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The contenders for the British Open

Globe Staff / July 14, 2011

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Jeff Overton
Age:
28
British Open starts: 3
Cuts made: 3
Low score: 67
Best finish: T11 (2010)

Case: Ben Curtis was ranked No. 396 in the world and without a PGA Tour victory when he arrived at the 2003 British Open at Royal St. George’s and left with the claret jug. Overton’s ranking is much better (No. 58) but he, too, is searching for his first tour win as the oldest major returns to the links near the Strait of Dover. Overton winning would be equally stunning: He has just three top-20 finishes this season, one year removed from playing in the Ryder Cup. But he tied for third in his last start, and he’s improved his finish in all three previous British Open starts: 70th in 2008, then a tie for 13th in 2009, and a tie for 11th last year.

Luke Donald
Age:
33
British Open starts: 10
Cuts made: 5
Low score: 67
Best finish: T5 (2009)

Case: Donald has been the best, most consistent player in the world this year, he’s playing at home in England, and favored to win his first major. A year ago one could argue that Donald didn’t have the chops to join the major champion’s club, despite a handful of decent showings. But he’s won three times this year (once on the PGA Tour, twice on the European Tour), and hasn’t been fazed about being the world’s top-ranked player. The lone blip was a tie for 45th at the US Open. Donald missed the cut in his first five British Opens, but now has made the cut in five straight, including a tie for fifth in 2009 and a tie for 11th last year.

Jason Day
Age:
23
British Open starts: 1
Cuts made: 1
Low score: 71
Best finish: T60 (2010)

Case: Don’t let the lack of British Open experience scare you. Day never had played in the Masters or US Open before this year, then tied for second at Augusta National and was solo second at Congressional. He has five other top 10s, including a tie for sixth at the Players Championship. The concern this week is Day’s limited exposure to links golf. If the weather is decent, he should be fine. If the wind howls (it’s supposed to) and it’s a shade nicer than miserable, as British Opens tend to be, he’ll be in trouble. It’s been 18 years since an Australian won the British Open: Greg Norman, also at Royal St. George’s.

Matteo Manassero
Age:
18
British Open starts: 1
Cuts made: 1
Low score: 69
Best finish: T13 (2009)

Case: Before Manassero plays his way into contention and the announcers bombard us with this nugget of information, read it here first: Manassero would become the second-youngest champion in the British Open’s 140-year history. Only Young Tom Morris (17 years, 5 months in 1868) was younger. Making history would be nothing new for the Italian. His win two years ago made him the youngest winner of the British Amateur, he’s already won twice on the European Tour (making him the youngest), and he made the cut at the Masters last year and the US Open this year. Would be a wildly popular winner.

AND THE WINNER IS....
Lee Westwood
Age:
38
British Open starts: 16
Cuts made: 12
Low score: 67
Best finish: Second (2010)

Case: His season got off to a shaky start, but he’s since rounded into form, starting at the Masters, where he tied for 11th. In six starts since then, he’s had a win, three other top 10s, with a tie for 14th his worst finish. He’s done everything in the British Open the past few years except win: He’s recorded eight straight rounds of par or better, finished a shot out of the Tom Watson-Stewart Cink playoff two years ago, then was second last year, albeit seven shots behind Louis Oosthuizen. Rory McIlroy buried some demons by winning the US Open for his first major. Westwood has been so close (six top three finishes in his last 12 majors), now’s the time he breaks through. At home.