The British Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club
*This week we have the welcomed addition of guest writer, Mike McKenzie, and his picks. Mike is a 2010 Wofford graduate, and former member of the Wofford golf team. Before Wofford, Mike lived in Raleigh, North Carolina, and before Raleigh, Mike grew up in Canada (which will explain the Canadian jokes he will assuredly make). Mike has served as a consultant to members of our fantasy golf team, and as a long time golf competitor, we are excited to add his predictions to our modest pedigree.
Dave: Even though I would never identify myself as a Rickie Fowler supporter, I will for this tournament. Admittedly, I thought that this kid was just someone Puma could get to wear stuff like this and play mediocre golf. Over the years, I don’t think you could argue otherwise. I will be the first to say this OK State product has had his best season to date and is proving that he’s more than eye candy. Breaking into the top 25 players in the world means you have to be doing something right, I suppose. Let’s forget for a moment that he was cut in the Open last year and focus on this fact: He has played this tournament 4 times total and has finished top 14 in two of those four. One of which was T5. Enough of that history lesson, let’s jump to 2014. Mr. Fowler has been in the top five in both majors this year. That statistic shows that he has been showing up when it matters. Let’s also look at another interesting stat: Rickie Fowler has not played a PGA Tour event since the U.S. Open. And he finished last week’s Scottish Open with a top 10. He’s ready.
Tom: What is a synonym for safe? Consistent. And who is the player often deemed “Mr. Consistency?” Matt Kuchar. I am going with Kooch here for a few simple reasons. I by no means consider Kuchar the favorite to win this week. And although he’s been considered a favorite in the Masters and the U.S. Open this year, he does not get any love in the Open because he has not done particularly well in this major in the past. However, I am specifying Kuchar as a safe bet, because I think he is one of the few near-guarantees to make the cut, and because Royal Liverpool is playing as calm and soft as any Open Championship in recent memory, which will further favor his consistency.
Jon: After seeing Martin Kaymer essentially destroy the U.S. Open, I am firmly planted on zee German bandwagon. Kaymer looked like he couldn’t miss a fairway at Pinehurst, which is no easy feat. I know I made a joke about Ted Potter Jr. last week playing well because of new Harry Potter material, but in all honesty I’m sure there will be corollaries made between Kaymer winning not only the U.S. Open, but also being in contention for the British Open, just a week after Germany won the world cup. I don’t think Kaymer wants to be the guy to end Germany’s high, and I think the ice in his veins will see him prevail.
Mike: Adam Scott is a co-favorite with Justin Rose at Royal Liverpool in the eyes of Vegas bookies with 14/1 odds. The World No 1 is coming off a T9th showing at the US Open and a win at the Colonial in May. Scott skipped last week’s Scottish Open, but comes to the Open Championship rested and eager to become the first Aussie to win the championship since Greg Norman’s 1993 victory at Royal St. George’s. Scott’s major and Open Championship records speak for themselves. Scott will be in contention on Sunday and if the broomstick heats up, will be taking home his second major championship.
Dark Horse for the Week?
Dave: Cameron Tringale. Truth be told, I was going to pick Cam to be my dark horse last week. To my chagrin, he pulled out last minute to prepare for the British Open. TOTAL JERK MOVE BRO! That said, my man has been prepping for over a week just for this tournament. This season, he has had five top 13 finishes which culminated in his outright 4th place finish at The Greenbrier. Since then, Mr. Tringale (pronouced trin-ga-lay) has been getting ready for The Open. I predict that he could have a decent showing with a possibility to turn some heads down the stretch.
Tom: As I like to do with the dark horse pick, I am going with someone for no obvious reason. Shane Lowry was in contention at the European Tour’s flagship event, the BMW Championship, but ultimately lost to Rory McIlroy. If anyone knows Lowry’s background, he and McIlroy are childhood friends, both growing up in Ireland. Last year, Lowry was able to pull the 16 seed upset over 1 seeded McIlory in the WGC Matchplay, though none of that means he comes anywhere near as favorable as McIlroy himself. Still Lowry is an outstanding golfer in his own right, and I think he could be a guy to look out for at Royal Liverpool.
