I hope you’ve learned your lesson. You thought the British Open would be irrelevant without Tiger Woods. You were wrong before the Open began and you’re even more wrong now. As soon as the first tee shot was struck on Thursday, the heroics began and Woods was forgotten, as he should’ve been.
The British Open thus far has rivaled last month’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines for drama. There was the return of Rocco (you must be kidding) Mediate. Then the surprising rise of David Duval. Now we’ve got the second coming of Greg Norman, the most tantalizing development that anyone could’ve imagined. Surely Norman isn’t in position as a 54-hole leader to set himself up for another major disappointment, is he?
No matter how it turns out Sunday, Norman is going to leave Royal Birkdale with an even bigger legacy. (Well, unless he does a Jean Van de Velde.) And Chris Evert. Yeah, he’s already won.
So who’s going to get it done Sunday?
Greg Norman A two-shot lead is nothing when it’s so windy it’ll make your hair hurt. Norman is five years older than any previous major winner. Guys his age just don’t put together four good rounds, or four good putting rounds. In his favor, there’s less pressure here because he isn’t looking over his shoulder at anyone. The wind, the weather and the conditions at Royal Birkdale are so difficult, he’s just fighting for pars and his golfing life. I think that makes it easier for him to forget the ghosts of lost-majors past. Everyone is rooting for him, including many members of the media, but I don’t think he’ll win his third claret jug.
Padraig Harrington The defending champ looks like the obvious pick. He’s playing well, and his great short game makes him a real survivor type, perfect for extreme conditions. If you were forced to bet your life savings on someone to win Sunday, Paddy would be the pick. But I think it’ll be someone else.
Anthony Kim Sure, he’s five shots back, but he’s got the goods. You saw him make an eagle on the 17th hole Saturday. I think it’s quite possible he’ll win his first major. You say he’s still inexperienced? The guy has won twice on tour this year. What he doesn’t have, unlike Phil or Ernie, is experience losing majors. Kim can win this.
Simon Wakefield Geez, I didn’t even know the Red Sox traded this guy.
Ben Curtis There may not be a more underrated former Open champ. He’s a terrific scrambler, which makes him a perennial Open threat. He can really manage his way around a golf course, but he doesn’t get enough credit in the States because he’s an infrequent contender. Five shots back isn’t all that much if the big winds return and the triple bogeys fly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get close or make a playoff.
Rocco Mediate The Rock is six shots back. That could be a bit much, but the mere fact that he’s in the hunt in a second straight major championship is worthy of a pat on the back — a careful pat, please. The man is fragile.
Robert Allenby The veteran Aussie was one of my pre-tourney picks. He’s a pre-eminent ballstriker and a good wind player. He, too, looms as a potential playoff participant.
And the winner is…
K.J. Choi Members of the media have had a great week and a chance to write about the likes of Mickelson, Duval, Mediate, Norman and even Fatman (John Daly). After all the hoopla and high hopes, they’ll probably wind up with the least glamorous story — Choi. Oh, he’s a very nice man, delightful in fact, and a solid golfer. He lives in the U.S. and has learned English, but his language skills aren’t perfect, so the writers will be stuck for quotes if he wins. They might be forced to take extraordinary steps, such as original thought.
I’m picking Choi to win by two or three in a drama-less finish over the last three holes.