Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Preview: The Open Championship

It is that time of the year again!  Another major championship on the PGA Tour is upon us and this time it is The Open Championship.  This year’s edition of the British Open will be played at the Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in Lancashire, England.  Last time the British Open was held at Royal Lytham, the champion went by the name of… wait for it… yes you guessed it, David Duval. 
Going into the PGA Tour’s weekend in England, let’s take a look at three key elements:

1) Sponsors

We know about the players and their personal endorsement deals.  We know that Tiger Woods is sponsored by Nike.  We know that Rickie Fowler is sponsored by Puma.  The visibility of player sponsors has never been in question.  What is in question is the visibility of the tournament sponsors.  Do they get enough television visibility during the broadcast?  Is their on-site activation done well enough to interest the largely corporate crowd that attends PGA Tour events? 

Here is the list of sponsors for The Open Championship:
Doosan (South Korea – Infrastructure Support Business)
HSBC (England – Bank)
Master Card (United States – Credit Card)
Mercedes-Benz (Germany – Automobile)
Nikon (Japan – Technology)
Ralph Lauren (United States – Clothing)
Rolex (Switzerland – Technology)

Clearly, when you look at this list, you can see that there must be widespread interest in the British Open.  Companies from all over the planet come to be a sponsor of the tournament.  It will be interesting to watch and see how well they can activate through the weekend.

2) Weather

As we have all come to expect with the British Open every year, the weather is never too nice.  Weather is one of the big reasons that American golf and European golf is so different.  European players learn how to play golf in a different way.  They must hit lower shots and they can adjust to winds much better.  That is part of the reason that the British Open is one of the toughest majors to predict.  Anyhow, the weather for the weekend in Lancashire, England is looking to be similar to what we expect of The Open Championship.  It looks like it will be a cool weekend with temperatures staying in the low to mid 60s.  In typical English fashion, it also looks to be rainy for three of the four days which should make for an interesting start.  Luckily for the players, it does not seem like the wind will be as bad as it can sometimes be.

3) Champion

As with any tournament, everyone feels the need to try to predict a winner.  To be honest, I have no idea who will win.  If I had to put my money on somebody, I would go with a European player.  Why do you think Darren Clarke was able to win it last year?  It is a different game in Europe.  The courses are links style, which is different from most courses in the United States.  Also, as mentioned previously, the European players are more used to the poor weather conditions. 

When it comes to PGA Tour tournaments, many people immediately turn to Tiger Woods when asked to pick a winner.  Are his chances good?  Sure they are, but when it comes down to Tiger versus the field, I will take the field 98% of the time.  The odds are against him.  You’re picking a guy who hasn’t won a major in close to a handful of years and you’re picking him to win a tournament that is out of any American player’s element.  I love Tiger, but I’ll take the other 100-plus guys playing alongside him.  Don’t just go with the easy big name guy who the media picks almost every single week.
Two guys that I’m looking out for this weekend at The Open are Lee Westwood and Rickie Fowler.  I’m looking at Lee Westwood because he is a native of England and frankly I believe that he’s just too good to not have a major victory.  Before Westwood missed the cut at last year’s British Open, he finished T3 in 2009 and 2 in 2010.  The 39 year old is known for his consistency, so it will be interesting to see if Lee Westwood can bounce back this year and remain in contention through the weekend. 
Rickie Fowler intrigues me, not because I think he will win, but because he finished 5th last year.  Fowler is a guy who can become a face of golf and bring the game to the younger generations, but he hasn’t been able to stay at the top on a consistent basis.  I’m watching Rickie Fowler this weekend to see if he can capitalize on last year’s British Open top 5 and compete through the weekend.  Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m also watching to see what blinding colors he dons this week.
So, it looks like I’m going Lee Westwood this week at The Open Championship.  And yes, I do expect Tiger Woods to be in contention.  Then again, golf has a funny way of being completely unpredictable sometimes.  Tune into the first round bright and early tomorrow at 5am on ESPN for the first round!


  1. Great article. Not sure if I will be setting the alarm for 5 AM, but I am excited for the tournament. I like your pick of Westwood.... but I am going Tiger. I would love to see my boy John Daly make some noise though....

  2. Westwood is just too good and too consistent to not have a major. Always amazes me that he doesn't have one yet. Interested to see how weather factors in this week. As long as the winds don't get to big, the rain shouldn't be as much of a problem. God I love golf.