Johnnie Walker Championship 2013: Marquee Pairings to Watch in Opening 2 Rounds
The 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship coincides with the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs on the other side of the Atlantic. However, this European Tour event still boasts a strong field, ripe with opportunities for lesser-known but top-quality players to make their marks in the Race to Dubai.
Several of the game's most underrated players—and even past major champions—will be in action at Gleneagles Hotel in Auchterarder, Perthshire, Scotland.
One of those is defending champion Paul Lawrie, who had been experiencing a late-career resurgence in his mid-40s, having been a member of the most recent European Ryder Cup team.
The 1999 Open Championship winner hasn't had a Top 10 since the second week of this year, though, so he could use a return to form after nabbing two victories a season ago.
Below is a closer look at Lawrie's group for the first two days of the tournament, along with a couple of others worth keeping an eye on over the first 36 holes.
Paul Lawrie, Brett Rumford and Pablo Larrazabal
The 2014 Ryder Cup will be contested at Gleneagles, which has resulted in the Johnnie Walker Championship not being played at the venue.
As reported by BBC Sport, Lawrie is understanding, and he'll expect a warm reception from the gallery in his native land. Lawrie also feels his game is beginning to turn a corner after a mostly frustrating campaign:
The form hasn't been great, it's been a bit inconsistent and frustrating...But I'm getting better, my form has been better, and I've been hitting the ball better off the tee.
It's just always good to play golf in Scotland. It's a bonus that it's at a place you feel comfortable on. It's nice to play golf in front of your own people. Having won last year I know the course suits me. It's always nice to be back here.
Lawrie's driving accuracy is down five points from a year ago, and his putting average is the worst it's been since 2006. Perhaps a course he feels comfortable will get him back on track.
Then there's Rumford, who isn't exactly a household name but is a two-time winner on the European Tour this season. Back-to-back triumphs at the Ballatine's Championship and the Volvo China Open marked the Aussie's first taste of victory since 2007.
A follow-up admirable effort at the World Match Play Championship has been followed by spotty play, with his best finish in seven subsequent starts being a T-22 at the Irish Open.
Rumford also missed the cut at the Open Championship and the PGA Championship, which hasn't helped enhance his reputation. However, he's 10th in the Race to Dubai—tops in the field this week.
The Spaniard Larrazabal has had seven Top-15 finishes this year, but has also missed five of his past six cuts, which has prevented him from moving higher than No. 38 in the Race to Dubai.
This is a great chance for the 2008 Rookie of the Year to take another step toward delivering on the promise he's flashed in his 20s.
Stephen Gallacher, Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Bernd Wiesberger
Who will win the Johnnie Walker Championship?
Winning the Omega Dubai Desert Classic is no small feat, and Gallacher has that on his resume. As another Scottish native, he would love to count this event as one he's emerged victorious from.
However, Gallacher has direct competition in his group alongside Cabrera-Bello, who is an enticing 33-to-1 proposition, per Sky Bet. Cabrera-Bello was in early contention at the Open Championship, and with the exception of a second-round 75, played well at the year's final major, too.
Wiesberger is a consensus No. 2 favorite, and rightfully so. The 2013 winner of the Asia Tour's CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters—by one stroke over Ernie Els, at that—had made 21 consecutive cuts before missing the weekend at the PGA Championship.
That should be more of a temporary slip-up than a sign of things to come, because Wiesberger has quietly been one of the steadier players in professional golf. Wiesberger has an understated No. 61 world ranking, and few know he won twice in Europe last season.
At the ripe age of 27, the Austrian Wiesberger still has several years before the meat of his golfing prime. He could become a far more renowned player in the very near future.
Marc Warren, Thomas Bjorn and Francesco Molinari
At the tour's flagship BMW PGA Championship, Warren had a chance to claim victory, only to be denied by 20-year-old prodigy Matteo Manassero in a playoff.
But this tournament is the site of his only European Tour win, and the Scot has played reasonably well in sitting 18th in the Race to Dubai standings. Most recently, he opened the PGA Championship with a round of 74 but finished with a flourish.
The last three rounds were in the 60s, and his T-12 result was a career-best for Warren in a major. It was something CBSSports.com expert Kyle Porter and others were certainly surprised to see:
Three golfers shot in the 60s on both weekend rounds: Dustin Johnson, Marc Warren (?), and David Toms.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) August 11, 2013
Not far behind Warren in the standings is Bjorn at No. 21, who has been among the more consistent stalwarts not just this season, but for many years. In winning three times in 2011, the Dane had 13 total victories in three different decades on the European Tour.
As it turns out, one of those triumphs from two years ago was the Johnnie Walker Championship, when Bjorn won a jam-packed playoff over Larrazabal, Wiesberger, George Coetzee and Mark Foster.
Molinari has played reasonably well this summer, missing just one of 10 cuts and posting a personal best T-9 result at the Open Championship. The Italian is the odds-on favorite from every major UK betting outlet this week.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?