Tour and News

British Open Confidential: Predicting the winner

Photo: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Tiger Woods is attempting to become the first player to win three British Open titles at St. Andrews.

Every day this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the British Open in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: We'll start with the basics. Who will win? And since we all like to hedge our bets, you can break that into three categories: Favorite, Dark Horse and, in honor of Greg Norman and Tom Watson, Geezer. I'll go with ...

Favorite: Paddy Harrington. The conditions will require someone with mental toughness and the ability to hit a lot of shots. Paddy has been a disappointing bad-weather player, but he's got the other parts down.
Dark Horse: Robert Allenby. Again, high winds and wet greens favor better ballstrikers.
Geezer: Mark Calcavecchia. He's almost won on the Old Course before.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group:
Favorite: Steve Stricker, and the reason is simple: He's on a hot streak. You often see guys get on a run for a week or three, then cool off. I think Stricker is on such a run. Plus, after taking time off to nurse a shoulder injury, he's rested.
Dark Horse: Tiger Woods. A change of scenery might be exactly what he needs, and the expected wind and rain could further sharpen his focus.
Geezer: Paul Goydos (see Stricker).

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Tiger Woods. He can be the new Tiger — imperfect and a little dazed and a loner without a coach — and still master the Old Course.
Dark Horse: Bubba Watson: He's a carefree and nervous fool with a heart of gold: a fantastic shaper of the golf ball who can beat the brains out of the Old Course with his great length.
Geezer: Miguel Angel Jimenez: He won in Paris two weeks ago and his age (46) belies a youthful spirit that grants him the audacity to think that he can win.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine:
Favorite: Padraig Harrington. Woods is the fave in fair conditions, but the worse it gets the more it favors Paddy. He proved he's a mudder at Birkdale.
Dark Horse: Zach Johnson. The Open Championship is his favorite tournament. It was windy at Augusta in 2007 too.
Geezer: Nick Faldo. He looked loose on the range with his Ryder Cup buddy Ian Poulter today. Bad weather gave honeymooning Norman a shot, why not a moonlighting TV analyst?

Jeff Ritter, senior producer,
Favorite: Tiger. He teased us with that one magical Saturday at Pebble, but St. Andrews offers the better opportunity for TW to string together four straight solid rounds. I think he'll do it.
Dark Horse: J.B. Holmes. The Old Course should favor the bombers. J.B.'s quietly having a career year, and he's got the length and nerves to contend.
Geezer: Darren Clarke. He looked great last week at the Scottish Open — well, until Sunday. It would make an excellent story.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Phil. He's too talented and creative to never win a British.
Dark Horse: Tiger. Dude hasn't won a major in more than two years. His neck is iffy, his swing is in transition, his life is a shambles. No way he can be considered a real favorite.
Geezer: Rickie Fowler. A 15-year-old made a run at the Women's Open. An 18-year-old shot 58 on Sunday to win a Japan Tour event. At 21, Fowler is practically an elder statesman.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Tiger Woods. Only genuises and savants need apply at this golf course.
Darkhorse: Ian Poulter. Goes against previous rule about genuises and savants, but Poulter's an iconoclast so this works.
Geezer: Miguel Angel Jimenez. Sunday night celebration will include cigars and a claret jug filled with Rioja.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine:
Favorite: Harrington to win. He hangs around well, and bad weather requires a lot of patience.
Dark Horse: Jason Day. Playing well enough. May love St. Andrews.
Geezer: Colin Montgomerie. Sentimental fave went low to qualify. Why not again?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Tiger Woods. Hard to go against the prohibitive betting favorite, especially with his history at St. Andrews.
Dark Horse: Justin Rose. Is anybody hotter or playing with more confidence? Plus, his two recent victories came on a pair of tough tracks: Muirfield Village and Aronimink.
Geezer: Tom Watson. When the wind starts howling and the rain is coming down sideways, the young guns will start complaining while Tom will feel right at home.

David Dusek, deputy editor,
Favorite: Ian Poulter. He showed me a lot of guts and grit in 2008 when he was the runner-up to Padraig Harrington at Royal Birkdale, and again during the Ryder Cup at Valhalla. I think his win at the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play was especially big for him mentally. He's long enough, putts well and will have the crowd supporting him.
Dark Horse: Angel Cabrera. Sure, he's won two majors in three years, but no one ever seems to mention Cabrera as being a favorite to win. If he can get his putter going early, I think he has every other tool necessary to win at St. Andrews.
Geezers: Lightning isn't going to strike twice, and I don't see Watson or Faldo or any of the old guard contending this week.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Tiger Woods: Look what he did there in 2000 and 2005.
Dark Horse: Tiger Woods. Look how erratic his game has been this year, still he's Tiger Woods.
Geezer: Tiger Woods. The man is an old 34.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated:
Favorite: Paul Casey. My Best Player Never to Win a Major is just too darn good — long ball, putting, chipping — to not win an Open.
Dark Horse: Rhys Davies. The Welshman, 25, won both singles matches in two Walker Cups, and he won 10 college events at East Tennessee State. In his first Euro tour season, he has a win and two seconds and is seventh in earnings. This kid's a winner.
Geezer: Not happening. Players in their 40s aren't geezers, what with the fitness boom. Real geezers have game, but they don't have the oomph to go 72 holes with the tykes, as we discovered with Norman (2009) and Watson last year.

Godich: If Watson would've had a little less oomph, that eight-iron on the 72nd hole would've stopped in the middle of the green, and we would've had a 59-year-old British Open champ.

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