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The Open-ly Challenging Championship

By Eric Kammeraad

Welcome to Northwest England and the country where golf was created. Welcome to howling winds, tormenting rains, a thick 8 inch rough, narrow fairways, and, not to mention, the 205 bunkers on the course. Welcome to Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Except the only thing inviting about this course is the luxurious clubhouse, traditionalism of the oldest of Golf’s Major Championships, and the friendly local hospitality.

Royal Lytham and St. Annes will be host it’s 11th Open Championship starting with the first Tee Time on Thursday morning at 1:20am EST, or 6:30am locally. The first time the Open Championship was held here was in 1926, when a young American Amatuer named Bobby Jones defeated the rest of the field. The course also has previously hosted the event in 1952, 1958, 1963, 1969, 1974, 1979, 1988, 1996, and most recently in 2001. A few previous Winners at Royal Lytham and St. Annes are Gary Player, Seve Ballesteros(1979 and 1988), and Tom Lehman.

England has been waiting since 1996 to once again crown an Englishman the victor at ANY Major Championship since 1996. That was over 18 years ago when Sir Nick Faldo won in Augusta at The Masters. It seems like quite a few people think this is the best chance in years to overcome that battle. Lee Westwood is favored in most betting lines, and the experts that I have seen and heard can’t get enough of him right now. Luke Donald is also a huge fixture this weekend for England to end their slump of Major Championships. And let’s also not forget about Justin Rose’s chances this weekend also. He must first rise above playing in the same Group as Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia on Thursday and Friday, but he has also been playing and driving the ball well as of lately. But like any player this week , keeping the ball in the fairway and staying out of as many bunkers as possible will be key to winning.

After those three, there are also a few other contenders that I see out there on this treacherous terrain of a golf course. Let’s start where everyone wants to, Tiger Woods. He has played the best golf of any professional in the World this year; in both statistics and wins. That being said he will be in the Top 10 and most likely even closer to the top with the way his game is in form right now. Adam Scott has not played much this year, but when he has he has performed, as he has a Top 15 finish in both other Majors this year. Graeme McDowell hasn’t played too well in the U.S. this year, but on the European Tour it is a different story. He knows what it takes to win a Tournament as big as this. And as for taking a darkhorse or a bit of an underdog, I will have to take Francesco Molinari. He is 2nd in points on the European Tour and plays a consistent game with a good putter as well. His consistency will help him manage this course easier than others.

The Open Championship is easily one of the toughest tests for Professional golfers. But don’t forget that his also included playing in wind-soaked, raining sideways times on the course that many players just aren’t or can’t get accustomed to. This means players like Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, and Bubba Watson won’t likely be in contention on Sunday. Also players who just aren’t playing well coming into The Open will continue to struggle; like Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, and Geoff Ogilivy.

Northwest England’s gem of a course in Royal Lytham and St. Annes should be the biggest test, and most difficult Tournament of the entire year. For the PGA Tour, and the European Tour as well. This will take a lot of patience, skill, luck, and many other intangibles to be crowned Champion at this course. That being said I am going to make my pick for the winner, Tiger Woods. He is finally poised to make another giant leap again in his career, and he will do it by winning his 15th Career Major Championship. But here at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, let’s just say anything can happen at this place. Because the last time The Open Championship was held there in 2001, David Duval raised the Clarett Jug…

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