July 17, 2012
Five top contenders for British Open
By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, ENGLAND - Given there have been 15 different winners in the past 15 majors -- Padraig Harrington started the streak with his win at the 2008 PGA Championship after also having won the British Open that year -- picking a winner this week would be like trying to avoid one of the 206 bunkers on Royal Lytham & St. Annes. It's a tall order.
That won't deter us, however.
I'm not exactly going out on a ledge by saying I think we will see a 16th different winner this week, but it will be a familiar face.
Stevenson's top five contenders for the British Open:
1. Tiger Woods: He has won three times this year and has said he likes the Lytham layout and the challenge of shaping shots around the bunkers. He likely will never be as dominant as he once was but has shown he still has plenty enough game to win consistently.
2. Lee Westwood: The world No. 3 is bidding to become the first Englishman to win on native soil since 1969 when Tony Jacklin did it right here at Royal Lytham. Westwood, who has to face questions about why he hasn't won a major, seems to have a chip on his shoulder but not too big to inhibit his turn.
3. Luke Donald: The world No. 1 has been doing his homework, consulting with former greats Jack Nicklaus and Nick Price on how they prepared for majors, to try to get himself in position to win his first Grand Slam event. His previous best finish in a major is a tie for third (2005 Masters, 2006 PGA Championship). He has to stay out of his own way.
4. Graeme McDowell: One of the 15 previous majors winners (2010 U.S. Open) he grew up in Northern Ireland on links courses in crappy weather, so nothing that happens this week will throw him off. He's coming off a second-place finish in the U.S. Open.
5. Francesco Molinari: He has been in contention the past couple of weeks on the European Tour and has two runner-up finishes and three top 10s in his past three starts. This could be his week. He would be the first Italian to win The Open. Costantino Rocca came closest, losing in a playoff to John Daly in 1995.