Insider: What to watch for at Muirfield
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
Four observations leading into The Open Championship ...
Routing: The layout at Muirfield is so ingenious; I wonder why it hasn’t been copied. The opening nine is an outer circle of holes that runs clockwise and the closing nine comprises an inner circle that runs in the opposite different direction. The routing guarantees a player will be hitting shots both into and against the wind. He’ll also experience the crosswind off the both right and left. It’s one reason why Muirfield is such a thorough examination. Jack Nicklaus was so impressed with the design it reportedly is reflected in the Muirfield Village driving range, which is laid out in a circle so players can practice shots with the wind in any direction.
Fast: The fairways may be running faster than the greens. Tiger Woods talked of hitting a 300-yard 3 iron. Phil Mickelson says he’s taking driver out of the bag. When a golf course plays this fast, it brings several more players into the equation as shorter hitters are not disadvantaged by length.
Attitude: There are golfers who love British links and there are those who have never adjusted. It takes awhile to fall in love with the brown fairways and quirky bunkers. It was not love at first sight for Bobby Jones or Tom Watson. For some, affection is never found. Attitude in golf, like in life itself, plays a large role in success. If you’re looking for a winner at Muirfield, look for someone who enjoys and not just endures the experience.
Winner, winner: Let’s look at some of the possibilities, both pro and con, before I select “the champion golfer of the year.”
Tiger Woods: You have to understand, he has a football player’s mentality. He feels no compunction to divulge injuries, just as you wouldn’t expect Tom Brady to tell reporters about aching knees or Justin Verlander to discuss a hip injury. Just because Woods says his elbow is fine doesn’t mean he is pain free. I have no problem with this. Woods is a fierce competitor and is under no obligation to give us -- or fellow golfers -- full disclosure. From watching Woods in the past, I suspect he is not completely healthy but is healthy enough to contend. I have been planning to pick Woods since the start of the year to win The Open but the elbow injury has me going in a different direction.
Phil Mickelson: Remember my philosophy on Mickelson; buy low, sell high. When it appears he is primed for victory, Mickelson sometimes disappoints. He won this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open after a poor showing at the Farmers Insurance Open in his hometown. He won last week’s Scottish Open after missing the cut at The Greenbrier Classic. I hope he proves me wrong, as a Mickelson win at The Open Championship would be a great story, but I can’t endorse his selection this week.
Justin Rose: I think Rose is the best iron player on the PGA TOUR and is loaded with confidence coming off his U.S Open victory. If you want to argue he is the best player in the world, I can’t disagree with the logic. However, I wonder what are the odds a Brit wins both The Open Championship and Wimbledon in the same year? You have to decide if this is the year of the Brit or has Her Majesty’s athletes already peaked?
Graeme McDowell: It would seem his game and confidence is cresting at just the right moment. He’s always been a great driver of the golf ball and his game seems suited to Muirfield. The Ulsterman adds the Claret Jug to his trophy case.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.