British Open 2012: Biggest Questions Heading into Day 3

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IJuly 20, 2012

British Open 2012: Biggest Questions Heading into Day 3

0 of 8

    Another wild day at the British Open has led to more questions than answers.

    Thirty-one-year-old Brandt Snedeker has tied Nick Faldo for the lowest 36-hole total in Open Championship history and has catapulted to the top of the leaderboard at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

    We saw Rory McIlroy fall backwards, Luke Donald struggle to stay in the hunt and Phil Mickelson struggle to not just quit mid-round.

    Heading into this weekend, some big stars lie in wait behind Snedeker, including Tiger Woods.

    What burning questions do we have heading into Saturday at the British Open?

    What is going to be the difference between contending and winning for these top talents?

    Let's find out. 

Where Is the Weather?

1 of 8

    The British Open is meant to bring us some of the craziest weather imaginable.

    All week long, forecasters have been warning all of us that the wind and rain would be at a fever pitch through this tournament. That it would be worse than the conditions that ransacked Royal Lytham & St. Annes earlier in the week.

    Well, after two days, the raging beast we expected to see fall from the skies has been benevolent and tame.

    If it were not for the food stands and burnt-out rough, it could be any course in the United States.

    Still, one thing about the weather in Britain is the unpredictability.

    The weather still has two more days to leave its own mark on a course that seems a bit unprotected right now.

    If it does, everything we think we know about the tournament could fall by the wayside.

Does Luke Donald Have a Weekend Charge?

2 of 8

    Perhaps the only golfer feeling more pressure to win this weekend than Tiger Woods is world's No. 1 Luke Donald.

    At age 34, Donald is in his home country and faced with the stark reality that he is under-performed in the majors.

    Feeling the nerves in years past, the Brit has done a good job keeping his composure and used his hot putter to birdie four out of five holes on the front nine to get him within just three shots of the lead at one point. However, a faulty back nine leaves Donald at two under and far back from the pack.

    Still, with the short game and scrambling ability of Donald, there is reason to hope that he can make a run this weekend.

    His driving distance has hurt his ability to attack these greens, but if he can avoid the bunkers and get a bit fortunate with the weather, he can turn things around quickly.

    Without question, the entire gallery will be rooting for him, but can he earn their roars on Saturday?

Who Is Garth Mulroy?

3 of 8

    The British Open has become notorious for out-of-nowhere winners over the past few years.

    Ben Curtis, Todd Hamilton and Louis Oosthuizen were not exactly household names when they claimed the Claret Jug.

    While everyone is keeping their eyes on Woods, Scott and Snedeker, there are plenty of relative unknowns littering the top 10, including Garth Mulroy, a 33-year-old born in Durban, South Africa.

    Steve Alker, James Morrison and Thomas Aiken are all golfers that look to hang around and hope to pounce on the bigger stars facing the pressure and nerves of the major spotlight.

Is Playing with Purpose More Powerful Than Paul Lawrie's Nerves?

4 of 8

    It has been 13 years since Paul Lawrie inexplicably won the British Open following the infamous collapse of Jean Van de Velde on the 72nd hole of Carnoustie.

    For years, Lawrie was an afterthought. Someone relegated to being a lucky recipient of a major rather than someone who earned it.

    Yet at age 43, Lawrie has found a resurgence in the twilight of his career.

    Why? He has a new purpose.

    Lawrie's former coach, Adam Hunter, died at age 48 of Leukemia last year, forcing the former major champion to rededicate himself to his career and try to make him proud while bringing awareness to the fight for the cure.

    With a win earlier this year at the Qatar Masters and stellar play this week, Lawrie looks like a man to be reckoned with. After all, everyone knows the last thing you want is for this man to hang around in a British Open.

    Still, being out of the major spotlight for so long, can Lawrie handle the pressure?

    Will he allow himself to stay in the moment, or will his emotions get the best of him?

Can You Trust Zach Johnson?

5 of 8

    Zach Johnson of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is a very likable guy.

    He does not hit the ball a mile or really have a flair for the dramatics.

    He famously won the Masters by laying up on every single par five.

    Coming off a playoff victory at the John Deere Classic last weekend in the Quad Cities, Johnson certainly has the momentum to pull of the rare consecutive wins across the pond.

    Still, for all the strong play Johnson has put forth, those errant shots keep creeping in.

    After stellar iron play on Thursday, Johnson had two unforced errors on his approach shots on 17 and 18.

    When you are as short off the tee as Johnson, you simply cannot afford to be less than perfect with your irons, as evidenced by his double-bogey on two Friday.

    Johnson had never shot a round under par at the Open Championship until Thursday, so his good play may be more a fluke than an omen of things to come.

    His major experience and short game make him an interesting pick, but can he be relied on this weekend?

Will the Long Putter of Adam Scott Let Him Down?

6 of 8

    The Aussie Adam Scott has the swing of a champion. From tee to green, it is tough to find a better player.

    On the greens, though, Scott has constantly struggled rolling in clutch putts. His switch to the long putter received a fair amount of criticism from golf pundits throughout the world.

    The long putter, after all, though not illegal, is generally frowned upon and usually a sign that the player lacks any confidence at all with the short game.

    Anchoring a putter like this might prove well if the windy conditions appear, but will Scott be able to come through on the greens?

    Major champions are defined by clutch putts. They have to be able to save pars and get rounds going on the putting surface.

    Scott has shown nerves already on the front nine Friday, will he be able to calm them down and prove to everyone that a long putter can be in the bag of a major champion?

Will Brandt Snedeker Make a Bogey?

7 of 8

    American golfer Brandt Snedeker looks like he could be calm in the middle of a hurricane.

    Since it is the British Open, we may get a chance to find out.

    With three PGA tour wins to his credit, Snedeker has been scarily consistent on the quirky, bunker-filled golf course. With 26 straight greens in regulation at one point, Snedeker followed up his one bad approach shot with a pitch from the deep rough that finished just over a foot away from the hole.

    On 18, Snedeker had to punch out of the rough, but he hit his third within 10 feet to make a clutch par.

    It may only be Friday, but Snedeker appears unflappable, and he is the only golfer of the 157 entrants to not have a bogey on his card through 36 holes.

    Which leads to the inevitable question, what will happen if he does?

    We all learned from Mike Tyson's glass jaw that sometimes flaws are not exposed in players until adversity strikes. What once seemed invincible now seems incapable.

    With three top 10s in majors, Snedeker has never made the cut in the Open Championship until this week. Of course, if the weather stays calm and he never bogeys, he could make this course look like a cake walk, much like Rory McIlroy did at Congressional in the 2011 US Open.

    How will he handle the pressure and, more importantly, how will he handle the inevitable mistakes that this weekend will bring to everyone?

Can Tiger Woods Adjust to the Greens?

8 of 8

    For two rounds, Tiger Woods has looked spectacular from tee to green.

    On Thursday, he led the field in fairways hit and his early barrage of four birdies in the first seven holes gave people hope that Woods was roaring back to a major victory.

    Since then, though, Woods has been unable to find the back of the hole.

    He's been close, in fact he has rarely had to sweat out his pars. However, those close misses are starting to add up when Snedeker is sitting atop the leader board at 10 under.

    Woods said on Thursday that he missed every single putt a bit low. He had the line, he just was a shade off on the speed. Friday has seen similar frustrations early on, as he missed makable putts on the front nine as well.

    While that can be frustrating, it is also enticing because Woods looks like he has the game to go very low on this tamed golf course.

    Can he make the necessary adjustments on these slower greens and really put together a round for a weekend charge?