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Take Your Pick If form holds, an eclectic mix will contend at St. George's

July 14, 2003
July 14, 2003

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July 14, 2003

Sports Illustrated Bonus Section: Golf Plus

Take Your Pick If form holds, an eclectic mix will contend at St. George's

Whatever happened to European golf? Thank God (and the Queen, old
boy) for the Ryder Cup because those biennial upsets are all
that's left of Euro credibility. There is only one European among
the top 14 in the World Ranking--Padraig Harrington, who's
eighth. Europe's old Big Six (Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros and
the rest) have given way to the Deep-Sixed: Colin Montgomerie,
who's barely a whiny diversion anymore; Lee Westwood, no longer
the subject of "what's-wrong-with-Lee?" stories because his slump
is now three years old; Jesper Parnevik, whose clothes get more
attention than his faltering game; Sergio Garcia, whose swing
changes may be akin to whitewashing the Sistine Chapel's ceiling;
Darren Clarke, who has gone through more putters than cigars; and
Harrington, a nice guy who always seems to finish second.

This is an article from the July 14, 2003 issue

As golf's focus now shifts across the Atlantic, it seems a
dreadfully long four years since Paul Lawrie won the British, the
last major taken by a European. Perhaps three major championships
in three weeks in Britain will buck up sagging Euro spirits. They
start with next week's British Open at Royal St. George's, in
southeast England, where the lads will be hoping for a repeat of
last year's weather-induced smackdown of Tiger Woods. The British
Senior Open tees off the following week at Turnberry's Ailsa
course in Scotland, undoubtedly the most scenic of the venues on
the Open rota. The magical mystery tour makes its final stop at
Royal Lytham and St. Annes in Blackpool, England, for the Women's
British Open. The latter two events are fairly new to major
championship status, and elevating them was a shrewd, logical
move. Yes, it's true--the seniors and the LPGA got something
right.

The British Open will revolve around Woods. Coming off his
blowout win at the Western Open, he's the obvious favorite, but
didn't we say the same thing before the Masters, following his
11-shot victory at Bay Hill? Royal St. George's is quirkier than
Michael Jackson, loaded with humps and bumps, tilted fairways,
blind shots and zigzaggy greens, making it a unique challenge.
You have to use your head at St. George's, and Woods has the best
head in the game. Plus, he hasn't won a major in four tries, and
he's tired of talking about it.

Everything points to Woods except this: 2003 has been the Year of
the Grinder. Mike Weir seemingly made every putt inside 15 feet
at the Masters, and Jim Furyk gave a fairways-and-greens clinic
at the U.S. Open. When Royal St. George's last hosted the
British, in '93, the course favored no one style of play. The
diverse contenders included ball strikers such as Greg Norman
(who won with a sizzling 64 in the final round), Faldo, Nick
Price and Fred Couples, as well as grinders such as Bernhard
Langer and Corey Pavin. So if Woods doesn't show up with his A
game, another point-to-point player could contend. David Toms,
who has quietly won twice this year and is a contender for the
title of second-best American, might be that man. Or it could be
Peter Lonard of Australia, a world-class wind player who could
benefit from any wild English weather.

And, yes, there's hope for Europe. Our pick is an Englishman who,
as a 17-year-old amateur, dramatically holed out from the rough
to tie for fourth at Royal Birkdale in '98. Now 22, Justin Rose
is a superstar in waiting. Good luck, and God save the
Queen. --Gary Van Sickle

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO (LEADER BOARD) BY THE NUMBERS In '93 players with a wide range of styles topped the leader board.COLOR PHOTO: NANCY BROWN/CORBIS (GHOSTS)COLOR PHOTO: TIM DAVIS/CORBIS (LAMB)COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISIN (MILLER)COLOR PHOTO: ALAN SCHEIN PHOTOGRAPHY/CORBIS (PORT-A-JOHN)COLOR PHOTO: ROBERT BECK (SORENSTAM)

TRUST ME

With six months to prepare, players and manufacturers will take
every conceivable precaution to make sure that not a single
nonconforming driver turns up when the Tour begins voluntary
testing.

THE NEW MATH Annika Sorenstam blows another major

COURSE WITH BAD KARMA + TENTATIVE PLAY + THE YIPS + 72ND-HOLE
BLUNDER = [ANNIKA SORENSTAM BLOWS ANOTHER MAJOR]