British Open 2011 Favorites: Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and the Top Contenders

Immer ChriswellCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2011

British Open 2011 Favorites: Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and the Top Contenders

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    We are now within spitting distance of the Open Championship. Hopefully no one takes that as permission to spit on the greens.

    As the Open nears, there is a lot of talk about who is the favorite. Right now, people want to say Rory McIlroy, but it is tough considering the fact he hasn't competed since his US Open triumph.

    This year's field includes a few more omissions than normal. We won't see Colin Montgomerie for the first time in 20 some years. Vijay Singh's streak of majors played at will not restart at this Open Championship, with injury keeping him out. And of course, Tiger Woods won't be present this year. 

    However, with that said, there's still plenty of names to watch out for

Favorite: Luke Donald

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    It's hard to say that Donald isn't the favorite. He won his first tournament since ascending to the top spot in the world last week. And it was a rain-shortened win, so Donald got somewhat of a break only having to play 54 holes.

    In that stretch of 54 holes, Donald shot an astonishing 19 under par. He was four strokes clear of second place, with an incredibly consistent two bogeys and 21 birdies.

    The confidence combined with the 18 holes less is a great way for Donald to head into the Open. I'm keeping my prediction the same as three months ago, with Donald finishing at the top, eating up Sandwich's finest.

Lee Westwood

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    The confidence factor can not be said the same for Lee Westwood, who finished seven strokes back of fellow countryman Luke Donald. However, Westwood is always in contention at the majors, and as much as I hate it myself, you can never rule him out.

    He is one of the most accomplished players in the world not to win a major, maybe slipping behind Donald (or pulling even for the title). Make no exception, Westwood's game lacks no tools to capture a major. It just seems his mental edge is what is lacking, which is a part of the game most difficult to conquer, as it is both on and off the course.

    Unfortunately for Lee Westwood, the only thing he will be feasting on is a slice of humble pie, as he will surely again fall short.

Rory McIlroy

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    It's become tough to gauge this young man. My gut says that McIlroy will make a real charge on the leaderboard, but my mind can't quite allow that to happen. 

    The layoff post-US Open was not the best idea, but it doesn't matter. It's not like you can expect him to not enjoy the fruits of his labor, or even expect consecutive majors. Rory got over the hump, and from here, it's easy to see him contending in every major, and possibly winning anywhere from zero to two (maybe three) majors in a year.

    However, this week I think McIlroy eats a little bit of that layoff, and ends up finishing somewhere around a tie for seventh.

Louis Oosthuizen

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    Last year we hadn't heard a word about Ooshuizen. This year, we haven't heard too much more. However, the major champion factor comes into play this week. Having been there, Oosthuizen is now like Angel Cabrera.

    He can come into a major playing his worst golf, and somehow find a way to become a relevant name on the leaderboard (difference being Oosthuizen has more time, and has a little more talent).

    It's tough to think about writing off Oosthuzien after last year's performance, so we won't do that.

Sergio Garcia

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    A month ago, Garcia had failed to even play in the qualifier for the Open Championship. Since then, he's recorded numerous respectable finishes, including a disappointing second place finish to Pablo Larrazabal. Through some wacky system of exemptions though, Garcia has found his way to Sandwich.

    Here, he stands a chance. Why? Because Garcia has knocked upon victory's door so many times that eventually, the call will be answered. The law of averages has to catch up with Garcia at some point.

    Well, I hope so.

Steve Stricker

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    I'd write him in as a dark horse, considering that he competed in the US last week, and it's tough to work the travel out and triumph. But this past week's victory showed us that Stricker still has it.

    Was the field as tough? No.

    Was the course as difficult? No.

    Was there still a putt that Stricker had to make to win outright? Yes.

    That's exactly what Stricker holds in his hand. The consistency of his game, and the confidence that he is fully capable of anything. If I were to make a list of my five favorite American golfers for the Open, Stricker would be in the top three.

Dustin Johnson

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    That whole American favorite list? Johnson tops it. By far, he looks to be one of America's few hopes over in Europe. A player such as Jerry Kelly even has admitted he will always play, but never would he expect to win an Open.

    Why? Because his game doesn't suit the course.

    However, Johnson's game is a lot closer to a European style than most other American golfers. His power off the tee will be key, as the bullet-like shot shape Johnson can create will be ever so important. 

    Not only does Johnson have the tools, but he recognizes it as well, as there have been rumors of Johnson becoming a dual member for the two major tours.

    Johnson's chances of an upper finish look good, so keep your hopes America.

Ross Fisher

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    Not a name that makes too many waves, but a few years back it was Fisher who had the audience captivated, as the possibility of him withdrawing was present. With his wife nearly in labor, Fisher was battling the clock to finish the Open, hoping to win. However, he said that if he was told she had begun labor he would take the boat prepared and ride to see his child rather than finish.

    Luckily he didn't withdraw. Unluckily, he didn't win.

    However, if he had it in him once to do it, he can do it again. He's another player who like Oosthuizen, could make some noise from seemingly nowhere.

Steve Marino

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    The key to winning is making birdies. And Steve Marino has always been one of the kings of under par scores. Unfortunately, he has also had too many over par scores for his efforts to ever come to fruition, as he still has no career wins.

    But, like I said, birdies are key. Marino makes a lot. There's always the chance that he putts in enough to outweigh those bogeys.

Matteo Manassero

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    Should he win this week, it would become the Matteo media frenzy. Everyone would rush to conclusions, like he and McIlroy will be the next Tiger and Phil, Arnie and Jack, so on and so forth.

    Hopefully he does win, because it would be fun to have a lot of hope for the youth of the game. But realistically, major titles are still a year or two off for Manassero. He's playing like a 25-year-old pro who's been on tour for five years, but two more and he should be playing like a 30-year-old 10-year vet.

Robert Rock

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    The king of consistency and perfect hair. Robert Rock posted incredibly at the US Open. Now I know he didn't win, and wasn't really that close. But let's realize he had no practice rounds, considerably less sleep, and plenty of jet lag to boot.

    And he played better than the likes of Luke Donald, Matteo Manassero, Phil Mickelson, and Anthony Kim.

    Rock is a great player, and by no means a dark horse this week. His name is destined for the leaderboard, and his hair is destined for more commentary from Chris Berman.

The Reality

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    The field is full of great players. It always has been. It's just the attention one name has sucked from the golf world that created the thought there wasn't much competition for the past five to 10 years.

    There's so many names I could list: Molinari squared, Kuchar, Woodland, Laird, Els and Fowler. The list is so long, and the previous 11 names what I have found to be the top sampling and the most capable of a victory at Sandwich. 


    So who are your picks?