British Open 2011 Golf: 5 Golfers with the Most to Prove at Royal St. George's

Jeff Cohn@jeff_cohnCorrespondent IIIJuly 14, 2011

British Open 2011 Golf: 5 Golfers with the Most to Prove at Royal St. George's

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    With the Open Championships about to go underway, certain golfers will have many eyes on their performance. Some players are expected to do very well, and some have never done well at the event before.

    Royal St. George's is certainly a hard course, and players cannot be guaranteed a win with the tough weather conditions.

    Still, some players have things to prove to all audiences in order to silence their critics and those who never believed in them achieving certain goals.

    Here are five golfers in particular that have the most to prove at this year's British Open.

Phil Mickelson

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    Americans in general have something to prove to the golf media, but Phil Mickelson especially has to show people that he can still be a contender in Majors.

    The British Open has been a Major that Mickelson has failed to play at a high level time and time again.

    Besides finishing third in 2004, he has never finished in the Top-10 here. Phil's goal isn't to win the prestigious event, but it is to do better than he usually does (and that's easier said than done).

    With such talent and an act for pulling off the impossible, Phil should focus on playing much safer balls than usual and to put his past results at the Open behind him.

    Unfortunately for him, Lefty did not perform up to his own standards in this year's other two Majors. His results at the Masters and the U.S. Open were T27 and T54, respectively.

    Phil Mickelson can change the critics' minds by finishing the Open with a placement in the Top-10. He would also be doing his fellow Americans a great favor by proving that Americans can still compete with excellence.

Luke Donald

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    Luke Donald is coming off a win at the BMW PGA Championship, where he finished off Lee Westwood by making a birdie on the first extra hole.

    But, does Donald have it within himself to secure a win at this Major?

    After not playing the Open in 2008, he finished fifth and eleventh in 2009 and 2010, respectively. His results in the other Grand Slams were very poor, though, and his lack of consistency in the big tournaments has made him notorious for not deserving the No. 1 ranking on the PGA tour.

    Being an Englishman, he will be playing at home and should feel supported when the crucial moments in the tournament occur. But, this also means he could feel even more nervous, and perhaps the thought of letting his country down could creep into his mind (and then also cause him to let his country down).

    What makes Donald the most pressured player on the tour is the No. 1 ranking with no Major under his belt. Although many people do not agree with the ranking system, he remains the highest ranked player in the world.

    In order to prove he is worthy of his ranking, he NEEDS to finish within the Top-3, and he definitely needs a win at a Major within the next year, or else he may succumb to all expectations and have his career fall apart entirely.

Lee Westwood

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    Ranked No. 2 directly beneath Luke Donald is his fellow English countryman and former No. 1 ranked player, Lee Westwood. Since he is no longer ranked No. 1, he hopefully won't be observed as closely as Luke Donald this tournament.

    Westwood is one of the most consistent players on tour, and that fact alone could lead him to his first Major title this week.

    At the Open championships, he finished fourth, third, and second in 2004, 2009, and 2010, respectively. He has been getting closer and closer to winning a Major since he was first named player of the year for his 1998 season.

    At the previous two Majors this year, he finished eleventh and third, and he is only getting better.

    Westy is a great athlete and deals with the pressure exceptionally well, and the fact that he is British will most likely turn out to help his chances this week.

    He has come in second place at two Majors too many, and needs to prove that he can finally win one to get the hump off his back.

Jason Day

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    The Australian newcomer, Jason Day, made headlines when he finished 10th in just his second Major ever, at the PGA Championship last year.

    But, he did not stop producing incredible results. He went on to the Augusta Masters and the U.S. Open with a win-hungry attitude and came in second two times in a row (behind Rory McIlroy at Congressional).

    The Australian shot maker, who was inspired by Tiger Woods at an early age, is known for his instincts and smart decisions on the golf course. It seems that any bad situation he finds himself in, he also finds a quick way out of.

    Especially at the U.S. Open this year, he made ridiculously long putts with ease, and since he was relatively unknown to much of the crowd, Day was able to perform well through the course of four consecutive days.

    The big question is, with the Australian now in the Top-10 rankings at No. 8, will he begin to feel heavy expectations on his shoulder? He is perhaps not an established threat yet, but he can certainly prove that he is with another Top-5 finish at the Open.

    Jason Day could even take the world by surprise and win the whole thing. Only time (and the conditions) will tell.

Rory McIlroy

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    Enough has been said about the Northern Irishman's abilities and talent, although he has only proved himself to be a Grand Slam winner one time.

    Surely, he could win the tournament or finish well within the Top-10. Unfortunately, anything besides first place may not be good enough for some people.

    The fact that Rory is expected to do well in every tournament is an incredibly heavy burden for him. He was not great at dealing with the pressure at the Masters, and has yet to actually prove that he will not choke in the future during any given event.

    In order to prove the critics wrong, McIlroy has to win another Major or two within the next year, which is a tough task for him to execute, let alone for me to say. For such a young athlete with immense skills, his performance may be diminished simply because of what people expect of him.

    Rory McIlroy has to prove that he is THE next Grand Slam contender and winner, and he would be able to do that by securing the victory at Royal St. George's.