20 players to watch at the British Open

Luke Donald
Luke Donald ( Associated Press )

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A capsule look at 20 top contenders for the British Open, to be played July 14-17 at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England:



• Age: 33

• Country: England

• World ranking: 1

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 7

• Open highlight: Playing with Jack Nicklaus at St. Andrews to see his final round at a major championship.

• Assets: Efficient all-around game, and short game that ranks among the best. There's a reason he's No. 1.

• Liabilities: The pressure of being No. 1 in the world and trying to win his first major on home soil. Driving tends to make him work harder than he should.



• Age: 26

• Country: Germany

• World ranking: 3

• Majors: PGA Championship (2010)

• Worldwide wins: 9

• Open highlight: Tie for seventh at St. Andrews last year.

• Assets: When he gets around the lead, he knows how to win. Has a 9-3 lead over Rory McIlroy in career wins.

• Liabilities: Has finished out of the top 10 in all but two of his last 12 stroke-play events.



• Age: 30

• Country: Spain

• World ranking: 53

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 18

• Open highlight: Standing on the 18th tee at Carnoustie with a one-shot lead in 2007. He then made bogey from a bunker and lost in a playoff to Padraig Harrington.

• Assets: A supreme ball-striker who has momentum simply by qualifying for the last two majors.

• Liabilities: Still haunted by three close calls in the Open, along with other chances in the majors.



• Age: 38

• Country: England

• World ranking: 2

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 34

• Open highlight: Hitting 9-iron from a pot bunker that cleared the edge by inches and reached the 18th green in the final round at Turnberry in 2009. Alas, he three-putted from long range and missed the playoff by one shot.

• Assets: Excellent driver and good iron player, along with experience at contending in the majors.

• Liabilities: Chipping not a strength. The clock is ticking on his chances, and he's starting to realize that.



• Age: 30

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 10

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 4

• Open highlight: In three appearances, has never shot worse than 75.

• Assets: Tee shot on 18 to win at Doral makes him believe he can stand up to pressure.

• Liabilities: Has to work on his putting more than any other part of his game. Trying to hard in the majors this year.



• Age: 35

• Country: England

• World ranking: 16

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 12

• Open highlight: Standing in one spot for so long on the practice green at Royal Birkdale that when he finished, there was dead grass beneath his shoes. He made a clutch putt on the 72nd hole and finished second.

• Assets: Strong putter who simply knows how to score.

• Liabilities: Johnny Miller was right: Not the greatest ball-striker, and not terribly long.



• Age: 22

• Country: Northern Ireland

• World ranking: 4

• Majors: U.S. Open (2011)

• Worldwide wins: 3

• Open highlight: Tying the major championship record with a 63 in the opening round at St. Andrews last year.

• Assets: A long list, starting with a simple, powerful swing and a great head.

• Liabilities: Hits it high, which works beautifully on long courses that are on the soft side. Shot his 80 at St. Andrews in a big wind.



• Age: 27

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 12

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 4

• Open highlight: Making birdie on the last hole at St. Andrews in a money game with Phil Mickelson and Nick Watney.

• Assets: Great power and a penetrating ball flight never hurts in links golf.

• Liabilities: Struggles with distance control from 140 yards and in.



• Age: 23

• Country: Australia

• World ranking: 7

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 1

• Open highlight: Made the cut in his only Open, last year at St. Andrews.

• Assets: One of the most explosive players in the game, can get in contention from just about any position.

• Liabilities: Has been off to a slow start in his last two runner-up finishes in the majors.



• Age: 29

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 20

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 3

• Open highlight: Closing with a 65 at Carnoustie in 2007 to tie for sixth.

• Assets: One of the best ball-strikers in golf, even though accuracy off the tee not always rewarded at Royal St. George's.

• Liabilities: Has not made much progress with his chipping. If it's dry enough, maybe he won't have to chip.



• Age: 41

• Country: South Korea

• World ranking: 14

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 16

• Open highlight: Tied for eighth at Carnoustie for his only top-10 in a British Open.

• Assets: Temperament is among the best in golf. Doesn't blame anyone but himself.

• Liabilities: Does not always looks comfortable over putts.



• Age: 41

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 6

• Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), PGA Championship (2005)

• Worldwide wins: 41

• Open highlight: Missing the playoff by one shot in 2004 at Royal Troon.

• Assets: The best short game in golf, and one of the best imaginations to play whatever shot is required.

• Liabilities: He's unpredictable, not only over a shot, but at each tournament.



• Age: 18

• Country: Italy

• World ranking: 29

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 2

• Open highlight: Playing first two rounds with Tom Watson at Turnberry in 2009 as an amateur.

• Assets: Already has shown a knack for winning, and is not afraid when he gets in the hunt.

• Liabilities: Length remains an issue, especially on a long course, as he tries to fill out his body.



• Age: 34

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 190

• Majors: British Open (2003)

• Worldwide wins: 3

• Open highlight: Becoming the first player since Francis Ouimet in 1913 to a win a major on his first try.

• Assets: Has three top-10s in the British Open, the most of any major.

• Liabilities: Has missed the cut the other five times he has played the British Open.



• Age: turns 31 on Saturday of Open

• Country: Australia

• World ranking: 18

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 17

• Open highlight: Opened with 68-69 at Royal Liverpool and tied for eighth, his only top-10.

• Assets: Is starting to get very comfortable with his long putter.

• Liabilities: Using a long putter on a course where the wind can become a huge factor.



• Age: 44

• Country: United States

• World ranking: 5

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 11

• Open highlight: Playing in the last group with Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in 2007.

• Assets: Plays with great control, and his putter tends to keep him around in most tournaments.

• Liabilities: Has been in the last group only twice in the majors, one of those times 13 years ago.



• Age: 31

• Country: Northern Ireland

• World ranking: 9

• Majors: U.S. Open (2010)

• Worldwide wins: 8

• Open highlight: Leading after the first round at Royal Liverpool with a 66.

• Assets: Gutsy player who grew up in the wind, and makes as many putts as he wants to.

• Liabilities: Confidence a little down after blockbluster year, with his last top-10 in stroke play more than four months ago.



• Age: 28

• Country: South Africa

• World ranking: 32

• Majors: British Open (2010)

• Worldwide wins: 7

• Open highlight: Winning his first major at the home of golf.

• Assets: A beautiful swing that rarely breaks down, and the experience of winning a claret jug.

• Liabilities: Except for his Open title last year, has made the cut only one other time in a major and finished last



• Age: 42

• Country: South Africa

• World ranking: 23

• Majors: U.S. Open (2001, 2004)

• Worldwide wins: 31

• Open highlight: Shot 69 at Royal St. George's as a 24-year-old in his Open debut in 1993.

• Assets: This will be his third time playing Royal St. George's, and he hasn't missed the cut at an Open since 1998.

• Liabilities: Good track record in Open, but he consistently is slipping out of contention the older he gets.



• Age: 35

• Country: Sweden

• World ranking: 121

• Majors: None

• Worldwide wins: 10

• Open highlight: Closing with a 71 at Royal Birkdale in 2008 to tie for third.

• Assets: Experience and good vibes. He has a pair of top-3s and a tie for 13th in his last three Opens.

Liabilities: No longer part of the top 100 in the world (much less top 50 or top 10).