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The 2010 British Open Championship: Predicting the Unpredictable

Michael FitzpatrickFeatured ColumnistJuly 13, 2010

ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 13:  Tiger Woods hits a shot during practice for the 139th Open Championship on the Old Course, St Andrews on July 13, 2010 in St Andrews, Scotland.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

When the best golfers in the world gather later this week at the home of golf, it will be perhaps the most wide open major championship since Tiger Woods first asserted dominance with a 12-stroke victory at the 1997 Masters.

There hasn't been a single player on any professional tour that has had a consistently great 2010 season.

Case in point, Ernie Els won two consecutive events in March but hasn't really contended again aside from his devastating defeat at the U.S. Open where he shot four-over-par on the back nine when two-over-par would have forced an 18-hole playoff with Greame McDowell.

Jim Furyk won twice earlier in the year but hasn’t finished better than a tie for seventh since May 2nd.

Rory McIlroy won the Quail Hollow Championship with a remarkable final round 62, but then proceeded to miss the cut the next week at the Players Championship before joining the Friday trunk slammers at the U.S. Open with rounds of 75-77.

Trying to predict what the usual favorites—Woods and Phil Mickelson—will do this week is like trying to predict the actions of a rabid coyote walking through your back yard.  He might lie down and go to sleep, he might keep on walking or he might lash out at you—no one knows.

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Mickelson, for example, had just one top-10 finish all year heading into the Masters, which he won. He followed that up with a second place finish at the Quail Hollow Championship, a tie for 17th at the Players Championship, a missed cut at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, a tie for 5th at the Memorial, a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open and a missed cut at last week’s Scottish Open.  

Woods?

Who knows? He could miss the cut just as easily as he could win the title this week at St. Andrews

Lee Westwood?

He was a favorite heading into the U.S. Open but needed a strong closing round just to tie for 16th, eight strokes off the lead.

Steve Stricker?

He put on a remarkable display of golf last week at the John Deere Classic.  But St. Andrews is vastly different from TPC Deere Run, to put it mildly, and Stricker has just two top-10 finishes in his entire career at the Open Championship.

Ian Poulter?

He finally broke through and won a PGA Tour event earlier this year when he defeated good friend and fellow Englishman, Paul Casey, in the finals of the WGC Accenture Match Play Championship.  However, he has had just one other top-10 since.

Padraig Harrrington?

A decent choice this week, although it’s tough to overlook the fact that he hasn't won a golf tournament since the 2008 PGA Championship.

The Molinari brothers (Edoardo and Francesco) have been two of the most consistent players in the world this year, but are either of them ready to win a major championship?

That’s anyone’s guess.

And what about the Player's Champion, Time Clark?

He's a possible contender as long as mother nature decides to hibernate for the next seven days and he doesn’t have to contend against 50 MPH wind gusts.    

While thinking about the 150th Open Championship, it was my initial intention to write an in-depth tournament preview including everything from title contenders to a course layout to weather reports.

So, I sat down with my laptop - which moves like a tortoise, while I attempt to type like a hare - and began constructing my 2010 Open Championship preview.  

I got about ten minutes into the process before realizing the pure futility of the exercise.

First of all, there’s an old Scottish saying that goes, "if it’s not raining, it’s about to rain, and if it is raining, it’s about to rain harder. Needless to say, predicting the weather along the Scottish Coast is virtually impossible.

Being that the weather plays such a prominent role in predicting who may or may not contend for the title, combined with the fact that aside from Justin Rose no one is particularly hot at the moment, it came to my attention that unless I somehow became a clairvoyant overnight, any Open Championship prediction would be a wild guess at best.

Anyone from Tiger Woods to David Duval to Tom Watson to Justin Rose to Chris Wood to Darren Clarke has a legitimate chance at winning this week’s Open Championship.  

The weather?

It might rain, it might not.  It could be windy, it could be mild.  It could be cloudy, it could be sunny.  It could be warm, it could be cold.

Depending on the weather, the course could play firm and fast or soft and long.  St. Andrews could become a ball-strikers paradise or it could quickly weed out the shorter hitters.

For the first time in more than a decade, the game is without at least one dominant player. As the saying goes, when the big cat is away, well, every other golfer on the face of the planet has been given the opportunity to come out and play.

So just sit back, relax and watch how this whole thing plays out because there’s no predicting who will be labelled as the champion golfer of the year come Sunday.

For more PGA Tour news, insight and analysis, check out The Tour Report.

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