Five Open picks
Rob Lee picks his five front-runners for the Open Championship - could this be Westwood's year?
Last Updated: 17/07/12 2:34pm
Reports suggest that Royal Lytham will pose a wet and wild challenge for this week's Open Championship hopefuls.
With that in mind, Rob Lee picks his five front-runners for the tournament...
I think it is a wonderful chance for Westwood. It was slightly worrying in France when he slipped and injured his groin but I think that is okay now. With the course at Lytham set to be wet and the rough really high, I think he has a wonderful chance because he strikes the ball so well. I think you can almost discount anyone who is not a good driver of the ball; there is only so much chopping out of the rough that you can do.
Westwood is so good with his driving and irons that anything else looks weak in comparison. But he is not as bad as people think with the short putts and the chips - he has improved a lot. If he has a decent putting week, which he can have, it is definitely there for him. He's 14/1 with Sky Bet.
The fact that he has been close in Majors has got to help him. If he wins one, he will win a few. It is the first one for him that is the big hurdle and I just think the way Lytham is playing this week he has got to be feeling good about his chances.
I am going to pick him because you can't afford not to. His strength has always been his mentality and his superiority. While it has not quite got back to what it was, he's had three very good victories this season and is up to world number four. Woods is moving in one direction and that is towards the world number one.
Having said that, I don't think it will suit him this week. If it is as wet as I am hearing and the ball doesn't run very far, Woods won't be able to squeeze his three-wood out there to 280 yards. He will have to hit his driver a few times and that is not the strongest part of his game. Also, I can rarely remember his playing well in horrible conditions.
I would like Donald to win a Major after the season he had last year - he was absolutely stellar. But he has not been fantastic at Open Championships and he is another player who needs to have a very good driving week because under 150 yards he is phenomenal. Is he mentally tough? Yes. Can he hold enough pressure putts? Yes. The weakest part of his game is the driving so he has to play really well from the tee. He is 16/1.
I have seen enough good rounds from him this year to suggest he can win it. Garcia, a 35/1 shot, is far too good a player not to win a Major and if he does win one, like Westwood, I think he'll win more. If he had had a tiny bit of luck he could have won a few Majors by now. But he has won none.
The thing I look from him is that he is mentally right. Sometimes he seems like he is not quite there, he is not quite at the races with his emotions. After the Masters he did say that he was not good enough but that was just the emotion of the moment. I spoke to him about it and that is not his modus operandi, it was just venting. It could all fall into place for him this week.
During the Open Championship last year I could see he had a natural links game. He definitely has a natural ability to hit golf shots, whether they are low scuttly things or whatever is required at the time. He played some terrific golf in horrible conditions at St Georges and I like his chances.
The key for him is belief. He will have been buoyed by winning at Quail Hollow against D.A. Points and Rory McIlroy in a play-off. That first hole of the play-off was a horrible par four and he just made the dream birdie to win his first tournament. He will be licking his chops at coming to play at Lytham.
Rory McIlroy has suggested that he doesn't really like the bad weather and wind. But he is a smart boy and he knows he has to adapt his game at least once a year. To be considered a great player he has got to master tough, wintery, horrible links-like Open Championships. Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino adapted, as did others. I wouldn't discount him though.
Phil Mickelson showed a bit of form last week so maybe he has got it together again. When he tempers his game and doesn't turn into wild, slashing Phil, he is immense.
Richard Sterne is a good outside bet - he's 200/1 with Sky Bet. He is coming back from injury and is incredibly talented. He is a little behind his two mates Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen, who have both already won Majors, but he is as good as they are.
Westwood and Garcia, for me, are on an absolute even keel for who I would like to see win. Their careers deserve an Open Championship but you don't always get what you deserve.
See all the latest Open Championship betting odds from Sky Bet