"I'm telling you guys, I'm this close to winning a major." Or something like that...
LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- Welcome to another edition of Fantasy Fix, where we're just not sure we can handle living in a world where Steve Stricker doesn't win the John Deere Classic. But we've got a major championship this week to help pick up our spirits, and one where wagering is socially acceptable to boot. In honor of that, we'll take a betting slant when making this week's picks using odds from Ladbrokes.com
. And since I'm in England to cover the game's oldest championship, it's a lock that I'll be putting a few pounds down myself. Hey, when in Rome, well, um, Lancashire. . .
The PGA Tour heads across the pond for the Open Championship, or in the words of us rude Americans, the British Open. I'm excited to cover the tournament for the first time, especially since my boss has assured me there will be soda in the media center. Phew! No, of course I'm genuinely thrilled to get to soak in UK culture. There's only so much you can learn from watching Ricky Gervais-written sitcoms.
Random tournament fact: Fittingly, the oldest ever winner of this event was Old Tom Morris, who won in 1867 at the age of 46 years and 99 days. But he didn't exactly ride off into the sunset. Instead, he played in the event for nearly three more decades.
Darren Clarke (150-1). The Northern Irishman's win at Royal St George's last year was shocking, considering he hadn't had a top 10 at a major in more than a decade. But considering we're not sure if he's made a cut since collecting the claret jug, a repeat -- despite the fact he finished T-3 here in 2001 -- would be an even bigger surprise.
STUD OF THE WEEK
Tiger Woods. Five For Fighting's song "Chances" ponders the question, "Is there a better bet than love?" How about Woods this week at 8 to 1? Part of our original reasoning for picking him in this spot was the thinking he could attack this course like he played Hoylake in 2006, when he used driver once on his way to winning his third claret jug. However, with record rain in 2012 and more in the forecast for this week, the conditions will be a little different than expected. Woods noted that the rough is "almost unplayable' in some spots, but that should force him into being more conservative off the tee -- something that should work to his advantage. The bottom line is that it's been more than four years since Woods last won a major. We think the time has come for him to end that streak, wrap up player of the year honors and end any debate over who the best player in the world is.
Speaking of big winners, make sure to enter Golf Digest's Major Championship Challenge
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BRITAIN'S BEST BETS
Luke Donald (20-1) and Lee Westwood (16-1). An Englishman hasn't won this event on English soil since Tony Jacklin won at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 1969. These two certainly didn't help that cause when both missed the cut at Royal St George's last year. However, with England hosting this event in back-to-back years for the first time ever, we can't imagine that happening again. Like the books, we like Westy's chances better. While he is still searching for his first major championship, unlike Donald, Westwood has at least been in the hunt consistently. He has the most top-3 finishes at majors (seven) of anyone since 2008 and he would have probably added to that total if he didn't have a tee shot get lost in a tree at Olympic Club in the final round. At least he doesn't have to worry about that on a links course.
WEEKLY YAHOO! ROSTER SELECTIONS
Starters: Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, and Louis Oosthuizen.
Bench: Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, and Francesco Molinari.
GUEST PICK OF THE WEEK
For this week's pick, it was only fitting to get a Euro perspective. Here's what Keith Totton (@Jinkyt15) from Northern Ireland has to say:
"My gut feeling tells me Ian Poulter will be there come Sunday. He seems to have found consistency in his play recently on PGA Tour and in European events, going close in the French Open the week before last, has been in the mix a few times and his putting has been excellent. His iron play is in good shape, so if he can keep the ball in play off the tee, his accuracy from fairway to green and his hot putter could help him to add yet another name to the growing list of maiden major winners."
We're not sure about Poulter, especially at 40-1, but considering how successful Northern Irishmen have been in recent majors, it might be smart to listen to Keith...
Care to make a guest pick? Be bold and email me at Alex.Myers@GolfDigest.com
or tweet at me (@AlexMyers3
) for a chance to appear in next week's column. Or if you just feel like making fun of my picks or discussing your favorite Five For Fighting song.
SEMI-SLEEPERS OF THE WEEK
Ben Curtis (100-1). The 2003 Open winner has relied on the flatstick (he's third in strokes gained-putting on the PGA Tour) for his recent resurgence. He's also not a one-time wonder abroad, with two other top 10s in this event.
Fredrik Jacobson (80-1). The man with the painter's cap has quietly finished in the top 25 in six of the last nine major championships he's played in.
FORMER CHAMPS NOT GETTING ENOUGH LOVE
Louis Oosthuizen (50-1). I'm still licking my wounds from his close call at the Masters, when I had him at 90-1. But I also still like him to contend in more majors, especially this one considering it's only been two years since his runaway win at St. Andrews.
Ernie Els (40-1). The "Big Easy" has missed the cut in this event the past two years, but has enjoyed a strong 2012 with four top 10s, including a close call at the U.S. Open. His two finishes at RLSA? A runner-up and a T-3.
IS IT THEIR TIME (NOT DONALD-WESTWOOD EDITION)?
Sergio Garcia (33-1). Perhaps because putting usually factors in less here than in the other three majors, the Spaniard has finished in the top 10 in seven of the 13 times he's teed it up in this tournament as a pro. You've got to like those odds before you factor in his T-9 last year and another T-9 here in 2001, when he was only 21.
Justin Rose (33-1). The Englishman is first in the European Tour's Race to Dubai standings this year, but he has never come close to matching his T-4 in 1998 as a 17-year-old amateur. We think that changes this year.
SUCKER BET OF THE WEEK
Phil Mickelson (33-1). Throw out his four major championships, a runner-up at last year's British Open and two really good rounds last week at the Scottish Open. Don't ever bet on Lefty to win on the right side of the Atlantic.
FREE FANTASY BASKETBALL ADVICE
The alley-oops will be flying next year at Madison Square Garden now that the Knicks have acquired Jason Kidd and Marcus Camby. Oh, wait. It's not 1999? Never mind. . .
RIDE THE HOT HAND
Francesco Molinari (40-1). The Italian is coming off a playoff loss in the Scottish Open and he's No. 2 in the Race to Dubai standings. That's enough for us to endorse him, despite the fact he's never broken par in 10 rounds at the Open.
OLD PLAYER WORTH A LOOK
Miguel Angel Jimenez (150-1). Surprisingly, "The Mechanic" only has one top-10 finish in this event, but where did it come? You guessed it, Royal Lytham & St Annes, when he finished T-3. Plus, doesn't it always seem like some old geezer is in the mix at the Open?
UNDER-THE-RADAR EUROPEAN TOUR PLAYER
Branden Grace (100-1). The Tiger Woods of Europe in 2012 has won a tour-leading three events and finished fifth in the tour's flagship event, the BMW PGA. Odds of 100-to-1 for this up-and-coming South African?! That's even tastier than the surprisingly-good chicken and rice offering American Airlines served on my trans-Atlantic flight.
*-- Alex Myers is a contributing editor for GolfDigest.com. Feel free to email him
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since he has self-esteem issues.*