It’s an open British

Jul 18, 2006 5:59 AM

Forget trying to handicap the 2006 British Open based on the golf course. Royal Liverpool hasn’t hosted the event in 39 years.

Roberto de Vicenzo was the surprise winner back in 1967. Maybe the "Pony Tail" (Miguel Angel Ramirez) at 75-1 can pull it off. The Spaniard has been a contender before in majors.

The Royal & Ancient, England’s version of the United States Golf Association, runs the Open. The event is considered the world championship of golf on the basis of drawing the most international players of any major.

Tiger Woods is the defending champion, but that occurred at St. Andrews. Woods hits the British off three straight rounds in the 60s at the Western Open en route to a second place finish. Tiger now probably thinks his game is back, but remember his penchant for poor opening rounds. So we’ll likely see 73 or 74 for starters.

Phil Mickelson has to be fragile after his U.S. Open meltdown at Winged Foot. Lefty will be on the first tee Thursday physically, but where will his mind be having to hit driver that first time.

No, there isn’t a clearcut favorite even if Tiger is 4-1 here in Vegas or across the pond at Ladbrokes, which takes bets on anything. So, why not Colin Montgomerie?

Indeed, why not?

Thought to be done after so many close calls, His Fullness had the U.S. Open on the iron hitting two on 18 at Winged Foot after a perfect drive, tied for the lead. Instead, Monty reverted back to the bridesmaid, chunking a made-to-order par opportunity in taking double bogey to lose by 1.

That was pre-Mickelson by a few minutes, but every bit the choke. However, Monty was quite superb throughout and, in case you forgot, finished second last year to Tiger at St. Andrews.

So why not Monty? Well, his odds plummeted in recent weeks to just 20-1 at Caesars Palace. I’ll definitely look at individual matchups, but winning it all is something I can’t quite picture Colin doing in Liverpool.

So with no particular play, I’ll say there’s better than a 50-50 chance the champion will be a foreigner and relatively untested in majors pressure.

So my favorites will be golfers like Luke Donald, Thomas Bjorn, David Howell, Trevor Immelman, Adam Scott, Padraig Harrington and Stephen Ames.

Woods, Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen are not in A-form this time around. I would never say they can’t win, just not this year.

What intrigues me about this British Open is some of the props I’ve seen. Here’s the one that really caught my fancy, courtesy of Caesars Palace:

Which country wins the Open?

USA -350; South Africa +250; Australia +700; England +1800; Scotland +3500; Wales +6000; Field (all others) +600. My choice: Australia +700.

So sit back and enjoy this version of the British Open. It’s not closed to anyone, except Michelle Wie. Even David Duval has lowered his odds to 40-1! We’ll still bet on David to miss the cut.