Open Championship 2012: Big Names Flashing Top Form in Tune-Up Event

Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIJuly 13, 2012

INVERNESS, SCOTLAND - JULY 12:  Luke Donald of England looks on during the first round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links on July 12, 2012 in Inverness, Scotland.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Some top golfers such as Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Lee Westwood are taking the week off to prepare for the 2012 Open Championship.

Other big names are going low at the Scottish Open.

The European Tour event serves as a nice tune-up for the links style course the players will encounter next week at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

A deep field has yielded some very low scores through the first two days. This should make for an exciting weekend and a nice precursor to the drama sure to follow at golf's third major.

In case you're more inclined to pay attention to the PGA Tour's John Deere Classic, here are some top players flashing great form in the Scottish Highlands.

Matteo Manassero

A stellar opening round of 69 turned out to be the least of what was to come for the 19-year-old sensation.

In a scintillating display, Manassero birdied seven holes of his last nine holes to shoot a second-round 64.

Manassero's score was good enough to tie for the best of the day, and he stands just one stroke off the lead entering the weekend.

Sixty-four is also the young Italian's standing in the Official World Golf Ranking, which is far off from his career best of No. 29.


The form Manassero flashed on Friday was special, and he may very well improve on that career-high world ranking if he can keep it up for the next nine days or so.

Phil Mickelson

It seems Phil's game has left him over the past couple of months.

After a top 10 showing at the Byron Nelson Classic, Mickelson withdrew at the Memorial Tournament, finished T65 at the U.S. Open, and missed the cut at the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic last week.

A Thursday score of one-over 73 didn't indicate Mickelson was going to turn the tide this week.

That changed today, when Phil rebounded with a fantastic 64.

As points out, this was the first time in eight rounds Mickelson had even broken par. To have this big of a breakthrough at once is extremely encouraging for Phil.

Maybe last year's career-best finish at the Open Championship in Sandwich wasn't a blip, but rather a trend for Phil as he approaches the end of his career.

Martin Kaymer

Still only 27 years old, the 2010 PGA Champion at Whistling Straits has the prime of his career still ahead of him.

His game has been trending downward this year, but Kaymer game may be rounding into shape at just the right juncture for his hopes of a second major win.

Kaymer birdied five of his first seven holes Friday, and came back down to earth a bit, settling for a four-under effort of 68.

Last year, he held the No. 1 world ranking for five weeks, but has since fallen to 14th as of July 8.

Currently standing at nine-under and just three shots off the lead, Kaymer has the chance to gain a ton of momentum on moving day and return to the world Top 10 with a strong finish in Inverness.

If his strong play carries over to the next two days, look for Kaymer as an under the radar contender at Royal Lytham.

Luke Donald

The world No. 1 has two wins in only 12 events this season, one on both sides of the pond. 

Obviously, the only thing really missing from Donald's resume is a major championship. Considering how great of a player he is, he is long overdue for a major breakthrough.

Donald won the Scottish Open last year, but went on to miss the cut at the Open Championship.

History shows that Donald's form just ahead of major championships doesn't give a consistent frame of reference for how he' will do that coming week.

Along with Kaymer and others, Donald sits in a tie for sixth place. His bogey-free second round of 68 featured a lot of greens in regulation (15 of 18), but also an uncharacteristic amount of putts (31). 

It wouldn't be surprising to see Donald defend his title this weekend as long as his usually-reliable flatstick gets going.

By applying whatever he takes from this tournament's result, the 34-year-old Englishman may be surprising next week in finally capturing that elusive first major victory.