— Jim Furyk
Quite a shocker, I know. No secret that Furyk can contend just about anywhere and in any major. This is no different. There isn't anything to dislike right now. He's playing great. Nothing rattles him. He has been everywhere before, well, metaphorically. Like most in the field of 156, this will be his first go at Turnberry. Of course, that eliminates most in the field whose portfolios only dream of stacking up against this guy.
He's damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Air his emotions, that is. But success is his ultimate equal/neutral-izer. He's a bit of a stretch at Turnberry because of the tremendous mental test. Garcia is more seasoned for the physical challenge. Yet, it has been only two years since he had one hand on the Claret Jug at Carnoustie. He responded to that with a T-51 at Birkdale 12 months ago. But I like his untoward apathy about his personal life at the moment; just hope that he doesn't get paired with Greg Norman.
The Fountain of Youth played in his first British in 1991, then not again until he was 42 in 2003. A self-proclaimed lover of warmer weather, you wouldn't think he'd be able to string 72 holes together without succumbing to the elements. Fact is, in four Opens since '03, he has had four top-16 paydays. He has always been streaky, and you'll want to peek at his numbers at the John Deere, but there's a 'major' difference between getting hot at the right time and rising up for five wins in the last 13 months to crack the top 5 in the world ranking.
It's hard not to think of the inherent advantage all Northern U.S. golfers have when the weather turns and sweaters replace polos. It's one thing to grow up in a Midwestern winter; it's another to choose to hit balls in less-than-ideal conditions as an established touring pro. But that's Stricker's gig. The Cheesehead has two top-10s in the British in as many years. His accuracy off the tee is going to get its greatest test since he has been able to increase his fairways-hit clip nine points over a year ago.
The world's No. 1 didn't start playing majors until 1995, the year after the R&A last used Turnberry for the British. Not that he needs it, but history is on his side as former champions Tom Watson (1977), Greg Norman (1986) and Nick Price (1994) were all atop the sport when they emerged victorious along the Firth of Clyde. Turnberry is a bit of a mutt in terms of catering to comfort zones of the rank and file. Something for everyone, everything for no one, except maybe one particularly talented 14-time major champion.
You have to laugh at John Daly's reasoning that no other U.S.-based golfer plays in Europe more often than the 1995 champ, but that's because he was suspended in the states! In relevant matters, Curtis, the 2003 winner at St. George's, truly embraces the competition, tracks and experience of the Euro Tour. It's not so much because he's riding a streak of four top-10s in Europe dating back to the '07 Open, it's that he lets the courses come to him, taking what they give. The results are merely products of the approach.
He's mercurial. He's capricious. He's swashbuckling. What might be wrong for some is right for the game. Golf needs, and is lucky to have, the colorful splashes of the now 24-year-young AK. Sometimes, the kaleidoscope is directly in a sunbeam; other times, the rotating knob breaks free causing an unsettling ignorance for not only what went wrong, but how to fix it. In the meantime, enjoy the show. He's eccentric. He's engaging. He's downright entertaining.
Turnberry's course record is 63, established by Mark Hayes in 1977, then matched by Greg Norman in '86. It would make all the sense in the world for Mahan to go one lower and become the first sub-63 in a major. His Sunday 62 at the AT&T National was his sixth such score on the PGA Tour. This will be his fifth British Open; he finished T-6 at Carnoustie in '07 and he's absolutely tearing it up right now.
He won't turn 30 until the end of the month, but the Ulsterman will be competing in his sixth British this week. Last year's T-19 included a third-round 80 (who can forget the wind that day?!), and his total driving has improved tremendously -- he's longer AND farther -- from what was already impressive territory a year ago. Moreover, he's scrappy and has some moxie, as evidenced at the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, where he went 2-1-1.
If there is anything that can be gleaned from the world of Twitter, it's that Poulter takes his fun seriously. It's a good thing he only works four days a week and a couple of times a month; otherwise, he wouldn't have any time to take photos of his sports car, hotel room views or provide continuous glimpses into the life of a superstar golfer. Or at least one that is still in search of his first victory on the PGA Tour. Life is good overseas, and Poulter has just one rung to climb after last year's runner-up, but his tee ball could get him into some trouble this week. At least we're bound to get some primo shots of his wardrobe.
I'd hate to assume that the honeymoon has ended with a seven-month itch, but Casey has hit the fan since his solo fifth at the Colonial. He missed the cut at Bethpage, then again at Congressional. Back up to the Memorial and he went five rounds without breaking 75, no small feat regardless of par. Casey is one of the most likeable guys in the field, and he's properly removed from his anti-U.S. comments, but Turnberry will be relentless if he can't make up and move on.
Argentine golfers give me a heart attack. Just when we were getting warm to the aggressive style of Andres Romero, who makes Anthony Kim seem composed, Angel Cabrera tree-knocks his which-a-way to The Green Jacket, then Echenique bursts on the scene. After a nothing year, he qualified via the IFQ-Europe. Since, he double-eagled/back-nine-27'd a runner-up in Munich, then held the 54-hole lead in Paris. Naturally, he shot a final-round 77 to finish T-13. For his latest yo-yo trick, he opened with an opening 82 at Loch Lomond en route to missing the cut. Memorable name and a memorable game, but proving that he can finish literally anywhere on and well off the leaderboard.
With his U.S. Open victory, he joined Trevor Immelman as the only golfers with major championship trophies still under the age of 30. Because of the breakthrough, disregard his previous experience at the British Open. Master of a low-boring ball flight to go with distance and accuracy, Glover would seem to be a links golf natural. Time will tell if his game (and motor) can keep running all the way to Scotland.
If it ain't broke it, don't break it. Sound advice for the three-time major winner, not that he has heeded it. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, there must come a time when, no matter how many Jugs and Wannamakers you have, conceding to success sans the urge to climb higher is one of the definitions of plateauing, which isn't in any non-retiring athlete's dictionary. What I don't understand is while Harrington stuck with his Wilson sticks because those were the tools that separated him from the pack, he tinkered with the engine that was his swing. Truly a conflict in philosophy.
No backdoor T-3 this year, at least the surreptitious component anyway. Norman himself has admitted as much as well as his contentment with that fact. There might not be a golfer anywhere in the world that is in a better place in his life thanks to wife Chrissie, and has less to lose than the Shark. That makes him doubly dangerous. Winner at Turnberry in 1986, he'll have the wisdom that only winners Tom Watson (1977) and Nick Price (1994) share. Yet, now 54 and with at best a tangential relationship with competitive golf, settling for just a storyline is still a 'net' positive.