20 players to watch at the British Open

Luke Donald

Luke Donald

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:

•••

photo

Luke Donald blasts out of the sand during Round 1 of the U.S. Open.

LUKE DONALD

• 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.

•••

photo

Martin Kaymer during the French Open

MARTIN KAYMER

• 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.

•••

photo

Sergio Garcia opened strong at the U.S. Open at Congressional.

SERGIO GARCIA

• 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.

•••

photo

Lee Westwood

LEE WESTWOOD

• 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.

•••

photo

Nick Watney during the final round of the AT&T National

NICK WATNEY

• 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.

•••

photo

Ian Poulter

IAN POULTER

• 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.

•••

photo

Rory McIlroy winning the U.S. Open was just one of many highlights for the USGA in 2011.

RORY MCILROY

• 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.

•••

photo

Dustin Johnson signs autographs during the Masters Par 3 Contest.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

• 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.

•••

photo

Jason Day at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

JASON DAY

• 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.

•••

photo

Hunter Mahan

HUNTER MAHAN

• 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.

•••

photo

K.J. Choi

K.J. CHOI

• 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.

•••

photo

Phil Mickelson during Tuesday's practice round for the U.S. Open.

PHIL MICKELSON

• 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.

•••

photo

Matteo Manassero

MATTEO MANASSERO

• 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.

•••

photo

Ben Curtis kisses the Claret Jug after winning the 2003 British Open

BEN CURTIS

• 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.

•••

photo

Adam Scott

ADAM SCOTT

• 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.

•••

photo

Steve Stricker celebrates his birdie on the ninth green during the final round of the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run on July 10, 2011 in Silvis, Illinois.

STEVE STRICKER

• 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.

•••

photo

Graeme McDowell during the opening round of the Scottish Open

GRAEME McDOWELL

• 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.

•••

photo

Louis Oosthuizen kisses the trophy after winning the 2011 Africa Open.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN

• 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

•••

photo

Retief Goosen after winning the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

RETIEF GOOSEN

• 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.

•••

photo

Henrik Stenson

HENRIK STENSON

• 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).

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