Bubba backs Open for top 10 winner

MASTERS champion Bubba Watson has ruled out an outsider repeating Darren Clarke’s fairytale triumph of 12 months ago at this year’s Open, which starts on Thursday at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s.

Watson believes only a player ranked among the world’s top 10 will have the required mental fortitude to overcome the current dreadful weather and a course that Tiger Woods has called “almost unplayable” in places.

That has prompted him to tip English pair Luke Donald and Lee Westwood -- ranked No1 and No3 respectively but both still seeking their maiden marquee title -- as well as 14-time Major winner Woods.

“If I don’t win, you’ve got to think that it’ll be someone who’s already up there in the top 10 in the world,” the American told City A.M. yesterday. “You have to look at someone who has a very good mind, that can withstand bad weather and tough conditions, and their mental game is going to have to stand out maybe even more than their physical game.

“This week is a tough challenge with the weather predicted. Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, guys who haven’t won yet but are really close, you can’t bet against them. And Tiger’s the only guy to have won three times this year, so you have to put him among the top five.”

Watson, likely to be part of the US Ryder Cup team later this year, also warned his European rivals that he and his compatriots are improving and out to lay down a marker.

“The last three [Majors] have been won by three US guys, all young guys winning their first,” he added. “So America is on the up.”

Read City A.M.’s full exclusive interview with Bubba Watson in our special watch supplement on Friday.