Guest Post – by Tour Pro Insider
It’s incredible how quickly the attention of the golfing world has shifted to English shores. It only seems like yesterday that Webb Simpson was securing his maiden Major victory at the US Open, but now it is Royal Lytham & St Anne’s that comes into focus.
On Thursday the famous Lancashire course will host the Open Championship for an 11th time, with famous past winners here including Seve Ballesteros (twice), Gary Player and Tony Jacklin.
For this 141st Championship though, it is harder to pick a winner than ever, with Tiger Woods’ loosening grip on golf’s Majors resulting in the last 15 tournaments all being won by different players.
Remarkably, the last nine Majors have in fact all been clinched by first-time winners including the Northern Irish trio of Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke. Who will be competing for this year’s Claret Jug though?
Given how open the field has been in recent tournaments, many pundits might be reduced to guesswork – but I racked up 20 hours on the Links early this week following the practice rounds and have my own hunches.
One considerable factor to note is that the course will certainly be playing long this week. It looks extremely likely that the fairways are going to be pretty damp given the poor weather of late and the forecast for the weekend predicts further downpours.
Tiger Woods commented that Royal Lytham was “almost unplayable” on Monday and with the merciless weather not set to relent, it’s unlikely to get any easier. With that in mind, my tip for the weekend is recent St. Jude Classic winner Dustin Johnson.
With the course playing long and wide, Johnson’s booming drives are a definite ace in the hole. With less run on the ball, he will have license to let rip his TaylorMade R11S driver, while on tighter holes he can rely on his RocketBallz 3 Wood, which he averages a thumping 300 yards with –meaning even the longer par 4s are within his reach.
The American has often fallen at the final hurdle in Major Championships, with his ability on and around the greens being perceived as his primary weakness. However, with the greens at Lytham this week set to play at a relatively slow pace, Johnson should be able to execute the ‘bump and run’ shots that suit his game.
There are a group of outsiders who I personally feel could mount a challenge to Johnson and the usual bookies favorites. Thongchai Jaidee, Lucas Glover and John Daly all appear to have the assets to perform in what will surely be difficult conditions.
Having been a regular winner on the Asian Tour, Jaidee triumphed at the Wales Open earlier this year in similarly wet and windy conditions, striking the ball superbly with his Callaway Razr clubs.
Glover, a surprise US Open victor in 2009, caught my eye throughout his practice round at Royal Lytham on Monday, firing confidently at the flagsticks with his Nike Pro Combo irons along the back nine.
John Daly on the other hand, goes into this tournament with no real form to speak of and is something of a sentimental pick, but with his long, powerful tee shots, could make an impact in a similar way to Dustin Johnson. If he arrives with a clear head and gets his Nike Method putter rolling smoothly to complement those booming TaylorMade Superfast drives, then who knows?
Come Sunday evening all will be revealed. We may well be in for another shock with yet another new name etched on the Claret Jug. However, if the run of first time Major winners is ended and a blast from the past such as Sandy Lyle triumphs, I will certainly be eating my hat rather than collecting my winnings!
The Tour Pro Insider attends all the major PGA & European Tour events, getting an ‘inside the ropes’ view of professional golf. Follow him on twitter @TourProInsider for the latest updates or visit Tour Pro Golf Clubs for more information on the clubs used by the world’s top golfers.