Leading up to the Open Championship, we'll offer up our thoughts on some of the game's best players and their chances to win at Royal Lytham and St Annes. We continue with the World number one. In case you've forgotten, that would be ...
His 2012 so far: Quite good, from a certain perspective. Ten events, four top-10 finishes, a win at the Transitions ... seems like a good run, right? Yeah, except that he finished T32 at Augusta and didn't even make the cut at The Olympic. Yeah, we kind of expect more from our No. 1 golfers than that.
His record at The Open: Eleven events, six missed cuts. Best finish? A T5 in 2009. Yeah ... let's move on.
Why he could win: Donald ranks among the best on Tour in many Major categories — 15th in scoring average, 10th in the all-important sand save percentage. Plus, it's not like he got to the No. 1 ranking because one of the world's best completely imploded and several other guys dropped the silver platter upon which the top spot was handed to them. That'd be silly.
Why he could fall short: The monkey on Donald's back grows with every Major. It's not yet silverback-sized like the one on Lee Westwood's back, but still ... every Major that passes without a win leads to more questions. Plus, it's The Open, and the weather could devour anyone.
Our take: Not going to happen. Both the US and British Opens don't seem to favour Donald's game. His best bet for a Major this year comes a few weeks from now at the US PGA Championship.
His 2012 so far: Anytime you win a Major the year is considered a complete success, regardless of how you play for the rest of the season. Watson won the Masters earlier this year and has five top-5 finishes in 12 starts, but the last few months have been ... well, they've been interesting. Since his victory at Augusta, Watson's only played four events in the last three months, missing the cut in two of those starts (Memorial, US Open). We've seen other guys in the past ratchet back their schedule following a Major win, but Watson's taken it to a Tiger Woods extreme.
His record at The Open: Not good. It's difficult to judge a golfer on just three Open starts, but it's safe to say Watson hasn't exactly figured out links golf. His best finish was a T-30 last year at Royal St Georges, and he missed the cut the two years prior.
Why he could win: Because it finally sounds like Watson's willing to embrace links golf this year. Speaking to the media earlier this week, he mentioned that the best way to get around Royal Lytham and St Annes was to take an iron off the tee and keep it in the fairway. Whether he follows that game plan remains to be seen, but tabling "Bubba Golf" is the way to get around this course. Also, Watson has the imagination around the greens that's needed to win an Open. If he gets the putter going, stays patient and leaves the driver in the bag, he may have a shot at winning two of the most coveted Major titles in golf.
Why he could fall short: Olympic Club and Royal Lytham and St Annes don't have a lot in common, but if there's one thing you have to do at both courses, it's keep the ball in play. After talking about the need to take an iron off pretty much every tee, Watson said, that "doesn't mean I'm going to be able to do that." That could honestly be his downfall this week. If Watson feels the need to pull driver for whatever reason and press, he's going to get in a lot of trouble. Plus, you have to wonder if rust is once again going to be an issue. Watson made only two starts prior to the US Open and struggled to find his swing the entire week. Going into The Open he's only made one start, and that was three weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. You can't take extended breaks between Majors and expect to contend when you show up.
Our take: Simply put, Watson's game isn't where it needs to be going into a Major. The lack of competitive reps leading up to The Open will likely be an issue this week - meaning we wouldn't be surprised if he missed the cut and took the early flight back to Florida. Watson is a bomb and gouge guy, and this course definitely doesn't cater to type of game.
Devil Ball Golf blog, Yahoo! Sports
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