1. #1
    Chance Harper
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    2008 British Open

    Sergio Garcia leads field at 2008 Open Championship

    Expected wet weather and the absence of Tiger Woods has left this year's chase for the claret jug wide open. Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson are the leading contenders at Royal Birkdale.

    Golf is a maddening sport for players and bettors alike.

    Consider the case of the 2007 British Open winner, Padraig Harrington. He was cruising into this year’s 137th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale priced at a reasonable 16-1 on the betting odds list. Then Harrington injured his wrist Saturday swinging into an impact bag. He was still 22-1 at press time, but might not even be able to play after practicing gingerly on Tuesday.

    Too bad, because this is the kind of event that’s right up Paddy’s alley. He’s a veteran of the European Tour, and he’s had plenty of experience in the lousy weather conditions they’re expecting in Southport, England for the first two rounds: rain mixed with periods of more rain. The sun should come out on the weekend, but winds should still be blowing near 20 mph on Saturday.

    With the weather playing an equalizing factor, Harrington at less than 100 percent and Tiger Woods not participating, the claret jug is very much up for grabs. Sergio Garcia is the favorite at 8-1; he nearly beat Harrington last year before losing in a playoff. Garcia tied for fifth place the previous two years and is coming off an important win in May at The Players Championship. Yet he has never won a major tournament. The popular Spaniard missed the cut at this year’s Masters and finished 18th at the U.S. Open.

    Ernie Els (12-1) knows what it’s like to win a major. Els has three under his belt, including the 2002 British Open at Muirfield. He’s placed in the Top 5 in three of the five Opens since then. The man they call “The Big Easy” also has a PGA Tour victory to his credit this year: the Mar. 2 Honda Classic. After finishing second to Tiger Woods on seven occasions (the 2000 Open at St. Andrews is one of them), Els has clear sailing this year in Southport.

    Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwood share third-favorite status at 16-1. Mickelson is the more recognizable of the two, but this is by far his most difficult major. Aside from a third-place finish in 2004, “Lefty” has had nothing but trouble at the Open – even missing the cut last year. Mickelson’s chances this time around seem even worse after his 38th place finish at last week’s Scottish Open tune-up. Els placed a much more respectable ninth at Loch Lomond.

    Westwood isn’t very well known on this side of the Atlantic, but the Englishman has 18 European Tour victories since turning pro in 1993. He finished fourth in the 2004 British Open and came in third at this year’s U.S. Open; however, Westwood has an even worse track record at the Open than Mickelson does. He missed the cut in three of the last six years and tied for 35th in 2007.

    In this wide-open Open environment, the betting value may be even further down the odds list than usual. The winner of the Scottish Open was Graeme McDowell, but at 33-1, the Northern Ireland native’s odds aren’t very long for someone with just four years of pro experience, someone who also missed the cut at last year’s British Open. Someone like David Howell (125-1) might be more worth a spin; he cracked the Top 10 in the world rankings in 2006 before injuries took him off track. Howell will have to improve on last week’s 38th place finish at Loch Lomond, though.

    Bringing up the rear at 300-1: Jean Van de Velde. It’s been nine years since his Open meltdown at Carnoustie, and he hasn’t played a major since 2005.

  2. #2
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    jjgold's Avatar Saloon Moderator
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    look for a Euro to win it this year but not the choker Garcia

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