British Open 2012: Latest Buzz from Press Conference at Royal Lytham
Given the back-and-forth nature of golf this year, there figure to be plenty of contenders at the 2012 British Open.
You may remember that Darren Clarke, 42-years-old at the time, won the British Open in 2011, earning the first major championship of his career.
The third major championship of 2012 is just around the corner, slated to begin Thursday, and there's already been plenty of buzz at Royal Lytham & St Annes in England.
Will Tiger Woods win the 15th major championship of his career? Will Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy get back on track? Will Lee Westwood or Luke Donald capture the first major victory of their careers?
These are just some of the questions leading up to the 2012 British Open.
Here's a look at buzz surrounding the podium this week.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Tiger Woods has 14 major championships to his name, but he hasn't won one since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Asked whether the pressure was getting to him, Woods said, via the Houston Chronicle, "I just try and put myself there. I think that if I continue putting myself there enough times, then I'll win major championships."
Woods has also acknowledged that he's been wildly inconsistent this year, albeit better than the past few years. He's won three PGA Tour events this year (tops on tour), but he's also missed the cut three times, including at the Greenbrier Classic in early July.
There's also the matter of the rough at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Apparently Woods isn't a big fan.
Woods said of the deep rough on Sunday, via Golf.com:
Oh my God! It’s just that you can’t get out of it. The bottom six inches is so lush. The wispy stuff, we’ve always found that at every Open. But that bottom six inches, in some places it’s almost unplayable.
British tabloids quickly ran with the story, trying to paint him as a snobby American who is too good to play on such a course. Controversy just seems to follow Woods wherever he goes, doesn't it?
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
If this were simply based on Phil Mickelson's play in 2012, he wouldn't be highlighted coming into the 2012 British Open.
But this is Phil Mickelson, who has won four major championships in his career and finished second at the British Open last year.
Mickelson won at Pebble Beach back in February and placed third at the Masters, but he finished 65th at the U.S. Open and he's missed three cuts this year, including at the Greenbrier Classic.
Mickelson seems to be concerned about Woods heading into the British Open.
Mickelson said, via the Telegraph, "I don't see anybody in the game today playing at the level that he has played at—and is currently starting to play at again."
Mickelson has steadily improved his links golf throughout the years, and last year's finish was the best of his career at the British Open. The poor weather at Royal Lytham may actually help him.
Mickelson said,via Sports.NDTV.com:
Now I look at it a little bit differently. And I almost welcome it, in a sense.
I certainly have more confidence in competing and playing in weather and the different challenges that links golf presents after having had some success after last year.
Mickelson has had a relatively tough year, but there is hope for him heading into Thursday.
Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Rory McIlroy did win the Honda Classic in March, but he played poorly in both majors this year—including the U.S. Open—and I think we can all agree we expected a bit more from him after his historic U.S. Open victory last year.
McIlroy isn't feeling the same pressure to perform at the British Open as he did last year, however. That may help him.
In a press conference much less crowded than last year's British Open, McIlroy said, via the Telegraph:
It's been lovely just going about my business—definitely not the madness that was going on last year.
It's nice. I've tried to keep it as low-key as possible and feel like I've done that pretty well.
McIlroy hasn't played since the U.S. Open in June, but it appears that time off has him in high spirits. Despite disappointing play in 2012, he feels good about his chances leading up to the British Open.
McIlroy said, via Golf.com:
I got the world No. 1 after I won a major, so I don't think my game has completely went off. Everyone has bad spells, and I had a couple of bad weeks where I didn't play so well. But it's just a little blip on the radar, and I feel like I'm swinging well again. And I feel like this will be a great week to play well.
McIlroy is right in not panicking. Remember, he's only 23-years-old, and the ability he showed in last year's U.S. Open doesn't just go away. It's worth noting that he placed third at the 2010 British Open, and that was even before his spectacular play in 2011.
Lee Westwood, Luke Donald
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Why do I have Lee Westwood and Luke Donald in the same slide?
Well, because they are essentially the same person.
Donald and Westwood are ranked first and third in the world respectively, but have yet to win a major championship in their careers.
Donald has made nine of 10 cuts this year, including four top-10 finishes (with a victory at the Transitions Championship), but that one missed cut was at the U.S. Open and he placed 32nd at the Masters.
Westwood, on the other hand, has five top-10 finishes and has once again come ever so close to a major championship this year, placing third and 10th at the Masters and U.S. Open respectively. He should be the favorite over Donald to hoist his first major trophy, but it's hard to ever call him the favorite until he wins a major.
Westwood is confident heading into the British Open.
Westwood said, via USA Today:
I think I've gotten more relaxed and just sort of played and let the cards fall where they may, really. I don't find myself pressing particularly harder.
I know my game is good enough to win when I play well enough, play with everything together. So that's what I try to do.
This is a good mindset for Westwood. I've always thought he had the ability, but you have to think he hasn't won a major yet because he has pressed too much on the big stage. His mentality is just as important as his golf game heading into Thursday's tee-off.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Padraig Harrington may be ranked 59th in the world, but he actually has quite a bit going for him heading into the 2012 British Open.
For one, Harrington won the British Open in 2007 and 2008. Sure, he hasn't had much success since, but the history is still there and he's an immensely popular player at Royal Lytham.
There's also the fact that Harrington has three top-10 finishes on the year, including strong finishes at the Masters (eighth place) and the U.S. Open (fourth place). He also placed a respectable 11th at the Travelers Championship in late June.
Harrington appears to be feeling the best he has since 2008, noting his putting game gives reason for confidence.
Harrington said, via Reuters:
I've been putting better, that's essentially it. I'm playing better but the putting really does help. I would have said I played well over the last couple of years too, at times, but I certainly didn't putt very well.