McIlroy can double up and be the pride of St George’s

Sam Torrance
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IN TERMS of prestige and history there is no other tournament that can hold a light to the Open and I’m sure this year’s instalment will provide many more memorable moments.

The event returns to Royal St George’s after an eight-year absence and the course will provide all the usual tests you expect of an Open venue.

Ben Curtis was a somewhat surprise winner back in 2003 with a 72 hole score of one under par which shows just how tough the course can play when the wind gets up, especially over the closing few holes which provide a real challenge on the way home.

Of course the elements and often the tee times play a part in deciding the victor, but ultimately these things tend to even themselves out over four rounds.

You can’t escape, however, from the fact that to win you’ll need to drive consistently well and have the short game to dig yourself out of trouble.

The players who participated in last week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart will undoubtedly have an edge having got some valuable links time under their belts. The Scottish Open at Loch Lomond was a fantastic event at a beautiful course, but it didn’t exactly prepare you for what was usually in store the following week.

One man who didn’t appear at the Inverness course, however, was US Open champion Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman took some unnecessary criticism for opting to take a three-week break following his heroics at Congressional.

Give the kid a break. He’s 22 years old and after romping to his first Major title he is entitled to prepare for the Open in whichever way he feels will give him the best chance of winning.

McIlroy is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, his confidence must be sky high and having got the monkey of his Augusta collapse off his back he’s my top pick this week.

Luke Donald claimed the Scottish Open in fantastic style to underline his status as the world No1. Hitting it straight and true will be key this week and nobody does that better than the Englishman.

Lee Westwood too is always in contention at these events and he along with Ian Poulter, who didn’t fire at the US Open, will lead a very strong home challenge.

If you’re looking for something a little less obvious then I’d expect Sergio Garcia to do well this week. His performance at Congressional slipped under the radar slightly. If only he could hole a few more putts.

Meanwhile, in the absence of Tiger Woods I see the American challenge being led by in-form Steve Stricker, Nick Watney and Matt Kuchar.