British Open 2012: Power Ranking Biggest Draws of This Major

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJuly 19, 2012

British Open 2012: Power Ranking Biggest Draws of This Major

0 of 8

    Day one is nearing an end and the excitement is growing.

    A tournament known for providing unknown winners like Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and Louis Oosthuizen over the years has one of the more star-studded leader boards after Thursday.

    As a result, the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's appears to be a must-watch as the tournament continues.

    Still, there are only so many things we can keep an eye on.

    Who are going to be the big names to watch?

    What is going to capture our attention and keep us wrapped around the drama of the Open Championship?

    This list looks at the biggest draws moving forward.

    What players put themselves in contention and who will continue to make headlines from now until Sunday?

8. Graeme McDowell

1 of 8

    The 2010 U.S. Open Champion is in contention again at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's.

    One of European's top golfers, McDowell has played a foil to Tiger Woods before when he won 2010 Chevron World Challenge. He is also in top form after finishing in a tie for second just a month ago at the U.S. Open.

    McDowell has shown the strength in putting to be a major champion and he will surely have a large gathering if he continues to play well in England.

    We also know that champions sometimes need a bit of luck and McDowell might have already gotten a huge break on Thursday. His errant drive on 17 was given line-of-sight relief and allowed him to par a hole that looked like a probable double bogey when he left the tee.

    His mental toughness makes him a contender and his overall game makes him a star. If he continues to play well, people will be watching. 

7. Phil Mickelson

2 of 8

    We all know the drama of "Phil the Thrill".

    Mickelson is a consummate star, putting forth some of the most spectacular shots combined with some of the most head-scratching decisions by any professional golfer.

    Love him or hate him, no one can deny that Mickelson is entertaining.

    Even today, Lefty put forth a great iron on the second hole to make a short birdie putt before hitting his tee shot so far right on the next hole he could barely find it in the thick rough.

    Earlier this year Mickelson was playing in the final round of the Masters and appeared to be on his way to a fourth green jacket before hitting a rail on the grandstand and triple bogeying the sixth hole at Augusta.

    No man can be more unpredictable or aggressive than Mickelson and that makes him a draw as long as he is competitive.

    The British Open may not be his cup of tea with nine finishes outside of the top 30 in 18 appearances, but a runner-up finish in 2011 gives people hope that Lefty might actually have a chance to grasp the Claret Jug.

    Nevertheless, it should be a wild ride.

6. Rory McIlroy

3 of 8

    Despite an inconsistent lead up to this tournament, McIlroy remains one of the biggest stars in golf.

    The Northern Ireland phenom has one of the most beautiful swings in golf and comes in with a chip on his shoulders after his inopportune comments criticizing the tournament last year.

    McIlroy's mental toughness has been questioned and his relationship with tennis star Caroline Wozniacki is being blamed for recent struggles.

    All of this will push him even further to try and play well this week at the Open Championship.

    It will not be easy though, with weather certainly to pick up and tough bunkers and rough lying every hole, McIlroy's young nerves will be tested.

    Whether he passes the test or not, that will be worth the price of admission.

5. Bubba Watson

4 of 8

    On one hand, Bubba Watson never seems like he would be a draw for the Open Championship.

    After all, Watson would admit that this is probably the least likely major for him to pick up because of the style of golf required to win.

    As a big-hitting, throw-caution-to-the-wind American, Watson lacks the European style of keeping the ball low and putting through slow greens towards victory.

    He also has a demeanor that makes him a bit too volatile to combat the sporadic elements.

    Still, Watson surprised everyone with a 67 on Thursday and proved that he might be worth a second look.

    In his post-round interview on ESPN, Watson noted he needed to exhibit more patience and ignore the "child-like" instincts to try and go for it on every single shot. His poor performance at the U.S. Open made him re-evaluate his mental toughness and the results seem to be working.

    However, it is because of those tendencies that make Watson a draw,

    Can he really keep his composure, or will he succumb to a John Daly-like debacle on Friday?

    What kind of recovery shots will he have to hit?  Perhaps one similar to the shot in the Masters playoff that helped him claim the green jacket.

    Watson walks and plays with a swagger. 

    As long as he stays in contention, more people are going to take notice of his flair for the dramatics and tune in.

4. Luke Donald

5 of 8

    The gallery may be cheering for the Brit more than any other player this week.

    Donald may be the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, but he is one of only two gentlemen to reach the top spot despite never winning a major.

    At age 34, the father of two realizes that the time is now.

    Not winning a major is bad, but the talented Donald has never truly been in contention on Sunday.

    With a solid start so far at Royal Lytham and St. Anne's, people are going to continue to see if the apparent best golfer in the world can live up to the billing.

    Considering the mental block that majors can provide, the longer Donald can stay in the hunt, the more comfortable he will become.

    Watching the Northwestern grad conquer his demons will certainly draw in viewers.

3. Adam Scott

6 of 8

    There is plenty to like about Adam Scott. He has a great swing, charismatic demeanor and is entering the prime of his career.

    Scott is one of those players who desperately craves a major championship to validate his career and the British Open has given him that chance.

    His 64 on Thursday is the best round he has ever shot in any major and the first time he has led a major at the conclusion of any day in his career.

    Scott was a popular figure to begin with but his flirting with victory will only make him a bigger draw.

    How will the Aussie handle this pressure? 

    With putting being such a huge part of majors, can Scott really expect to win with that long putter?

    What about the extra drama of having the former caddie of Tiger Woods, Stevie Williams, on his bag?

    Scott really seemed to turn a corner when Williams joined his team. It seemed to give him an extra boost of confidence and his play has noticeably improved.

    Will it be enough to shed the monkey off his back and win the Claret Jug?

    People will tune in to find out.

2. The Weather

7 of 8

    Let's face it, the best part of the British Open is sitting on the couch in your pajamas and watching the best players in the world struggle with absolutely horrendous weather.

    In just about any American tournament, if the rain was coming in sideways and the wind blew over 30 mph, it would declared a national disaster area.

    In Britain, you just have to deal with the elements. It is the star of the Open Championship and Thursday lacked a fair amount of drama because the weather decided to take the day off.

    Still, it is a constant threat that underlies the tension of winning a major. Given the seemingly random nature of weather, fans know that the entire golf course could change in a matter of minutes because of the weather.

    There has been so much consternation over getting the "better side of the draw" that there has been talk of using split tees at the Open Championship.

    It will never happen though, it is the beauty of the tournament and what makes it stand out from the other majors.

    As long as people indulge their schaudenfreude and enjoy watching others struggle, the weather will be a huge draw at the Open.

1. Tiger Woods

8 of 8

    For the past 15 years, Tiger Woods has always been the biggest draw in golf and that will not change this week.

    Woods is one of the most recognizable people on the planet and his solid play on Thursday is only sure to attract more people to the telly as the Open Championship continues.

    For 18 holes, Woods showed tremendous patience and consistency on the golf course. His only errant shot resulted in a bogey, but with four birdies on the first seven holes and constant close misses after that, Woods appears on the verge of a special round.

    People know that when Woods can reach that extra gear, it is something truly spell-bounding.

    He may not be hitting big drivers from the fairway but his irons are giving him a chance to go low and finally break through his funk extending from his 2008 U.S. Open victory and subsequent Thanksgiving nightmare.

    If he does, you better expect the world to be watching.