The British Open is finally almost here!
It is the third major of the year and it is the only one in Europe. The golf is different, the climate is different and the mood is different.
This major is surrounded by history and tradition, which always makes for a very exciting week of golf.
And with the first round only a couple of days away, let the predictions begin.
Here are 15 bold predictions I have for the 2011 British Open at Royal St George's.
Phil Mickelson doesn't play well in the British Open when his game his excellent.
And right now, his game is nowhere near excellent. In fact, it really isn't close to good.
His best finish in the British is a tie for third back in 2004, when his game was at a career best. But with the current state of his game, Mickelson will never play a role in this year's championship.
Last time the British Open was held at Royal St George's, the relatively unknown Ben Curtis shocked the world to win.
Don't expect that to happen this time around.
I fully expect a big-named star to take the trophy in 2011. Whether it is Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy or Lee Westwood, I would put my money on a proven golfer.
Ian Poulter is a player with a ton of potential. Unfortunately, he has yet to reach that potential.
And while many do not like him for how outspoken he is, Poulter is a darn good golfer.
His best finish in the British came in 2008 where he ended up in second. I expect him to do much of the same this year.
I believe that Poulter will have a legitimate shot at winning the Open this year, surprising many in the process.
Ian Poulter will give himself a chance to win. Come Sunday, however, the wheels will fall off.
The reason will be his putter.
If his putter is making putts, Poulter is one of the most dangerous players on the planet. When it stops, Poulter will not be able to make pars. Thus, he will see hopes of winning his first major dwindle come Sunday afternoon.
This prediction may not be so bold, but it is true.
There is simply no chance of an American winning this thing. While Nick Watney has the game to do it, I do not see it this week.
And after Watney there isn't much else. We have Dustin Johnson, but he has been quiet in the majors thus far. And we have Rickie Fowler, but he still needs to win on tour.
So for yet another major, the trophy will find itself in the hands of a European for at least one more year.
In each of Watney's three British Opens, his finishes have improved each year.
Last year, Watney finished in seventh place, improving on his 27th from the previous year. With a few Opens under his belt now, Watney will finish the tournament as the lowest American.
His game translates well across the pond, and with Woods out of the picture, there are really no other American threats.
It is no secret that many player's are not fans of Royal St George's.
The fact of the matter is that this week many will learn to appreciate the course. They will learn to like it because it is a fair test of golf.
It gives any player in the field a chance to win. It isn't going to overpower them and it isn't going to trick them. The winner here will be the player who navigates the course with the most intelligence.
Do I expect Garcia to win the British Open? No, but it wouldn't shock me if he did. He has the talent.
His putter has always hurt his chances at winning. Lucky for him, Royal St George's greens are not extraordinarily tricky.
His ball-striking should guarantee him a top-15 finish. It is up to his putter how he does after that.
It happens every year in the British Open: A player no one has ever heard of ends up with a share of the lead after the first round.
But, like 99 percent of unknowns, they quickly fade from the spotlight and struggle to make the cut.
Last year as an amateur, Matteo Manassero finished 13th. He also won two European Tour events before he turned 18.
Now, I expect Manassero to perform even better. A top-10 finish is likely in this event because he seems to thrive on links golf.
Adam Scott's game seems to be getting better and better. A couple of years ago, I would have told you Scott was overhyped and not talented enough to win a major.
Now, there is no doubt in my mind that he can win at least one by the time his career is over.
With Steve Williams on the bag, Scott is navigating major championship golf courses like never before. His best finish in the British came in 2006 with an eighth-place showing. This year, I believe Scott will improve on that.
What a bold prediction, right?
Well maybe not, but he is my choice to win the 2011 British Open.
His game is the best in the world right now (sorry, Luke Donald) and he always plays well in the British.
Luke Donald is currently the No. 1 player in the world.
At Royal St George's, he will finish second to Rory McIlroy.
McIlroy's game will be great and Donald's game will just fall short.
I do not expect McIlroy to blow away the field like he did at the U.S. Open. Instead, I believe Donald will finish second by three or four shots.
Lee Westwood will once again fail to win a major.
He has had chances, he just has not been able to capitalize.
I think the same thing will occur again this year. He will be a factor through three rounds, but come the final round, he will start moving in wrong direction.
This will leave us all wondering if he will ever win a big one.
Once again, a non-American will win a major and once again, the U.S. press will jump to conclusions.
They will claim American golf is dead forever or that we simply cannot compete anymore.
None of this will be true and we will all just need to take a step back a realize that the talent seems to come in waves. Some years the talent is centered in Europe and other years it is in America.
Maybe this just wasn't our year, but it sure isn't the end of American golf.