British Open hopefuls strengthen links before Lytham test
By Charlie Mulqueen, Talking Golf
Irish golf fans are keeping a close eye on our links courses this week to see if any of the game’s finest pay a visit ahead of next week’s British Open.
Legends such as Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Mark O’Meara, Payne Stewart and many others came here on a regular basis to finalise their preparations.
The trend isn’t as popular now, although the likelihood is that many Americans will reacquaint themselves with links golf on these shores before making their way to Royal Lytham & St Annes.
One can easily imagine the massive interest another visit from Woods would arouse, all the more so because of his three tournament wins on the PGA Tour this year. He is also by some distance the most fascinating personality in the game while remaining as enigmatic as ever.
Just when you thought he was about to regain his status as the game’s finest player and was back to fourth in the world rankings, he missed the cut in the Greenbrier in West Virginia at the weekend. He blamed poor distance control because the tournament was played at altitude but insisted this will not be a problem when he next tees it up at Lytham on Thursday week.
“Yeah, because it’s not going to be this warm and we’re not going to be at altitude, we’ll be on the beach,” he reasoned.
However, the setback underlines the potential folly of investing in Woods for a fourth British Open title at the favourite’s odds of 6/1, a full six points shorter than Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood with Pádraig Harrington’s much improved form of recent weeks reflected in his odds being reduced to 16/1.
Many will be impressed by the 28/1 on offer for Mickelson, although he, like Woods, missed the cut at the Greenbrier and as a result immediately sought and received an invitation for this week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
‘Lefty’ has gone seven consecutive rounds over par but like Woods believes everything will be right once he reacquaints himself with links terrain. Don’t forgot he was the biggest threat to Darren Clarke midway through the final round 12 months ago at Royal St Georges before faltering.
Mickelson admitted: “I am looking forward to links golf. I enjoy playing the ball on the ground, trying to keep it below head high on some tee shots and so forth. That was fun last year when we had some terrible weather. And it will hopefully play to one of my strengths, which is the short game, and I’ll try to get that sharp heading into the British.”
Harrington’s happy memories of winning the Irish PGA Championship on the weeks immediately before his British Open victories in 2007 and ’08 have prompted him to tee it up at Castle Stuart.
McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are resting up this week but Harrington will be accompanied into the Scottish Highlands by compatriots Shane Lowry, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin and Paul McGinley. England’s Luke Donald defends his title. Home