When 156 of the best golfers in the world tee it up at the Open Championship in a few weeks, they'll need to understand two things: get your birdies early and bring your best short game.
Of course, Royal Lytham & St. Annes, the host for the 141st playing of the British Open, is more complex than that. But the front nine can be one of the easiest in the Open Championship rotation. In the entire history of the tournament, this front side has surrendered some of the lowest scores.
But, what you win from the front side—if you win on the front side—the back nine will take away. The final six holes are all long, very difficult par fours that will chew up your red numbers and spit you out to the reality of golf over par, especially if the winds pick up.
Lytham is a punishing links course with narrow fairways, small greens and 205 bunkers that almost always guarantee a bogey or worse if you get in them. And you have to be able to deal with bad bounces because you're going to get them. You really need to be able to anticipate where the ball will bounce, which, of course, is much easier said than done.
If there's one thing that has been consistent during the previous 10 times the Open has been played here, it's that the best man has won. There haven't been any surprise victors. Whoever was playing the best golf at that time—whether it was Bobby Jones, Gary Player, Seve or David Duval to name a few—won this tournament.
The winner will need to be a plodder. And he'll need to have the resolve to deal with the little defeats within each round. He will also need to have one heck of a short game because when he misses greens—and he will—he will need to get up and down for par more times than not if he's going to take home the Claret Jug. Then there's the unpredictable weather.
Here are five golfers whose games are suited to succeed at Lytham—with a few predictions thrown in for good measure.