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British champion Open to anyone

Jul 13, 2004 2:10 AM

The British Open has become the true world championship of golf, which means we’ll all be a monkey’s uncle if Ben Curtis defends.

Tiger Woods (13-2) is the co-favorite at the Hilton to win the claret jug at Royal Troon, where Justin Leonard won the last British Open contended at the Scottish course in 1997. Tiger did not play in the John Deere Classic (there’s a shock!), opting to hone his game in private.

At those odds, Woods is a bargain and certainly worth betting even though he’s winless in his last eight majors. That said, we’re not picking Tiger. He’ll need a first round in the 60s and that just isn’t happening of late. Woods will be in the mix, because he’s Tiger and nobody grinds better. Probably another top 10, but 0-for-9.

Ernie Els (13-2) is rated equal to Woods at the Hilton. The Big Easy won the British Open two years ago at Muirfield. Word has it Ernie was really angry about that 80 he posted at the U.S. Open and will be out for bear (or Tiger) at Troon. Els did not win last week at the Scottish Open, but finished just two shots back and is in fine form. Ernie has a great shot here.

Phil Mickelson (10-1) made a smart move playing the Scottish Open. Mickelson didn’t play that well, missing the cut. However, Phil used the free weekend to get in a couple of extra practice rounds at Troon. No reason not to take Phil here. He won the Masters and was ahead in the U.S. Open after 70 holes.

Vijay Singh (10-1) opted to play the John Deere, probably because he would be far and away the tournament favorite. Singh got off to a great start this year, but has not played up to his standards over the past month. The Fiji flash is a tireless worker, but he’s not on our short list at Troon.

Retief Goosen (14-1) is the hottest golfer on the planet with victories in his last two events, including the U.S. Open. Obviously the Goose is a contender and that price is awesome. Goosen did not play the Scottish Open, which was probably a good idea. The week off will do him well. Definitely on our short list at Troon.

Sergio Garcia (16-1) has probably inherited Michelson’s tag as the best player never to win a major. Sergio has two wins on the PGA Tour this year and without the waggle is playing the best golf of his career. Garcia also took the week off getting ready for Troon. For some reason, I think Sergio’s game has become more Americanized and may have a better shot at the PGA next month.

Bubbling under:

Adam Scott (30-1): Has two wins on the PGA Tour, including a recent victory at the Kemper. The young Aussie is the late protégé of Butch Harmon, who Tiger should get back with.

Tim Clark (75-1): Shot a final round 65 at the Scottish Open to finish in a tie for fifth. Remember Clark was flirting with the lead at the U.S. Open this year. This guy can play.

Darren Clarke (30-1): Has made more noise about his weight loss than his golf game this year. But, Clarke was runnerup to Leonard in ’97 and due for a good tournament. Why not here?

Thomas Levet (4-1 field): Who? Well, the Frenchmen was not part of the event until winning the Scottish Open with a rousing final round 63 and earning an automatic berth. Levet lost to Els in a five-hole playoff in the 2002 Open, so he’s not a flash in the pan.

Steve Flesch (60-1): When you think lefties these days (Bob Charles is always the standard) it’s usually Mickelson and Mike Weir. But Flesch has quietly etched out a fine season. He could surprise.

Forget about it:

Justin Leonard (60-1): If you believe in the horses for courses trend, this is your man. Leonard won the Open the last time it was at Troon (1997). However, Justin is scuffling. He’s missed three straight cuts. Make it four.

Mark Calcavecchia (4-1 field): Calc won at Troon in 1989 defeating Greg Norman and Wayne Grady in a playoff. It’s not likely that the rotund one will make much noise 15 years later, but tell that to Jay Haas, Meg Mallon and Craig Stadler.

Tom Weiskopf: We heard TW received a special invite for winning the 1973 Open at Troon. Call this a nice parting gift.

Oh, by the way, the B.C. Open is going on this week as the PGA Tour’s alternative event to the British. Expect 20-1 favorites and no coverage.