British Open 2011: Why There Is No Favorite at Royal St. George's

Mike LynchContributor IIIJune 30, 2011

SANDWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 19:  A general view of the claret jug in front of the clubhouse prior to The Royal St George's Open Championship press conference on April 19, 2011 in Sandwich, England.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

So who is the favorite for this year’s British Open at Royal St. George? 

Rory McIlroy obviously comes to mind. He won the US Open in dominating fashion. 

Two Englishmen top the world rankings, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood.  They must be considered contenders, right? 

How about Jason Day? He’s finished in second place in the two majors this year.

The top contender at the British Open however, is nobody.  This is truly the unpredictable major championship.

The links-style course is much different than the other venues that are seen on both the PGA and European Tours.  With no trees, large greens and subtle undulations, you can hit the fairway or green and be in trouble. 

It is very much a matter of getting the right lie in the fairway or getting the right bounce on your approach shot to the pin.

The location on the seaside makes the venue highly susceptible to strong winds.  Contenders can be determined by who is on the “right side of the draw.” 

A round played in heavy winds can ruin a tournament for a player.  Just look at Rory McIlroy, who shot 80 in the second round at St. Andrews last year.  He broke 70 in every other round.

Instead of having players start at both the first and 10th tee, everyone starts at the first hole.  This exasperates the effect that the wind can have on the outcome. 

Having the field playing over so many hours creates a scenario where some players will not have to handle windy conditions. 

One of the key’s to Louis Oosthuizen’s win last year was his early second-round tee time.  He did not have to play in 50 mph winds like McIlroy.

In 2008, 53-year-old Greg Norman showed up with little preparation and was in the lead with nine holes left. 

The following year at age 59, Tom Watson lost in a playoff to Stewart Cink. 

No one was picking Louis Oosthuizen to win last year.  Many of the all-time greats have won the British Open, but the key factor is being on the right side of the draw.