Staff picks: British Open

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• Fantasy Aces: British Open

The British Open kicks off Thursday, and Golfweek’s esteemed panel of experts has weighed in on the year’s third major. Whether you agree with their choices is up to you.

Jeff Babineau
Babineau’s winner: Ernie Els.

Where have you been, Big Easy? In the current Tiger vacuum, the time is now to step up, and few have the British Open resume that Double-E can boast. We’re talking 10 top 10s at the Open Championship, including a victory at Muirfield in ‘02.

This guy knows the clock is ticking and the time is now for his enormous talents to shine through. Of course, that means waking up his dormant putter, which is the only thing that really kept him from the thick of things at Torrey Pines.

Without Tiger around, and with Philly Mick still trying to figure out how to play in the high winds of an Open Championship, this opening is simply too tempting to pass up.
Babineau’s sleeper: Andres Romero.

Let’s see, wink, give me Kenny Perry for $200. Oh, you say he’s playing Milwaukee over Birkdale, eh? Interesting choice.

Then give me Andres Romero, the Open birdie machine from Carnoustie by way of Argentina who made 10 birdies in 14 holes on Sunday a year ago, turning a beast into a little kitten. Only poor 71st-hole shot selection, a stone wall and an unlucky bounce kept this kid from chugging from the Claret Jug a year ago.

Romero is fearless, has a great attitude, and seems to enjoy the world stage – and none gets any bigger than this one.

Jeff Rude

Rude’s winner: Sergio Garcia.

He’s in form. It’s about time. He plays well at the Open Championship (see 2007). And his kryptonite, a certain one-legged wonder, won’t be there.

Rude’s sleeper: Lee Westwood.

Ranked 18th in the world, Westwood came a whisker from getting into the U.S. Open playoff. He’s not only playing well, he’s playing in his home country.

Rex Hoggard
Hoggard’s winner: Sergio Garcia.

The Players Championship proved he could deliver with the putter when it mattered. The Open Championship appears to be the major the best-player-without-a-major will win. His last seven finishes in the game’s oldest shindig are second, T-5, T-5, MC, T-10, T-8, T-9.

“El Nino” is also on form with a victory (Players), T-4 (St. Jude) and T-18 (U.S. Open).

And if all that isn’t enough to make Garcia your Birkdale pick, this is a Ryder Cup year. For the temperamental Spaniard that means he’s saving his best golf for this side of the All-Star Break.
Hoggard’s sleeper: Boo Weekley.

Forget Weekley’s four-weeks of inactivity following the birth of his second child. Forget his sometimes questionable putting. Forget that when you say links, the favorite son of the Florida Panhandle probably thinks Jimmy Dean.

Weekley’s ballstriking will separate him from the field if there’s even a hint of bad weather and his balky putting is minimized by the slower greens – at least in comparison to the putting surfaces at Augusta National and Torrey Pines – found at the British Open. He also finished T-35 in his first trip across the pond, and that was with weekend rounds of 72-75.

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