Welcome to the British Open, where the elements and undulating fairways are sure to play a role. With so many top players in the field at Royal St. George's, here are five groups that you should consider keeping an eye on in the first two rounds. Based on their current form, there's a good chance a couple names could be in contention on Sunday afternoon.
Angel Cabrera, Matteo Manassero, Nick Watney (first round 3:31 a.m. ET, second round 8:32 a.m.): One member of this threesome (Cabrera) has multiple major wins, but it's the two young guys that could steal the show. Nick Watney already has two wins this season, and posted a T-7 finish at the 2010 British Open. Matteo Manassero already has a British Open victory ... but it came at the 2009 British Amateur; he also finished T-13 as an amateur at the 2008 Open Championship. Could a darkhorse pick come from this group? Absolutely.
Ernie Els, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler (4:09 a.m., 9:10 a.m.): It wasn't too long ago that we were putting Fowler and McIlroy in the same "potential major winners" group. Now McIlroy is a favorite to win the Open after his victory at Congressional. Fowler finished T-14 at St. Andrews, so he has some Open success; but he'll need to find a way to put four good rounds together if he wants to join Rory. And Els? Well, he already has a Claret Jug to go along with five top-10 finishes in his last seven Open appearances.
Sergio Garcia, Ryo Ishikawa, Luke Donald (4:20 a.m., 9:21 a.m.): Call this the group of past, present and future favorites to win the Open Championship. Garcia finished T-10 the last time the Open was at Royal St. George's, but a lot has changed since then with regards to his game and mindset. Luke Donald is one of the front-runners, and the way he's been playing of late, you have to like his chances coming out of this group. Ishikawa isn't on anybody's radar, but he's only a couple decent rounds away from being a big storyline on the weekend.
Lee Westwood, Steve Stricker, Charl Schwartzel (9:10 a.m., 4:09 a.m.): If you had to pick one group that could have three players in the mix on Sunday afternoon, this would probably be the one. Schwartzel already has a green jacket, while Westwood and Stricker have been close in numerous major championships. All three players have the ball flight and the game to win the Claret Jug at Royal St. George's; expect all three to push each other over the opening two rounds.
Graeme McDowell, Jason Day, Bubba Watson (8:43 a.m., 3:42 a.m.): Watson has a big game, but as we've seen with Mickelson, you can't hit a high ball and expect to win the Open. McDowell grew up on links-style courses, has a major championship and two top-15 finishes in his last three starts at the Open. If he can keep it in play, he could be a player to watch. Day, however, could be the name to keep an eye on after his runner-up finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open. An Aussie by the name of Greg Norman won at Royal St. George's in 1993, and some liken Day's game to Norman's. He's got all the tools to contend and become a first-time major winner.
- Nick Watney
- Matteo Manassero