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Top 3 to Be 16th Different Major Champ at 2012 Open: A Fan's Take

Zach Johnson, Ernie Els, and Tiger Woods Can Win 2012 Open

Yahoo Contributor Network

When Padraig Harrington won his second major in a row, at the 2008 PGA Championship, few would have guessed it was the first of 15 consecutive major golf championships to be won by 15 different players. After the first round of the 141st British Open Championship, played July 19, 2012, at Royal Lytham & St Annes, there are 36 players within five shots of the lead. Only four of these professionals (Graeme McDowell, Charl Schwartzel, Rory McIlroy, and Bubba Watson) are a part of the current streak.

Of the 32 remaining players within five shots, this is one fan's pick of the three with the best chance to extend the streak to 16. Each is a former major champion.

3. Zach Johnson: With an opening round score of 5-under par 65, including a run of seven birdies in a 13 hole stretch, Johnson is a single shot behind the tournament leader, Adam Scott. Currently ranked #11 in the official world golf rankings, with nine career wins on the PGA Tour, he is a former champion of one of golf's four majors, the 2007 Masters Tournament.

Zach Johnson comes to Britain playing some of the best golf of his career. In his last eight tournaments he has finished second twice (RBC Heritage, The Players Championship) and has claimed two victories, at the Colonial in May and last week's John Deere Classic.

2. Ernie Els: Now 42 years old, Ernie Els has been a professional golfer since 1989 (longer than some of this week's contestants have been alive). A member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, his career has included over 60 tournament victories around the world and three major championships: the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997, and the British Open in 2002.

Ernie Els has played well in 2012, with four top ten finishes and a second place in April's Zurich Classic (where he lost a playoff to Jason Dufner). Perhaps the best thing going for Ernie in the 2012 Open is the location. He is the only golfer in the field to have finished in the top ten in both 1996 (2nd) and 2001 (3rd), the last two Opens held at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. With an opening round 67 this year, he sits three shots off the pace.

1. Tiger Woods: With 86 career wins internationally, including 14 majors and three British Opens, Woods has been the world's most dominant golfer of the last two decades. I don't know if it is more surprising that Woods has not won a major in nearly four years, or that nobody else has won twice.

Tiger Woods made it look easy at the start of Thursday's first round, with birdies on four of the first seven holes. From there on, using irons for most tee shots (successfully avoiding the bunkers), he continued to strike the ball very well, but didn't seal the deal with his birdie putts. Interviewed after his round he said he was very comfortable, just needed to hit his putts about six inches further.

It appears Tiger has a good game plan for the 2012 Open Championship. It's difficult to win any given tournament, but he looks to be in a good position for this one.

Harold Andrews has played golf (competitively and recreationally) for nearly 50 years. He considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time.


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