The 2011 Britsh Open Championship returns to Royal St. George’s Golf Club for the first time since 2003 when Ben Curtis, ranked 396th in the world, won in his first start in a major championship. The par 71 layout is just over 7100 yards long and is located just off Sandwich Bay on the southeast English coast very near the English Channel. What does that mean? It means that although Royal St. George’s is on the opposite side of the U.K. from many of the Scottish courses the Open is played at, the main difficulties remain the same… sand and wind. It’s easy to say that experienced players have an advantage in difficult windy conditions on a course that is unfamiliar to many of the players in the field. You only have to look back to Ben Curtis’s triumph 8 years ago or Todd Hamilton’s the next year to see that ignorance can be bliss in the game of golf and it just takes steady nerves and creativity around the greens sometimes to win a British Open. So… after analyzing the field for this week’s championship, here are my predictions:
Luke Donald +1100-
Other than the U.S. Open, which is obviously a completely different kind of golf than the British, Donald is absolutely scorching hot. His results in his last 6 European Tour events (not counting the U.S. Open which is a shared event between the U.S. and Euro Tours): Win, Win, Runner-up, 4th, 6th, Win going back to the Accenture Match Play. He won in the wind in Scotland on Sunday in the Scottish Open and is just playing too well to discount him because he has a history of not finishing in majors.
Retief Goosen +4500-
A final round 66 in Scotland led him to a top 15 last week and he finished in the top ten in 2003 at Royal St. George’s. A key stat: he is #2 on the European Tour this year in scrambling which could be a key skill set in the wind this week. Add that to his good record at the Open Championship, including a 6th place finish last year, and it may be a great week for the 2-time U.S. Open champion.
Henrik Stenson +6600-
Placed 3rd, 13th, and 3rd in the past three British Open Championships so this style of golf definitely fits his game. He couldn’t have been worse to start the 2011 season but has started to turn things around with a top 25 at the U.S. Open and a top 10 at the BMW International Open a couple weeks ago.