Turnberry, Scotland (AFP) — If history is any guide, there can only
be one winner of the 138th Open Championship, which tees off here on
Turnberry has a good claim to be regarded as the most
picturesque of all the venues on the Open rota, but what really makes
local chests swell with pride is the Ailsa Course's unrivalled ability
to produce champions recognised by their peers as the world's best.
Watson, who provided Turnberry with its finest hour when he edged Jack
Nicklaus in the 1977 Duel in the Sun, Greg Norman with his first major
win in 1986 and Nick Price eight years later: all of them giants of the
If the record is to continue, the only outcome can be a
Tiger Woods triumph and the world number one, a conscientious student
of the history of the sport he dominates, acknowledges there can be no
excuses if he is not at the top of the leaderboard by the end of Sunday
"The guys that have won before here were some of the best ball strikers of all time, or certainly in their eras," he said.
"It shows that you just can't fake it around this golf course. You just have to hit good golf shots."
does that quite as well as Woods and, having finished tied for 6th
place in both the first two majors of the year, The Masters and the US
Open, there is a sense that major title number 15 is now a little
overdue for the world number one, who has won three times on the US
tour since coming back from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
had only just gone under the knife when last year's Open was contested
and he was too preoccupied with the initial, painful stages of his
rehabilitation to pay too much attention to the action at Royal
He did however take in the climax of a tournament that
saw Padraig Harrington clinch his second consecutive Open title with a
nerveless display over the closing holes.
"When it really
mattered, Padraig had to shoot a number and he did," Woods said of the
Irishman who, a year later, is embarking on his quest for a third
straight Open win beset by doubts over a swing that he is attempting to
The result, to date, have not been great: six missed
cuts in his last seven outings on the US and European tours tell their
Despite the doubts in his mind, the Irishman says he
feels close to turning the corner and is confident that, if he puts
himself into contention, he will stay there.
"The one thing I
know is if I get in the position, I can win," he says, justifiably
given that he followed up last year's Open triumph by winnning the US
Woods and Harrington have both identified driving, or more
accurately strategy off the tee, as one of the keys to victory on a
layout ringed by rough that has been allowed to grow thick and tall as
a result of an unusually wet and warm spring on Scotland's southwestern
Woods, who famously used his driver only once in 72 holes
when he won his third Open title at Hoylake three years ago, suggested
the longest club in his bag could be equally idle here if the wind
But he also acknowledged that more benign conditions
will tempt a lot of players to try and carry the fearsome fairway
bunkers in pursuit of positions to attack the pins.
put it: "There will be rewards for guys who hit the ball long down the
fairway because shorter irons will lead to birdies but with the rough
the way it is, you want to hit those fairways at all costs."
premium on long, straight driving has convinced many that Lee Westwood
is the most likely man to become the first home winner of the world's
oldest major tournament since Paul Lawrie won at Carnoustie in 1999.
Casey, currently ranked three in the world, and Ian Poulter, the
runner-up to Harrington last year, also look capable of joining the
ranks of major winners but it is hard to make a compelling case for
anyone other than Tiger.