Who Can Weather Brutal Conditions at the British Open?

July 13, 2011 – 11:20 pm by TheRiot

With the British Open set to begin Thursday at Royal St. George’s in the wonderfully named Sandwich, England, it’s time to acknowledge that what we’re about to watch is going to be painfully entertaining.

You know how it is when scores soar at the U.S. Open (that didn’t happen last year, but surely you can recall). The casual golf fan loves it as the world’s best players struggle to break par. They look more like, well, us.

This year’s edition of the The Open Championship is shaping up to be something similar — but maybe even better as high winds out of a non-prevailing direction have tournament organizers ready to move some tee boxes significantly forward. There’s been talk that general course difficulty combined with brutal conditions could send scores through the roof.

Holes No. 5 (a 564-yard par 5) and 11 (a 243-yard par 3) in particular have drawn attention.

With strong wind blowing in their faces, what club would players have to use in order to hit the green on a long par 3? Could they even reach the fairway on the par 5? It’s up for debate. As far as the Royal & Ancient is concerned that’s not a question worth sorting through once play is underway.

“If the winds turn around, it’s a completely different story,” R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said. “But I think people should be able to reach the fairways and reach the par 3s, frankly.”

So, conditions look pretty freaking brutal. What does that mean as far as who can contend? You’d better be able to keep the ball low and be creative with your approach shots. Here are our best bets to do that consistently:

The Favorite: Rory McIlroy

Is there really another choice here? McIlroy is fresh off one of the most dominating performances in U.S. Open history and let’s not forget he was one exceedingly bad round from winning the Masters as well. Sure, he hasn’t played a competitive round since his victory in the States. But ff anybody is equipped to deal with Mother Nature this week it’s the son of Northern Ireland.

The Safe Bet: Lee Westwood

It wouldn’t be a British Open if Westwood, one of the best and most consistent players in the world, weren’t in the discussion for being able to win it all. Westwood has 21 wins on the European Tour and that includes plenty of links golf experience. After finishing second last year could this be his chance to break through as a major champion?

The Dark horse: Sergio Garcia

Yep, seriously, Sergio. Not much to this one other than a sneaky gut feeling. When he’s going right, Garcia has the game to excel in bad conditions. Problem is, he hasn’t had his game together in a long time. His last win on either tour came in 2008. Sometimes the British Open brings out some goofy candidates to win, though (see Ben Curtis at Royal St. George’s in 2003).  Why not Sergio?

The Big Name With No Chance: Phil Mickelson

This is easy. Mickelson is a guy that hits the ball long and high. That’s not going to fly this week. And his track record at the British is pretty abysmal. Don’t be surprised if Mickelson misses the cut altogether.

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