Having recently played Royal Troon, host of this year’s Open Championship, I feel like I should have inside knowledge about what to expect. Truth be told, I’m as clueless as ever, but that won’t stop me from making some fearless predictions. So without further adieu, here they are.
Winner – Lee Westwood: This prediction is part fact based and part based on gut feeling. The fact-based part comes three things. First, the last three winners of the Open at Troon–Todd Hamilton, Justin Leonard, and Mark Calcavecchia— have been first time major winners. I think that’s enough of a trend to conclude that Troon is the type of course where a player like Westwood, who has never won a major, can have a breakthrough. Second, Troon is a great course for pure ball strikers, i.e. players who can consistently hit the ball solid with every club, from wedge to long irons to drivers. Third, guess who finished fourth the last time the Open was at Troon in 2004? That’s right, Lee Westwood. The gut part of my prediction comes from the fact that Westwood is just too darn good of a player not to have won a major. He deserves one, and having it come on British soil seems appropriate.
Other contenders – Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson: Speaking of ball strikers, no one hits it better than Stenson. Plus, driver can stay in the bag on several holes at Troon, allowing Stenson to hit his trusty three-wood more often. And for Phil…he is quietly playing well this year. Plus, he has had success at Troon in past Opens, finishing third in 2004 and T24 in 1997.
Sleeper pick – Retief Goosen: The grouchy South African finished T10 at Troon in 1997 and T6 in 2004. He can plod his way around the course for four rounds and be toward the top of the leaderboard without anyone knowing.
Most likely to disappoint – Rory McIlroy: I predicted Rory would disappoint at the U.S. Open and I was right–he missed the cut. I think it will happen again at Troon. Rory excels in perfect golfing conditions where he can let driver rip and then stick his iron shots. Unfortunately for him, the weather at Troon this week is going to suck–lots of rain and wind. It’s not the conditions he excels in.
What I’m most looking forward to during the broadcast – Johnny Miller: He’s back! NBC is taking over Open coverage this week, meaning Miller will get to broadcast a major again after missing the last two U.S. Opens, which moved to FOX. I missed the outspoken Miller during the last few U.S. Opens. He’s always so negative but he is really good at understanding the significance of big moments.