Cleat Geeks

Off the Tee: The Open Championship

Golf goes back to its Scottish roots this week for a trip to Royal Troon and the oldest major championship, the British Open, much more commonly known in that part of the world as simply “The Open Championship,” entering its 145th playing Thursday through Sunday.WatsonBritishOpen

Troon’s legacy with The Open has produced a mix of storied champions as well as unexpected stories.

Bobby Locke and the great Arnold Palmer each won their second Open titles at Troon. Tom Watson won the fourth of his fifth at the course in 1982.

But four of the last five winners there have been somewhat out of nowhere. In fact, they were wins by golfers who never again won another major – Tom Weiskopf (73), Mark Calcavecchia (89), Justin Leonard (97) and the most recent winner, Todd Hamilton (04). Hamilton has done almost nothing since and just again has a new place to play on the Champions Tour after turning 50.

So is this an opportunity for a breakthrough for a guy on the cusp, like Danny Willett at The Masters in April or Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open last month?

Or perhaps another longshot, like Hamilton?

Or will one of golf’s elite, many of whom are on good form, kick the door in this week and solidify their standing at the top of the game?

The weather forecast for this week looks downright awful, often a staple of The Open. Rain is forecast Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with strong winds and temperatures fighting to get up to 60.

Welcome to summer in Scotland, lads.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

AP Photo/Mike Groll

“I’ve just always accepted and relished that it’s part of The Open Championship,” said Phil Mickelson, the 2013 champion. “I prefer that we play in that because it seems like that’s what the history of the tournament is known for.”

So it’s likely this event will come down to toughness, both mentally and physically, and experience to handle the changing and at times, downright unfair conditions.

“Major championships are not meant to be easy,” said Englishman Andy Sullivan, part of this week’s field, summing things up rather well.

 

 

Picks

HidekiMatsuyamaGraeme McDowell – The Irishman’s “toughness” factor is way up there, having battled the conditions of a U.S. Open for a win several years ago. His game is coming into form including a top-10 last week at the Scottish Open.

Hideki Matsuyama – Japan’s biggest current golf star has been close in several majors and is ready to make the leap. He hits a lot of quality iron shots and will need to as the winds howl this weekend.

Dustin Johnson – We picked him two weeks ago and he won. He hits it far enough to really tear up Troon’s front nine, which will generally play with the wind. And nobody in golf is on more of a roll.

Longshot – Alex Noren – He just won the Scottish Open a few days ago, so Noren is a bit of an unfair selection as a “longshot,” though he’s ranked well below the others. The Swede, by way of Oklahoma State University’s storied program, called that win his biggest ever. This would dwarf that one.

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