British Open 2012 Tee Times: Pairings and Predictions for Saturday
You hear that?
That's the sound Tiger's roar echoing across Royal Lytham & St Annes after his bunker shot on the 18th in the second round of the 2012 British Open on Friday.
Tiger Woods was in contention after one round on Thursday, but his close on Friday was the kind of stuff that reminds you of vintage Tiger, the Tiger who won 14 major championships in a span of 11 years.
After the cut on Friday, we now have the final field at the British Open this year, complete with some big names and some relative unknowns.
Here's a look at the top pairings on Saturday in the third round of the 2012 British Open, along with predictions.
Jason Dufner, Graeme McDowell (9:50 a.m. ET)
Jason Dufner has actually had a very good season in 2012. He's made 14 of 15 cuts on the PGA Tour, with six top-10 finishes and two victories (Zurich Classic, Byron Nelson Championship).
On top of that, Dufner placed second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and fourth at the U.S. Open leading up to the British Open.
His stats back up his play. Coming into the British Open, Dufner ranked second on tour in birdies per round, sixth in greens in regulation and 16th in driving accuracy, per ESPN.
Dufner's driving accuracy is particularly important, given the generally windy conditions at the British Open throughout the years.
Then you have Graeme McDowell.
McDowell is one of my top contenders this year, given his driving accuracy (second on tour), putting (11th) and improved play since missing the cut at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in early June.
McDowell has hit 20 of 28 fairways thus far and is averaging 1.5 putts per hole, both marks above the field average.
Thorbjorn Olesen, Tiger Woods (10:10 a.m. ET)
Americans may not know who Thorbjorn Olesen is, given that he's only played the British Open the past two years on the PGA Tour, but the 22-year-old is a regular on the European Tour.
Olesen has four top-10 finishes on the European Tour this year, including a victory at the Sicilian Open, but he's also a very inconsistent golfer at this stage of his career. As good as he's played thus far in the British Open, he could just as well flop in the next two rounds.
Then, of course, we have Tiger Woods, forming an unlikely pairing.
Woods has three PGA Tour victories this year and he's been very solid at the British Open. Woods has hit a whopping 26 of 28 fairways through two rounds, as well as 29 of 36 greens.
Woods also hit a magnificent bunker shot to close the second round at the 18th hole. He has shown the big-play ability this year that he used to have before his epic collapse in 2009-2011.
Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker (10:20 a.m. ET)
Adam Scott has shown a spectacular all-around game at the 2012 British Open so far, a bit surprising given his driving accuracy leading up to the major.
Who will finish better?
Of course, Scott has been in line with his greens in regulation percentage. He ranked 26th in the category coming into Royal Lytham & St Annes, and has hit 26 of 36 greens thus far. He's in the zone right now.
Last but certainly not least, we have American Brandt Snedeker, who leads the field with a 10-under-par 130 through two rounds.
Coming into the tournament, Snedeker ranked 29th in the world, with three top-10 finishes and a victory this year (Farmers Insurance Open).
Snedeker, 31, is one of the most surprising contenders. Before this year, he had appeared in the British Open three times, and missed the cut three times. He also ranked 85th in driving accuracy and 124th in greens in regulation percentage, per ESPN.
But while Snedeker predictably hasn't been very accurate with his driving at the British Open (17 of 28 fairways hit), he's hit a surprising 31 of 36 greens through two rounds. Snedeker is also a very good putter, ranked sixth in putting per hole this year.
I predicted Tiger before the British Open and he hasn't done anything to sway my thinking thus far.
In that sense, I have to go with Tiger. If he continues to drive the ball like this, and perhaps improves his putting a bit in the final two rounds, I see no reason why he can't win his 15th career major championship come Sunday.
I think Snedeker and Olesen will cool off, while Scott, McDowell and Dufner will remain in contention.
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