Bradley Neil is certainly not lacking in the confidence department
Jon: I’m not saying Bradley Neil is going to win — although he thinks he is — but I think he’s definitely a name to keep an eye on. Neil hails from Scotland, and just won the Amateur Championship, and has no shortage of confidence. He’s been playing links-style courses all year long, and so he should be prepped and ready for the British Open. Adam Scott said the kid was impressive and I think if Neil can get over the mental aspect of playing in a major, he might be able to make some noise.
Mike: Chris Wood. The 6 ft. 5 in Wood will be teeing it up in his home country this week. While not a common name in American households, the lanky Englishman has one career European Tour victory and two career top 5 finishes at The Open Championship. With only one made cut in a major since 2009, this is a very bold pick. Let’s hope the English crowd can inspire their native son.
Unexpected Player to Miss the Cut?
Dave: Hunter Mahan. I picked Hunter for my 2nd pick in this year’s fantasy draft. It was a pick full of promise and hope. Moreover, some predicted that Mahan would win a major this year. OK OK! One person predicted Mahan would win a major. Hunter has missed the cut in 4 out of his last 9 matches. Of the 5 where he wasn’t cut, he finished 50 or worse in 2. I don’t see Mr. Mahan turning it around this week.
Tom: The hottest player category has been given to Justin Rose, hands down this week. But lets not forget Brendon Todd, who has had top 10 after top 10 and a win a couple months ago. I think the Open will expose the weaknesses in Todd’s game, however, and remind everyone that he still has work to do before he can become considered an “elite” player.
Will Tiger be able to capture the same magic he had in 2006?
Jon: Let me tell you a little story about Henrik Stenson. Our very own Dave Williams drafted Mr. Stenson in the first round of our fantasy golf league, and at least once every two weeks, I’ve heard Dave say it was his biggest mistake since living in Fort Wayne (Indiana). Couple that with the past few weeks of Dave making picks and generally blowing Tom and myself out of the water, and I think the man knows what he’s talking about. Although Stenson notched a T4 at the U.S. Open and he has yet to miss more than one cut during a PGA event this year, his scorecards have not been the same as 2013, and I don’t think he gets it done during this major. Disclosure: my “players to miss the cut” have backfired monumentally the past few weeks, so if someone was a betting man, I would probably put my money on whomever I pick in this category.
Mike: The 2006 champion at Royal Liverpool, a one Tiger Woods, will be singing a different tune this week. Woods looked rusty at Congressional with rounds of 74-75 and comes to Hoylake without a major title since 2008. Tiger has 18/1 odds of winning this week according to Vegas. I’d rather put my money on a 2015 Toronto Maple Leaf Stanley Cup parade down Young Street.
Favorite to Win?
Dave: In response to Jon’s post above, I have been kicking myself for picking Henrik Stenson. For being the world #2 coming into the season, I have been absolutely bamboozled. However, if one could travel back to January 2014 Dave, the line I went with was “Henrik will not win many PGA tournaments but he’ll be in every major and he’s GOTTA win one of them”. This is when my rationale pays dividends. He has finished in the top 10 in the last five tournaments he’s played on the European Tour. In that time, he also had a T4 at the U.S. Open. He also finished 2nd at the British Open last year. Finally, he was recently quoted as saying that Royal Liverpool is a “Course that suits my eye pretty well“. That’s all the explanation I need. I think Stenson will finally show up and play this week.
Will Rory fend off the Choke monsters to find a victory
Tom: I don’t always like picking one of the overall favorites to win, because it’s just not as exciting as picking more of a surprise player. I cannot ignore Rory McIlroy this week, however. McIlroy is already building his legacy around a player who will come and go from the leaderboards over the years, but when he’s on top of his game, becomes virtually unbeatable. The same can be said for Martin Kaymer, and in fact there are too many similarities in their resumes to overlook in the season’s third major. We missed on picking Kaymer at the U.S. Open, and I cannot help but to think that this week might look oddly similar, except with McIlroy this time running away with the Claret Jug.
