With a mere four winners in the last 25 years, Europe has sorely lacked the staying power in defending the British Open. Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood, in particular, look to buck a new trend, starting at Royal Lythum this weekend.
Here are the prime European frontrunners for this year’s Open Championship.
McIlroy has a huge change to right the ship in 2012 on a familiar course at Royal Lytham.
He hasn’t been in this big of a drought since bursting onto the national scene at last year’s Masters. After winning the Honda Classic, the Irishman has played some uninspired golf, missing the cut at the U.S. Open and Players Championship among others.
He has been playing on European soil for the past two weeks to adjust his game for this weekend. A victory would earn him his second major in his career.
The pride of Spain has come close to winning an Open Championship on multiple occasions, most famously when he finished second in 2007. What made that loss so painful is that Garcia had an opportunity to win it all on the back nine, but Padraig Harrington saved his best for last and took home the trophy.
Dangerous with an unmatched power game, Garcia always has a chance to go up and down on the Open’s toughest hole. His short game, however, could deter him once again from major glory.
Time will tell if Sergio can pull it all together for an entire weekend.
Lee Westwood will attempt to end his major drought at 58 with his first at Royal Lytham this weekend. Westwood currently has the fourth-best odds to win the tournament, according to CBSSports.com.
Known for his consistent up-and-down game, the No. 3 golfer in the world has been in contention at major championships on so many occasions—with two second-place finishes, two thirds and four fourths. A few opportunistic strokes in the final round are all that’s keeping Westwood from hoisting his first major trophy.
Harrington hasn’t had as much staying power as some would’ve hoped after taking three majors in two years, but he has had some hopeful signs of late for a British Open run.
The two-time Open champion finished fourth at the U.S. Open last month, only two strokes back of winner Webb Simpson. In addition, he’s had a top-20 finish in the last five tournaments he’s played.
Not a bad time to be playing some of his best golf in two years. Perhaps not McIlroy, but Harrington will be the Irishman to seize the opportunity in his backyard.
The No. 1-ranked player in the world almost seems like an ironic title for Luke Donald considering his inability to capture his first major title. Perhaps a tournament back on his home soil is just what Donald needs.
He has more top-20 finishes than golf shirts in his closet, but in the big tournaments, he has not been able to be a major player.
Can Donald justify his No. 1 ranking? That would surely silence his critics for a while.