British Open 2012: Biggest Questions Heading into Opening Round Action

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IJuly 18, 2012

British Open 2012: Biggest Questions Heading into Opening Round Action

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    As in any golf tournament, the number of questions heading into the 2012 Open Championship borders on ridiculous. 

    Numerous star players are still looking to win their first major championship. With top-10 players Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose among them, it is a legitimate question to wonder if any of those three will take the title this week in their home region major. 

    Then there's the two most well known players in golf--Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Can either of those wily veterans pull a rabbit out of their hat and win another major this week? 

    Finally there's the always-present question at a British Open: will the weather be a huge factor or play a limited role in the final result? 

    In fact, those questions are present at nearly every major tournament.

    There are some questions which pervade more deeply in this particular tournament. 

1. Will There Be Another New Major Champion?

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    Of course, this question isn't that far off the one brought up in the intro slide, which spoke of the three top-10 Englishmen possibly winning their first major title. 

    This one is a little more specific though. In the last 15 majors there have been 15 different winners. Of the 15, 12 were first-time major winners. Yet six of the world's 10 highest ranked players are yet to win a title, and players of equal talent, such as Sergio Garcia, still are yet to raise a trophy or wear a jacket at one of golf's highlight events.

    It hardly seems unreasonable to think the tournament at Royal Lytham and St. Annes would bow to a player of lesser talent than a player in that top-10 list.

    If true, that has to favor the three Britishmen--Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and Justin Rose.  

2. How Much Will the Bunkers and Layout of the Course Effect Play?

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    It's interesting that on American golf courses we simply refer to the area of sand as a sand-trap. Occasionally we'll call them a bunker, but doing so is really false advertising. 

    This week, calling them anything other than bunkers would be false advertising. They are deep, thick and scary as crap. And there a lot of them. 

    In fact, there are over 200 of them on the Royal Lytham course. Simple math tells you that's an average of more than 11-per-hole. 

    There's little doubt each and every player will hit their ball in more than a few of them throughout the week. 

    The course itself is a par-70 with four par-3s and two par-5s. It totals 7,118 yards tee to green. The seventh hole is a par-5 distancing 589 yards, while No. 11 comes in at 601 yards. 

    It will be interesting to see if distance is much of a factor. Links golf has a tendency to limit the effects of distance and favors accurate players who are good at getting out of trouble in those nasty bunkers. 

    But until the tournament actually starts, all we can truly do is speculate on how much conditions will affect the play at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. 

3. Will the Real Rory McIlroy Please Stand Up?

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    It was 11 or 12 summers ago now that I spent three weeks in the United Kingdom as a Student Ambassador with an organization called People-to-People. 

    I remember the hot song at the time was "Will The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?" by Eminem. Pardon me if that wasn't actually the title. While our group was in the UK, the British Open was being played. 

    My point is that song reminded me of the British Open and thus, Rory McIlroy. Since his 2011 U.S. Open victory, it's as if some other version of Rory McIlroy is the one who has played at majors. 

    Golf fans are starting to wonder if the real Rory McIlroy will please stand up? 

    He's been awful at majors. Maybe some home-cooking and loving will do the trick. 

4. Will Royal Lytham Lend Itself to Another First-Time Major Champion?

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    This may sound exactly like No. 1. Before you conclude that, let me explain to you that it is not. 

    You must understand the history at Royal Lytham in relation to the Open Championship. 

    In 1979, Seve Ballesteros was just a talented prodigy. By the time The Open Championship had ended, he was a major champion and a golf legend. 

    In 2001, David Duval was a player with a world of talent who couldn't put it altogether. He left Royal Lytham with a major championship and a monkey securely off his back. 

    Ballesteros famously went on to win a number of majors after, while Duval has mostly struggled since. But the story remains that Royal Lytham smiles brightly on those with talent yet to capture their crown. 

    Will that be the case this week? And if so, who will it be?