The Open: Gary Player predicts European champion
GARY Player believes that a European will win this year’s Open, which, after a string of American successes, is a bolder claim than it might at first seem.
The last three major championships have been claimed by Americans – Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, and, most recently, US Open champion Webb Simpson – but Player predicts that the United States will not complete a full set of winners on Sunday evening.
“There are a lot of good young players being produced there [in the United States], but I think a European player will win at Lytham,” he said. “Bubba is a great character and a mighty hitter and I love to watch him on the course, but if he is smart he won’t use his driver and should stick to an iron all the way round.
“Of course Tiger Woods is a big threat, but if I look at what the weather man is saying – admittedly before a ball has been hit – this championship, in my opinion, is favouring a European player.”
Player, who played in 46 consecutive Opens, knows a thing or two about Royal Lytham and St Annes where he won a third Open crown in 1974. Then, as now, the wind blew, which meant the ball had to be kept low. He contends that Europeans are best equipped for the task, and rates Lee Westwood as being among those who can provide the accuracy required to prosper.
“I would love to see Lee Westwood win,” said Player. “He’s been working hard and he has been second before and come so close to winning that I think it might be his turn. A golf course like this is made for him, because it’s very narrow and he is a straight driver. And I think he’s got a great temperament.
“I notice there have been several players complaining the rough is too high, but if you’re a good player that should be to your advantage,” he added. “When I went to a tournament I wanted the rough to be very high, because that meant if you hit it straight you were going to win. Heavy rough will stop a real outsider winning. I think this year it’s going to take a special champion to win.”
He described Rory McIlroy as “very talented young man”, but criticised his preparations ahead of recent major championships. “Before the Open championship last year, I believe he never played in a month,” said Player. “As a contrast you see that highly experienced players Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson came over here to play in the Scottish Open last week ahead of Lytham.
Player also believes that Woods must win one of the two remaining majors of the year, here and at the US PGA in August, if he is to at least emulate Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 wins. “The lost two years have hurt him,” said the South African, who himself lifted nine major titles.
“Will he do it? Possibly. Is it more difficult now? Yes. But I think if he is going to do it, he has to win one major championship this year.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 19 May 2013
Temperature: 10 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West