Jon: I said it before and I’ll say it again, I am 100% in Martin Kaymer’s corner, so poor me a stein with hefeweizen, and serve me some kraut because the Germans are coming to town. Here’s my prediction: Kaymer makes 8, count ’em, 8 birdies in a row. Then on hole 9, turns to Tiger Woods and says, “Does dee leettle keetten vant to play?” Enraged, Tiger looks to sweet Lindsey Vonn for support, only to see her draped in a German flag, while eating a wurst. Does this bode well for my foursome? No, but I’ll sacrifice my score if I can see that scene unfold.
Mike: Justin Rose. Why you ask? Have you been sleeping under a rock? The guy is on fire with wins in his past two starts at Congressional and at the Scottish Open. The Open Championship has not been kind to Justin as of late, but Sean Foley has the 2013 U.S. Open Champion firing on all cylinders. I fully expect some of that 1998 Open Championship flare out of Rose this week. Hand over the Claret Jug Phil.
Dave: Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Brandt Snedeker, Tiger Woods
Henrik Stenson for the reasons above. Sergio, Sergio, Sergio. I really can’t explain why I like him. I know I have touched on this before, but I just support the man. In similar fashion to Stenson, he’s had some luck on the European Tour this year and will be ready to prove himself once again on the big stage. Brandy Snedeker (Brandy was a typo but when I went back to correct it, I realized I liked it) will have a decent week at The Open. He met up with Funk Master Butch Harmon last week and had some last minute tweaks. He also has had some success at the British Open as he came in 2nd in 2012. I can see Brandt doing some damage this weekend. I will try to be as brief as possible in my explanation for Tiger because I feel like I could drone on for a while about why I’m picking him in my foursome. HE’S TIGER WOODS. I don’t care if he has a broken leg or messed up back, he can win every tournament in which he plays. There are several golfers here who are the best in the world, but I do not believe can realistically win the British Open. Tiger absolutely can win this tournament. However, I predict that he’ll finish in the top 15 this week and will prove to everyone that he’s still on the prowl for 19 major victories.
Tom: Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer
All I have to add is that I love Rickie Fowler’s game this season. What he has done is put himself right back in contention to make the Ryder Cup team as the U.S. heads back to foreign soil. I thought Fowler was the biggest missing piece in the last Cup’s devastating loss at Medinah, since he has established his ability to win in match play settings. Fowler has been poised to become the American version of Ian Poulter, and I think he’ll continue the momentum from his runner up at the U.S. Open, and a top 10 last week at the Scottish Open, to make an even stronger case for his 2014 resume.
Jon: Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood
I’ve covered Martin Kaymer, and Mike covered Adam Scott — never argue with Vegas, they have wizards working in their dungeons. As for the other two in my foursome, I’ll tell you my thought process: I don’t know how it happens, but the Tiger Woods storyline is exciting. I’m not even a huge Tiger fan but somehow the media is able to manufacture intense excitement about the return of Golfs current “chosen one.” Also, and let me say from experience, that it is not fun when Tiger is playing in a major and he’s not on your team, because of the television coverage he gets. Lee Westwood is on my fantasy golf team, and while I don’t know if he’ll win, I think that being as he is under the British flag, he will have a great chance to compete and be in contention, and maybe get the name, “Lee WishICould” off his back.
Mike: Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia
Sorry U.S. Ryder Cup Fans…going with an all-International lineup this week. Rose and Scott for the reasons I listed above. The newly single McIlroy seems to have found a little something in his game as of late. McIlroy is due for a breakout performance and we have all seen the type of dominance he can have over a major championship course. Second round woes have been the ‘Story for Rory’ this season. If the Irishmen can battle through Friday and not shoot himself out of the tournament, it is hard not to like his chances. Sergio Garcia has been very impressive this season in America and across the pond. Look for the 2014 Qatar Masters champ to be in the hunt. Putting has hindered Garcia in past majors, but he seems to have found new love for the putter and is a respectable 28th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained on the green. With three top 3s since April and a T2 at the Travelers two weeks ago, I expect a big week from the Spaniard.