Who will win the Open Championship?
Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
The US Women’s Open ended in controversy on Sunday as Anna Nordqvist grounded her club in a bunker on the 17th hole during a playoff against Brittany Lang. The USGA took some 20 minutes to decide that it was in fact a penalty, then informed Nordqvist after she hit her third shot on the 18th hole but before Lang hit her third. After the Dustin Johnson situation at the Men’s Open, the USGA vowed to deal with similar situations faster and better. Did the USGA get this one right?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): Although I discuss this incident in my Fairways blog this week, I didn’t really get into the question of whether the USGA handled it well. My problem is with the rule itself. But I certainly question why the USGA took 20 minutes, and why they informed Anna AFTER her shot into the green, and then Brittany was informed BEFORE her shot. Brittany later readily admitted that knowing about the penalty altered her strategy. In the end, it didn’t matter, as in the Johnson case, but the point is, the USGA officials affected the course of play and gave one player (Lang) a small advantage over the other, and that’s wrong. Surely after all this time, the USGA should have a set and consistent policy for communicating infractions. (And a wholesale review of the Rules wouldn’t hurt, either.)
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): Wow, can’t believe the USGA had to get so involved again on a rules infraction. But in the end they did everything they could to get it right, and as quickly as possible. Sad that HD TV still has to play a part in the outcomes of golf tournaments, but the USGA had to make that decision because ultimately it was the right one. As much as I love HD golf, I wish it didn’t play into decisions as much as it does.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario (@craigloughry): They got the ruling right and they did the best they could with what they had. If they could have let the players know earlier you damn well know they would have. They knew exactly what was at stake in terms of Championship but also PR. Mistakes will be made, they’ll learn from this and install some better protocols going forward.
Frank Mastroianni, Freelance Writer: The USGA got this one wrong as it has so many other things before it (ball moving on the green rule, anchored putters, DJ situation and so much more). They have no clue what they’re doing and I don’t think anyone could have made that any more clear than their own elected President Daniella (aka Dana aka what am I doing here) Murphy. The fact that they elected a President that can’t get the names of their champions or their championship right is telling. She announced Bethany Lang the U.S. Women’s Champion — who is Bethany and champion of what?
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): They got the Rule right but once again messed up delivering the message and in doing so gave an advantage to Lang. With only two players on the course, the USGA could have asked them to wait on the 18th tee or after their first shots while they reviewed the video, and then delivered the news to both players simultaneously.
Dave Kaplan, Freelance Writer, (@davykap): I think they got it right this time. It clearly took the USGA a little bit of time to look at Fox’s HD close-up, make a decision and then relay it to the players and I truly believe that they tried to do that as quickly as possible. I think the real issue here is that the USGA has gained such a bad reputation since their blunder at the US Open that the organization was going to be criticized for this one regardless of when they notified the pairing on 18.
Now that Dustin Johnson has finally won a major, Sergio Garcia and Lee Westwood are amongst the two best players still looking for their first. Both typically play well in the Open Championship and will be sentimental favourites this week, not to mention local favourites, amongst the British and European fans. Do you think either Garcia or Westwood has enough left to finally break through at Royal Troon?
Mastroianni: Westwood I’m not so sure but Sergio definitely. He plays quite well in Open Championships and I expect him to do so again this week. He’s got plenty of juice left in the tank at 36 years old and is coming off a win at the AT&T Byron Nelson and T5 at the U.S. Open…his last two PGA TOUR starts. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and pick him as the winner. I think he can do it. I’m not sure he will this week but maybe I can send some good karma his way.
Rule: I would love to see one of Garcia or Westwood win, and I think Sergio has a legitimate chance. Both of them strike the ball so well, which is key in windy conditions. However, Westwood’s putting just isn’t good enough to win a major; he has proved that on numerous occasions. You’d think he would have a hot putting week once in his life, but it’s looking less and less likely. I like Sergio’s chances though; I think he’ll be there on Sunday.
Deeks: I’d be happy to eat my word next Sunday, but my answer is: NO. To me, both these guys are like Teslas… beautiful machines, but just not enough juice for the long drive.
Loughry: Garcia has the game to break through and has been playing quite well as of late but, unfortunately, his putter generally lets him down. Westwood has the exact same problem. Both are PHENOMENAL ball strikers but the flat stick just isn’t what it needs to be when they need it most. I’d love to see Westwood poke through a little more than Garcia. But I don’t think either will do it this week.
Kaplan: I have zero faith in either of those guys. I think “Beef” Johnston gets one before either of those two do.
Mumford: The power of self-belief is paramount when it comes to winning and more so in majors. The longer a player goes without winning however, the more self-doubt creeps in. Westwood and Garcia have turned the corner where all their near misses and great experience as contenders has turned into baggage, full of gremlins and ghosts that rear their ugly heads at the worst times and cause a player to self-destruct. I’d love to see either win a major but I think both are carrying too much baggage.
Dustin Johnson is coming off a breakthrough win at the US Open and a follow up at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. Odds makers have established him and World No.1 Jason Day as the favourites, followed by the rest of the new Big 4, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy. Do you think the winner will come out of that group or do you have another pick to win this year’s Open Championship?
Loughry: Zika has the Big 4 so scared I don’t think they can focus on Majors the rest of the year. And for that, I say not one of them wins. This Major has shown from time to time you can get a medium good player to win (not always a complete longshot, but a middle packer). I’m saying that’s what happens this year. I’m thinking Lowry or even Danny Lee (NOTE: I like his Canadian caddie – the only Canadian in the field I’m aware of).
Kaplan: Give me the Big 4 for that bet. One of those guys is going to go off this week. I can feel it.
Deeks: I think Rory McIlroy will win this one, and I’d like to see it happen. But if I were to choose someone outside the Big 4, it’d be either Justin Rose or Danny Willett. Or Zach Johnson. Or Colin Montgomerie. No, wait, I take that back… Montgomerie would never win at his home course, because the caddies there hate him so much.
Mastroianni: Seems I got ahead of myself with my last response. My pick is Sergio Garcia and no I don’t think any of the “Big 4” will win this week. In fact I don’t think any of them will even be in the top 10 unless conditions are soft and the wind is down. In that case look for Rory McIlroy to be somewhere up there.
Mumford: You could easily add Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen to that group of past major winners who always contend – make it a Super 7 – and I think you have a lock on first place. I’ll take Scott to win.
Rule: Hard to go against DJ with how hot he is right now, but I think this week is going to produce a long shot winner, maybe not quite a Todd Hamilton-like long shot, but someone outside of the ‘A’ group of names. I like Brendan Grace this week. Can’t wait for it to start, I’ll be up early Thursday to watch the live action, my favourite tourney to watch!