The last time Royal Lytham hosted The Open it was David Duval hoisting the Claret Jug. That seems like a lifetime ago huh? Duval’s final score was -11, and he played the three par 5′s in -10. So that should be a tip to look towards players with strong par 5 scoring.
This year’s Open has a lot to live up to after Darren Clarke’s emotional victory, and first Major title at Royal St. George’s last year. With his victory Clarke became the 3rd Major Champion from Northern Ireland in just barely over a year, joining fellow countrymen Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
Royal Lytham and St. Annes Golf Club is renowned as a links style course on which is it hard to scramble on. Not considered an overly long course, but fairways are narrow and the greens are small. Players will also have to navigate around the 206 bunkers that line the fairways and surround the small greens.
A Group – Luke Donald may be the world #1, but he’ll be riding the pine on my roster to start off this week. Instead I’ll be rolling the dice with Sergio Garcia to start. Sergio always seems to be in the thick of it at the Open, where he’s posted seven top 10s in 15 starts. Only one top 10 on TOUR this year, however he played well at the Masters (T12) and if not for a Sunday 75 at the US Open, may have been a top 10 finisher. Also finished T9 back in 2001 when the Open was played at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.
B Group - Starting in my B group will be Lee Westwood and Justin Rose. Westwood had yet again another respectable finish (T10) in a Major at the U.S. Open. but couldn’t get it done with a Sunday 73. He’s still in search of that elusive first Major, and I like his chances at Royal Lytham with how good of a ball striker he is. He took last week off from the Scottish Open and decided to be well rested coming in to the Open. Rose leads the European Race to Dubai and has chalked up 8 top 10s worldwide this year. His game looks ready to start winning Major championships.
C Group – Padraig Harrington is continuing to have his best season since 2008. The 2008 Open champion has finished inside the top 15 in each of his last four events on TOUR, which included a T4 at the U.S. Open. Harrington obviously plays links style courses well, and is currently ranked 5th on TOUR in scoring average. Harrington also finished with a T16 at the Scottish Open last week. To back him up I like U.S. Open runner-up Graeme McDowell, who’s the straightest driver on TOUR and a fierce competitor that will be looking for redemption after coming up just short at Olympic.
Starting Foursome: Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Padraig Harrington
On the Bench: Luke Donald, Tiger Woods, Rickie Fowler, Graeme McDowell