by Jeff Skinner
Who will be The Champion Golfer of the Year?
Lee Westwood is number three in the world and the past two years he has been very close to breaking through for his first major. He’s won on the PGA Tour, finished second at The Masters and has three top tens on the European Tour this season. He is the consensus best player never to have won a major. He’ll be looking to shed that title and claim the Claret Jug this week.
From 2006 to 2008 at The Open Championship Jim Furyk has earned ties for 4th, 12th and 5th. With two PGA Tour wins this season Furyk is on his game and he can putt with the best of them. With the huge green complexes at The Old Course he’ll be able to put that putter to good use.
You don’t have to look to far past Tiger Woods to find the last man to win two Open Championships. Paddy Harrington won back to back in 2007 and 2008 and followed that by winning the 2008 PGA Championship. He looked ready to be the guy that displaced Tiger as the major force in golf. This year he started well but he is off his form of late. However you can’t discount a player with the track record of Paddy. One thing is for sure, he’ll lead the field in smiling all week.
Another player of the “old guard” that can win at St. Andrews is Retief Goosen. Since 2006 Goosen has a T5, T14, T23, and a tie for fifth last year. He knows how to win a major and can play the links with the best of them.
Ian Poulter can win here, just go ask him. Along with Westwood and Luke Donald, Poulter is leading the resurgence of English Golf. He has won on The PGA Tour earlier this season and finished second to Paddy in 2008.
Phil Mickelson professes how much he loves St. Andrews and the Open Championship but his on course performance leaves much to be desired. Consider this: Phil only has one top ten in 17 Open Championship appearances. Recently Phil said he has better control of his ball flight and his spin, variables he insists are critical to success in The Open. This has to be the course that gives Phil his best chance at an Open title. The fairways are the widest he’ll ever see and he says that this course doesn’t take the driver out of his hand. He loves the creativity that the greens allow and he relishes the challenges of the quirkiest course in the Open rotation. Wide fairways, driver in hand, and imagination around the greens: it sounds like St. Andrews is ripe for The Philly Mick Show. If Phil is to ever get that “Career Slam” this is his best opportunity to claim his Open Championship crown.
Recent winners Graeme McDowell and Steve Stricker will be looking to keep it going at St. Andrews. Justin Rose is as hot as any player out there and he would love to win the Claret Jug and complete the English golf comeback. Click here for my take on Ernie Els and Tiger Woods.
The weather this week looks to be typical for Scotland; rain and wind followed by wind and rain. It will test the patience and wills of many golfers but come Sunday there will be only one Champion Golfer of the Year. Let’s hope it’s an historic one.