- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

Barker Davis of The Washington Times handicaps this week’s favorites at the 135th British Open. Official odds provided by PinnacleSports.com, the world’s largest online betting site:

Tiger Woods (5-1)

Between his missed cut at last month’s U.S. Open and his flap with playing partner Nick Faldo, Tiger will have a bit of extra fire in his belly for this week’s major mix.

His tie for second at the Western Open proves his form is returning after his extended hiatus. But his conservative 2-iron approach will require him to make far more medium-range putts than he has so far this season.

Phil Mickelson (11-1)

It would seem Lefty should rate higher than 11-1 after his 1-1-2 finishes in the last three majors. A poor wind player, Mickelson has a forgettable Open record (one top-10 finish in 13 starts), and doubts linger about how he will rebound from his Winged Foot debacle.

Throw in the fact Hoylake places a premium on finding fairways and it’s tough to imagine him contending in a fourth consecutive major.

Vijay Singh (15-1)

The 43-year-old Fijian has two top-five finishes in his last three British Open appearances, and his outstanding iron play should keep him in the mix at Hoylake. A suspect putter, Singh also should benefit from the layout’s slowish, charge-friendly greens.

Anything worse than a top-10 finish from the three-time major champion would qualify as a surprise.

Ernie Els (16-1)

The insider’s pick to hoist the claret jug Sunday, Els has the perfect game for Hoylake, a healthy knee (finally) and a healthier mental outlook on the game than he has had since 2004, when he finished 2-T9-2-T4 in the majors.

Els is a solid wind player with length, accuracy (two U.S. Opens) and a knack for holing putts on medium-speed greens. This is the week Els breaks out of his 0-for-2006 victory drought.

Padraig Harrington (20-1)

The Irishman would seem the perfect match for Hoylake with his fairways-and-greens consistency and excellent recent form. But Harrington sounds more daunted by the course than most players, and that vibe is disconcerting.

Retief Goosen (20-1)

Yeah, he’s got a great game for Hoylake and four consecutive top-10 finishes at the British, but the stolid South African has been off-form since a T3 finish at the Masters.

Luke Donald (25-1)

The favorite among a solid crop of twentysomething Brits, Donald is almost as well suited to Hoylake as Els (think a mix between Justin Leonard and Nick Faldo).

Donald’s T2 finish at last week’s Scottish Open also bodes well for his Open challenge, and the 28-year-old native of Hempstead, England, is the insider’s top choice behind Els.

Jim Furyk (30-1)

Forget his solid results this season. The 36-year-old American has missed five consecutive Open cuts, and only a fool would fancy him until he proves he can acquit himself on the links.

Colin Montgomerie (33-1)

The sweet-swinging Scot is rolling at 43. A 72nd-hole collapse at Winged Foot aside, Monty has proved he’s again a man to be reckoned with at the majors with two silvers in his last four Slam starts.

His accuracy off the tee rates a premium at Hoylake. Will this finally be his breakthrough week?

Darren Clarke (35-1)

The Ulsterman always makes an early week leader board appearance at the British Open, only to wilt in the weekend spotlight. There’s no reason to think this week will be any different.

Others

Adam Scott 40-1

Sergio Garcia 40-1

Stuart Appleby 45-1

Paul Casey 45-1

Geoff Ogilvy 45-1

Thomas Bjorn 45-1

Mike Weir 80-1

Davis Love III 90-1

Fred Couples 175-1

John Daly 200-1

David Duval 250-1

Bernhard Langer 275-1

Nick Faldo 400-1

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