July 17, 2012

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Players To Watch At The British Open

By: Joe Williams

Once again, it’s PGA major championship time. This week is the British Open which means die-hard golf fans will have to get up in the middle of the night if they want to watch the action live. I’m already tired just thinking about it. In case I forget to set my alarm or just keep hitting the snooze button, here are the guys I am interested in this week. Somebody keep me posted.

Could Ian Poulter win his first Major at the British Open?


Ernie Els

Getting back to the winners circle has been a struggle for “The Big Easy.” Els hasn’t won since the 2010 South African Open. But he has been putting himself in contention lately and he finished in a tie for third the last time the Open Championship was held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. The conditions are expected to be similar to 2002 when Els won at Muirfield and this is a course that bodes well for the biggest stars with seven of the nine winners being, like Els, a member of the hall of fame.

Tiger Woods

Tiger is always the guy to watch. He’s the betting favorite, but we don’t know which Tiger will show up. He leads the tour in wins this year with three and is at the top of the money list and FedEx Cup points list, but he hasn’t been “Tiger” in the majors and he missed the cut in his last start at the Greenbriar Classic.

Phil Mickelson

Speaking of guys who missed the cut at the Greenbriar…Lefty hasn’t played well since the beginning of the year. But he did throw down a 64 and 65 last week at the Scottish Open so maybe he’s rounding back into form. Phil doesn’t have many good finishes at the British Open, but he did tie for second last year at Royal St. George’s.  Maybe he has this style of play figured out.

Darren Clarke

He’s the defending champion. He tied for third here in 2001. But he hasn’t played well this year in just five starts. His best finish is a tie for 33rd.

Rory McIlroy

He was the No. 1 ranked player in the world earlier this year but has struggled since; missing the cut four times in his last six starts. But he’s still the new star in golf and has the game to win anytime he tees it up. He does have a major championship on his resume which isn’t a good sign if you go by the results of recent majors with the last 15 all being won by different players.

Zach Johnson

He won the John Deere Classic last week so he will have momentum on his side. But it will be an awfully quick turnaround to go across the Atlantic and adjust to the time change, weather and style of play on the other side of the pond. A win would put him at the top of the money list, FedEx Cup points list and give him a shot at player of the year.

June 12, 2012

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Players to watch at the U.S. Open

By: Joe Williams

The field for the national championship has been narrowed down from hundreds in qualifying to some 150 players. If you are like me you don’t have time to follow them all, so here are the players I’m going to be following when the U.S. Open begins on Thursday:

Steve Stricker
Stricker is one of the best putters in the world still looking for his first major championship. His game seems like a good fit for a U.S. Open but the results haven’t been there with only one top 10 in his past six starts.

Could Steve Stricker win his first major championship this weekend?

Phil Mickelson
He’s done everything but win the U.S. Open, including finishing second five times. After pulling out of Jack’s tournament after one round, has he had enough time to recover from his mental fatigue.

Louis Oosthuizen
Louis seems to play his best in the biggest events. He lost a playoff at the Masters in April. Can he finish the job this week?

Dustin Johnson
With his win on Sunday, Johnson became the first player since Tiger Woods to win in each of his first five years on the PGA Tour after college. Now he will try to do something even Woods has never done and that’s win the U.S. Open after winning the previous week.

Sergio Garcia
After the Masters, Garcia said he isn’t good enough to win a major. He’s talked the talk. Now we’ll see if he can walk the walk.

Rory McIlroy
Rory was in prime position to win Sunday at St. Jude and put his tee shot into the water on 18, sinking his chances. It reminded me of the shot he hit at Augusta that led to his demise in the final round of the 2011 Masters. He bounced back from that to lap the field at the U.S. Open. Can he do that again and successfully defend his title?

Lee Westwood
Here’s another guy coming off of a win. He won the Nordea Masters in Sweden by five shots on Saturday. Off all the guys in the “best player to never win a major” discussion he’s come the closest the most often with seven top 10’s in his last 10 majors. Is it his time?

Jason Dufner
He’s the current leader on the PGA Tour money list and at the top of the FEDEX Cup points list. It’s already been a fantastic year but he would love to redeem himself after failing to close the deal at last year’s PGA Championship.

Hunter Mahan
He’s as good a driver as there is. That’s a big advantage in a major and especially the U.S. Open.

Casey Martin
You don’t remember him? He’s the guy who successfully sued for the right to ride in a cart because of his health disorder in his leg in 1998. Now the golf coach at the University of Oregon, he’s back in the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Will he contend? Unlikely. Will he be one of the top stories? Undoubtedly.

Tiger Woods
Can’t leave him off the list. He comes in as the favorite after a dramatic win at the Memorial. He will be the first name everyone looks for on the leaderboard. Maybe now we will find out if he really is back.

Bubba Watson
Bubba is the only man in the field with a shot at the Grand Slam. It’s never too early to get the hype started. He’s already got a big following and if he wins this week after playing the first two rounds with Tiger and Phil, watch out.