Open victor anyone's guess

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:54 PM ET

Should you expect to find in this verbiage the secret to what will transpire this week when golf goes home to St. Andrews, the answer is that somebody in the vicinity will partake in the pleasure of a wee pint.

If you suspect that’s a dodge to avoid a direct hit in the always vexing question about who will win the Claret Jug or any major championship, you’re correct.

Gone are the days of automatically picking Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson — or Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer or Gary Player before them — and be reasonably assured of looking like a sage. It’s much more complex this year, as if it were ever easy.

Had circumstances been different, it would have simply been a matter of doing the math on Woods’ convincing victories at the Old Course in previous Opens. The comfort zone that was Tiger has imploded and it would be condescending to regurgitate what’s happening in his life.

What makes the Tiger situation more complex is that his T4s at the Masters and U.S. Open present at least a tease that he might return to previous form and a course he’s dominated is the perfect springboard.

However, he could melt down with all of his personal issues ringing in his belfry, a British press and possibly hecklers magnifying those issues, and a game of late that has just as many onlookers wondering if he’ll make the cut as predicting he’ll win.

And Woods isn’t the only mystery. One moment that made sense this year was Mickelson’s win at the Masters. He also tied for fourth at Pebble Beach. But just when you think he’ll be lord of the manor, the possibility of a brain cramp, such as the one that lost him the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, is always present.

Consider the quintuple bogey he took at the Scottish Open on the weekend, with the No. 1 ranking in the world in clear sight, but he missed the cut instead. Besides, Mickelson has never done well across the ocean, but he’s just as likely to confound his doubters with a peak performance.

So it goes for the unpredictable majors this year.

Two-time British Open champ Paddy Harrington has been relatively quiet and whatever happened to Sergio Garcia, who lost a playoff to Harrington at the 2007 Open after the “can’t miss” label was hung on him early in his career? We’re still waiting.

Harrington’s win at Carnoustie was the first major from a European since 1999 and fellow Irishman Graeme McDowell continued that trend at Pebble Beach. Lee Westwood looked good earlier this season, but he’s dealing with a tear in his calf muscle that could sideline him.

Ian Poulter won the Accenture Match Play and had a T10 at the Masters, but hasn’t done much since. And if logic has anything to do with it, fellow Englishman Justin Rose makes the most sense with two wins in his past three PGA Tour events, but does logic have anything to do with it anymore?

Rose is my pick from between the ears, but it would be great to see another Tom Watson moment. Yet, it could just as easily be Bubba Watson.

The pitfalls of prediction are more plentiful this year, but as much as that’s a blow to the ego of a prognosticator, if we had automatic coronations, we could divert all those planes flying into Scotland to Toronto, where another tournament is on deck at St. George’s.

hhutchgolf@netzero.com


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