- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 16, 2009

AILSA CRAIG’S LIST

A look at the favorites at this week’s 138th British Open, which begins Thursday on Turnberry’s 7,204-yard, par-70 Ailsa Course. Official odds were provided by Ladbrokes of London:

Tiger Woods (5-2) - The world’s top-ranked golfer is ready to pounce on a 15th Slam title after collecting victories in two of his last three starts on the PGA Tour (Memorial and AT&T National). All three of Tiger’s British Open victories have come on courses without heavy rough, giving the field hope at lush Turnberry.

Sergio Garcia (33-1) - The course sets up perfectly for the straightest long hitter in the game and Open leader-board regular. The game’s purest ball striker owns six top-10 finishes in the Open, but he’s always been a scandal with the short stick. If only golf allowed pinch putters.

Lee Westwood (33-1) - The 36-year-old is enjoying a fine vein of success after finishing second and tied for eighth in the French and Scottish opens, respectively. He’s one of the most reliable players in the world off the tee (a Turnberry prerequisite), but his high ball flight has regularly doomed him in the typically blustery British Open. He has only two top-10s in 14 Open starts, both of which came at Troon (1997, 2004).

Jim Furyk (33-1) - The quintessential grinder would seem a natural choice for the Ailsa Course given his penchant for finding fairways. Unfortunately, Furyk lacks the length to take Turnberry’s cross-bunkers out of play, further shrinking his fairways and margin for error. If the wind doesn’t howl, he has no chance.

Hunter Mahan (33-1) - The successor to Hale Irwin is going to win multiple majors. He’s efficient off the tee, a marvelous iron player and occasionally unconscious with the blade. He hasn’t missed a cut in 17 starts this season and rolls into Turnberry on a tear that began at the U.S. Open, where he tied for sixth. His lack of experience in links play (only four Open starts) could be a factor this week, though many will fancy him as Tiger’s top rival next month at Hazeltine.

Ian Poulter (33-1) - Please, the guy finishes second at the 2008 British Open, and he’s automatically supposed to be considered a major factor? He hasn’t won any event in three years, and he hasn’t won an event that mattered in five (2004 Volvo Masters).

Padraig Harrington (40-1) - Is that 40-1 to make the cut? Paddy has missed five consecutive cuts on the PGA and European tours leading up to his threepeat attempt at Turnberry. His rebuilt swing clearly is still a work in progress. His confidence is flagging. And his once-sterling short game has eroded. Lottery tickets are a better value proposition.

Paul Casey (40-1) - The uber-aggressive bomber is likely to win a Masters or PGA Championship before he’s done, but his powerball approach is a poor fit for the two Open championships, which usually place a premium on driving accuracy. Casey’s No. 3 status is a comical indictment of the rankings system.

Martin Kaymer (40-1) - The 24-year-old German can claim to be the world’s hottest player after posting back-to-back victories in Europe in the French and Scottish Opens. Europe’s answer to Anthony Kim is a big hitter with a major-ready stoic demeanor. The latter is no surprise given his nationality, but he’s boasts only one Open start, tying for 80th at Birkdale last year.

Rory McIlroy (40-1) - The Northern Irish phenom has made 17 cuts in 19 starts on the PGA and European tours this season, backing up his hype by posting one victory and six other top-10s. Unlike Kaymer, the 20-year-old McIlroy grew up playing links golf and could be a leader-board staple this week. Easily the best pick of the 40-1 bunch.

- Barker Davis


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