ST ANDREWS is the finest golf course in the world. With its demanding links and a backdrop steeped in tradition, the course is looking as beautiful as ever and provides the perfect setting for this week’s Open Championship.
Winning the Open at the Home of Golf is the crowning glory for any golfer, and, for me, it’s the place where the Open should stay.
As always, conditions are absolutely ideal for an Open Championship, but with the weather expected to turn from today onwards, the players know they are in for four days’ of hard graft if they are to etch their name onto the list of elite St Andrews’ champions.
Irrespective of the conditions, the Old Course is one with plenty of teeth and remains one of golf’s toughest tests. Throw in a bit of rain and a stiff east coast breeze, and simply anything can happen.
CHANGE OF FORTUNE
Despite his patchy form of late, Tiger Woods remains the man to beat. Open champion here in both 2000 and 2005, this is a very special place for the world No1 and you can rest assured he’ll be there or thereabouts come Sunday.
Punters may be concerned about Tiger changing his putter after 11 years for this week after his recent erratic form on the greens, but it’s really not a big deal. Some golfers change their putters every week, Tiger is simply looking for a change of fortune.
Phil Mickelson suffered a miserable time at the Scottish Open at the weekend, but he remains a big threat, as does Ernie Els, who has performed well here in the past.
Of the British challengers, I believe Justin Rose has the biggest chance of providing us with a first home winner since Paul Lawrie in 1999.
With two wins out of three on the PGA Tour, he is the form player going into the tournament and his confidence will be sky high.
Playing with Tiger for the opening two rounds, and the circus that goes with that, won’t affect him a jot. He’ll blank himself from it and play his own game.
I’ve also got a sneaky feeling for Darren Clarke. Everyone in the golfing world was delighted to see him clinch the last remaining Open spot with a runner-up finish in the Scottish Open, and he’ll be champing at the bit for another big finish this weekend.
Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Darren is a true class act whose day is still yet to come.