collectively this group has 26 starts at the Open Championship and just two Top-10s (Scott was eighth two years ago, Stricker eighth last year).
So let's use some tiebreakers, specifically, who's the best putter? Who's played well here most recently? Who's got the biggest name credibility? Stricker gets the first two checks for sure, and he's a push with Scott on the third one, so Stricker it is.
Pampling has improved in recent Open Championship visits but still hasn't done better than 27th. Bryant has two starts on his resume (70, 23), O'Hair has three (67, 14, 15). My one concern on O'Hair was his play on the greens -- he's currently 163rd in putting.
Group 5 Pick: Ernie Els
Other Options: Woody Austin, Hunter Mahan, Stephen Ames, Andres Romero
If Garcia dropped out tomorrow, I'd install Els as the favorite. He's crafty around the greens and a surgeon handling the wind, and his track record in the Open Championship speaks for itself (4, 3, 34, 2, 18, 1, 3, 2, 24, 29, 10, 2, 11, 24, 6, 5, cut). Go ahead, beat that resume.
Andres Romero is a nifty sleeper, with a pair of Top 10s here in just two visits. Mahan's also finding Open Championship play to his liking, with three solid efforts (6, 26, 36). Ames hasn't made a serious run since finishing fifth in 1997, and Austin is making his first trip across the pond since a missed cut in 1996.
Group 6 Pick: Stuart Appleby
Other Options: Padraig Harrington, Brandt Snedeker, Aaron Baddeley, Fredrik Jacobson
Let's start in process of elimination mode. Baddeley hasn't made a cut here in four starts, so he's out. Snedeker is making his debut, so look elsewhere. Harrington has the defender's curse and a sore wrist (it's no sure thing he'll even play). Keep him off your list.
That leaves us with Appleby and Jacobson, a pair of strong putters who have ordinary track records in this event (neither has made a serious Open run since 2003). Feeling Appleby is a little more consistent and formidable in strong fields, he gets the check mark.
Rest of the Field: Lee Westwood has a good-not-great resume at the Open Championship, though he did run fourth in 2004. I'm more interested in how he's playing right now, contending just about every week he tees it up. I'll be surprised if he doesn't challenge for this thing into the weekend ... Justin Rose's coming-out party came at Royal Birkdale in 1998 (fourth), and he's played well in four of his six starts here. Maybe it's his turn to win one of these things ... Nick O'Hern isn't a long hitter and he's got a pedestrian track record here, but I like the rest of his game, and I like his patience. He'll do something here ... Germany's Martin Kaymer might not be that well known yet, but he's got plenty of game -- he's currently ninth on the European Tour Order of Merit and 32nd on the World Golf Rankings. He's got all the shots to contend here ... As a wedding present to Greg Norman, I'm going to check in here and predict that he'll give us a check in the Top 40. We're pulling for you, Shark ... Davis Love III
finished eighth the last time the Open Championship came here, and in general this has been a major he plays well in (five Top-10s). I salute how Love qualified to get in the event, and you can't ignore than he's played pretty solidly for about two months now ... Mark O'Meara hasn't really contended at the Open Championship since his win at Royal Birkdale in 1998, but he has made 7-of-9 cuts. Here's a call for him to give us four more rounds again ... Don't forget "The Mechanic" as you fine-tune your roster this week; Miguel Angel Jimenez has been solid here in recent visits (12, 41, 52, 47, cut, 3, 26) ... Robert Karlsson has been one of the best European players for several years now, but he's got a surprisingly-poor record at this major -- just one cut made over his last 10 starts.