Woods won the U.S. Open on an injured knee, had surgery and will be out for the rest of the season, leaving us with a wide-open major championship for the first time in nearly 12 years.
The typical challengers to Woods will become a mix of favorites in the ninth British Open staged at Royal Birkdale.
World No. 2 Phil Mickelson becomes perhaps the front-runner, although Lefty has never won a British Open before. Ernie Els has a spectacular Open record with one victory, while neither Vijay Singh nor Jim Furyk has ever won the third major of the season. Adam Scott, Anthony Kim and Andres Romero lead a list of twentysomethings people are waiting to see break through.
Romero was in the mix last year at Carnoustie before stumbling late and missing a playoff with Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia. Harrington went on to defeat Garcia in the four-hole extra session to become the first European to win a major championship since Paul Lawrie won the 1999 British Open, also at Carnoustie.
Harrington’s six-shot comeback in the final round last year marked the largest come-from-behind win at Open since Lawrie’s 10-stroke comeback in ’99.
Garcia settled for a disappointing second last year, but won this year’s Players Championship and seems to be in good form. He leads the European contingent of challengers looking to follow in Harrington’s footprints.
That list also includes: Harrington himself; Lee Westwood, who missed out on the U.S. Open playoff by a shot; Justin Rose, the reigning Order of Merit champion who burst onto the scene as an amateur the last time Birkdale hosted a British Open in 1998; and Robert Karlsson, having a stellar but winless season on the European Tour.
Mark O’Meara won at Royal Birkdale in ’98, beating Brian Watts in a playoff for his second major of the season after also winning the Masters.
Beginning with O’Meara’s victory, playoff winners have been every bit as much the norm as regulation winners. Five of the last 10 British Opens have gone to a playoff, with O’Meara joining Lawrie, Els, Todd Hamilton and Harrington on that list. Tiger Woods (three wins), David Duval and Ben Curtis have been the only regulation winners in that time.
Look for another close Championship. When Woods claimed the second of his three Open titles in 2005, he became only the sixth player to win the British in wire-to-wire fashion. The others were Ted Ray (1912), Bobby Jones (1927), Gene Sarazen (1932), Henry Cotton (1934) and Tom Weiskopf (1973).
TNT will have all-day coverage on Thursday and Friday, then morning coverage on the weekend. ABC will broadcast to the end of play on the last two days.< Next week’s European Tour event is the Russian Open Golf Championship, where Per-Ulrik Johansson won last season.
U.S. BANK CHAMPIONSHIP, Brown Deer Park Golf Course, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – While the British Open is going on across the pond in England, the PGA Tour will run an opposite event in Milwaukee.
Defending champion Joe Ogilvie will be back after he won last year’s U.S. Bank Championship by four shots, but all eyes will be on the hottest player in golf. Kenny Perry claimed his third win in five starts on Sunday by beating Jay Williamson and Brad Adamonis in a playoff at the John Deere Classic, and he is skipping the British Open to play in Milwaukee this week.
Perry’s strategy this season has been molded by his desire to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which he is all but guaranteed to do at this point, and he has a great record at the U.S. Bank Championship with top-15 finishes in all of his starts since 2000.
With the other top stars playing at Royal Birkdale this week, the level of competition Perry will face in Milwaukee will be low, giving him another good chance to win. If that happens, Perry will join Tiger Woods as the only players with four victories on the PGA Tour this season.
The Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds beginning at 4:00 p.m. (et) on Thursday and two hours earlier the next three days
Next week’s PGA Tour event is the Canadian Open, where Jim Furyk won last season.
LPGA STATE FARM CLASSIC, Panther Creek Country Club City, Springfield, Illinois – Sherri Steinhauer claimed her eighth LPGA Tour victory last year with a one-shot win over Christina Kim at the LPGA State Farm Classic
Steinhauer will be in the field to defend her title, but winning it again will take some reversal of recent history. The $1.7 million tournament hasn’t seen a repeat winner since Beth Daniel in 1989-90
Recent champions have included Annika Sorenstam in 2006 and Cristie Kerr in 2004, but neither player is scheduled to play this week. World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa and Paula Creamer, winner of last week’s Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, are also skipping the event, while Michelle Wie will make her fourth start in four events.
