British Open Will Be New Day

Huff’s Stuff AZGA Golf Blog – Arizona Golf Authority

If you’re looking for the winner of this week’s British Open at Royal St. George’s, don’t pick Rory McIlroy, the heavy favorite with the bookies.

First of all, Royal St. George’s is way too quirky for the favorite to prevail. Known for its bizarre bounces and hard-pan fairways and greens, who knows where the ball will end up. And then you add in the weather. . . .

As Ahwatukee’s Robert Garrigus put it recently: “If the wind blows, I might hit a few 500-yard drives and 250-yard wedges, and if the wind is coming from the other direction, a couple of drives and wedges maybe half that far.’’ He wasn’t kidding although he was laughing when he said it.

Here’s another reason that McIlroy won’t win: Of the past 11 major championships there have been 11 different winners. That, of course, is because Tiger Woods hasn’t won in the past 12 majors, a streak that will go to 13 due to his absence in Sandwich, England.

McIlroy does fit the 20-something trend, meaning the last four majors have been won by guys in their 20s, the Northern Irish superstar being 22. And even though nobody’s swing looks better, McIlroy hasn’t competed since he won the U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club in record fashion, and that rust will rear its head on a salty course like Royal St. George’s, where “the Open Championship’’ has been contested 14 times.

Luke Donald and Lee Westwood would seem to be the prime favorites, and not just because they are No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively. But both are well into their 30s, Donald being the younger at 33, so they defy the trend, and more to the point, neither has proved to be a closer on the game’s biggest stages.

Martin Kaymer, the big German from Paradise Valley, is No. 3 and fading fast chiefly because he made a swing change that’s not there yet. Spain’s Sergio Garcia has had some success in the British, but he suffers from the same malady as Donald and Westwood, even though Garcia is the fifth most-popular pick by the bookies, just ahead of America’s hope, Steve Stricker.

But Stricker won last week, so he’s not going to be the guy, and Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, also high on the bookies list, hasn’t sniffed it since the 2010 U.S. Open, and even more disturbing, has blown several leads in recent times.

Which brings us to the “real’’ favorite this week, Jason Day. The young Australian is 23 and has runner-up finishes in both the Masters and U.S. Open, where he kind of came out of the blue to secure second while not really threatening Charles Schwartzel at the Masters or McIlroy at the U.S. Open. Day fits the criterion – he’s never won a major and he’s in his 20s, which is good enough with us.

Still, chances are great that it’s somebody further down the form chart, like a Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson or Hunter Mahan, who all fit the first major/in their 20s criterion. Either that, or maybe this could get really crazy (again), like when long shot Ben Curtis won in 2003, the last time they played the Open at Royal St. Georges.

If that’s the case, we like Garrigus, a guy playing in his first British with a driver that is capable of traveling 500 yards.

“I’ll just bomb it and go find it,’’ Garrigus said of his strategy, which might work as well as any when it comes to Royal St. George’s.

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