We may have a real British Open this week at Royal Birkdale — that means rain, stiff winds and temperatures lower than the scores. And all true fans of this game should be excited to watch. Foul weather changes everything at a British Open. At tournaments in America, officials deal with summer thunderstorms and rain delays by whisking players off the course in brand new cars to a well-stocked clubhouse and all the comforts of home. But poor weather seldom stops play at the British Open because they don’t often have thunder and lighting, which is associated with heat and humidity. On a links course like Royal Birkdale, which is 100 yards from the Irish Sea, the rain sweeps in from the northwest across the cold sea and brings with it lower-than-normal temperatures and a cool wind.
This affects everything on the course and gives players that grew up in these conditions -- and a few players who didn’t -- a definite advantage.
Rain and wind can affect the spin and launch of the golf ball, which in turn impacts distance and control. It also affects your ability to move -- if you’re not dressed properly for the conditions, your ability to rotate can be restricted. That hampers your golf swing. Wind means added trouble for taller players with wider arcs to their swings. Shorter players with more compact and efficient motions often have an advantage in these conditions. Experience counts too, since adverse weather can change a player 's plan of attack. Guys who don't play here much might be psychologically uncomfortable and lack confidence in bad weather.
With that in mind, here are the guys who I believe can handle what Mother Nature could bring this week: Justin Leonard: The 1997 Open Champion is mentally tough and a good ball striker. Sergio Garcia: He’s finally starting to putt well and has always hit the ball solid and low. Plus, he should have won last year. Paul Casey: This might be his year — he has lots of power and can handle the weather conditions.Padraig Harrington: Don’t underestimate his ability to repeat. He loves links courses and won the Irish PGA Championship last week on a links course -- in weather than would have sent Himalayan mountain goats running for shelter.Trevor Immelman: He hasn’t done much since Augusta, but he has the swing and game for Birkdale. Anthony Kim: He’s a first-timer riding a wave of confidence, and he just might surprise the field. Justin Rose: He's coming home to a course he knows well with positive memories of the ’98 Open. He also understands how to play in wet conditions and has been close to breaking through.
(Photo: Jon Super/AP) Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher David Phillips teaches at the Titleist Performance Institute in Oceanside, Calif.