ESPN will broadcast two hours of coverage for the final three rounds.
Next week’s event is the lucrative Evian Masters, where Natalie Gulbis finally claimed her first LPGA Tour win last season.
3M CHAMPIONSHIP, TPC Twin Cities, Blaine, Minnesota – D.A. Weibring birdied the final three holes to win last year’s 3M Championship by a shot over Jay Haas.
It marked Weibring’s fourth Champions Tour victory and first since the 2005 Bruno’s Memorial Classic. Weibring’s 18-under 198 total missed Ed Dougherty’s tournament scoring record by a shot.
A strong field will be on hand this week as Champions Tour players gear up for a stretch of three consecutive major championships — the Senior British Open, the U.S. Senior Open and the JELD-WEN Tradition. There will be a one-week break between the last two.
The Golf Channel will have coverage of all three rounds of this week’s event beginning at 5:00 p.m. (et) each day.
Tom Watson will be the defending champion at the Senior British Open next week.
PRICE CUTTER CHARITY CHAMPIONSHIP, Highland Springs Country Club, Springfield, Missouri – Tom Scherrer fired four rounds in the 60s last year to win the Price Cutter Charity Championship by four shots over Franklin Langham.
Don’t expect as big a winning margin this year.
Scherrer’s win marked the largest margin of victory since the tournament became a 72-hole event in 1993. In fact, among the 14 Price Cutter Charity Championships that have gone 72 holes, 10 have either been won by a single shot or ended in a playoff.
Scherrer won’t be in the field to defend his title, keeping alive the best- known of all Nationwide Tour streaks: No player has ever repeated as champion at one of its events.
Next week’s tournament is the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Invitational, where Daniel Summerhays won last year
CANADIAN TOUR PLAYERS CUP, Pine Ridge Golf Club, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Mike Mezei won this event last year when it was called the Free Press Manitoba Classic.
Mezei closed with a 68 in the final round for a two-shot victory over Derek Gillespie, his first win on the Canadian Tour.
This year’s event features an increase in the prize purse from $150,000 last year to $200,000. The winner will earn an exemption into the PGA Tour co- sanctioned Canadian Open next week.
The next Canadian Tour-only tournament is the Montreal Open in two weeks, where Brent Schwarzrock won last year.
UNITED STATES GOLF ASSOCIATION
U.S. AMATEUR PUBLIC LINKS, Murphy Creek Golf Course, Aurora, Colorado – One of the oldest USGA events, the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship got underway on Monday.
The 83rd championship is being held at the 7,551-yard Murphy Creek Golf Course, the longest course ever to host the U.S. Amateur Public Links. It surpassed Rush Creek Golf Club in Grove, Minnesota, which was 7,132 yards in 2004.
Well-known winners of the last 25 years include Billy Mayfair, Tim Clark, Trevor Immelman, Hunter Haas, D.J. Trahan, Ryan Moore and Brandt Snedeker, who have all gone on to play the PGA Tour.
Colt Knost rolled to a 6 & 4 win over Cody Paladino in last year’s 36-hole match play final. Knost went on to claim the U.S. Amateur Championship in August, joining Mayfair and Moore as the only players in USGA history to win the U.S. Amateur Public Links and the U.S. Amateur.
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Raise a Little Hell with Tom Brodbeck
Raise a Little Hell with Tom Brodbeck –
Golf and Dining in Winnipeg – I spent the last week in Winnipeg and had the pleasure of playing golf at Kingwood Golf Club in La Salle on Saturday morning. Despite the frost delay and the chilly morning conditions once it warmed up it was a perfect sunny day on the …
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