You may haveforgotten, but the last time the Open was held at Carnoustie (in 1999), Pampswas the first-round leader and then became the first first-round leader inhistory to miss the cut. No matter how much success he's had since--and he haswon a couple of times in the U.S.--that's going to be on his mind. Carnoustieis where he first put his name on the map, and then he fell right back off. Itshouldn't affect him, but he'll definitely think about it. . . . Pamps hasn'tdone much in the Open, even though he should have. He's a very good driver anda low-ball hitter who plays well in the wind. That's good because Scotland andwind go together like rum and Coke.
It's time for Pamps to have a good week and erase a bad memory.
I knew Badds wasgoing to drive it poorly on Sunday at Oakmont as soon as I saw that he would bepaired with Tiger Woods. The problem is the stack-and-tilt swing--the flavor ofthe month in instruction--that Badds is using. The stack and tilt promotes sucha descending blow that you're almost trapping the ball with the club. That's agreat way to hit iron shots but not drives, especially under pressure. In mymind stack and tilt can't work. If you get quick, you hit either flares to theright or smother hooks. Badds, Dean Wilson, Mike Weir . . . there's not asingle stack-and-tilt guy who's a great driver, and I haven't seen anyone usingthe method drive well under pressure. That said, I was impressed with how Baddsshrugged off his Oakmont blowup. It must be nice to be young and confident.
You don't necessarily hit a lot of drivers at the British. If Aaron could playhis way into the final U.S. Open twosome, he can scramble his way to the top atCarnoustie.
8 JUSTIN ROSE
None of the risingstars is more ready to break out than Justin. He hasn't won yet in the U.S.,but put a major championship on his résumé and all of a sudden you'd realizethat, wow, he's had a good career. Justin has five wins on three tours. . . .How ready is he? He was in the hunt on the weekend at the first two majors thisyear, tying for fifth at the Masters and 10th at Oakmont. Plus, he's fifth inscoring average on the PGA Tour, and that requires consistently good play. Hewas runner-up at the European PGA and has five top 10s in the U.S. He's had alot of 36- and 54-hole leads in the U.S. without closing the deal, but he hasgained a ton of experience. . . . Justin's driver gets him in trouble at times,but he's a terrific putter, and putting wins majors.
Justin is poised to become the best English golfer since Nick Faldo.
Some golf magazinerated his odds of winning the British at 1,000-to-1 because his putting is soatrocious. I don't know, he must've made a few putts when he was runner-up atthe Players. . . . I hate to say it, but I think Sergio's best stage is inEurope, not the U.S. He thrives over there and is obviously more comfortablethan he is in the States. He's won, what, six times over here? I'd be curiousto see what he'd do if he played the European tour for a full year. I bet he'dwin a bunch. He reminds me of a good basketball team that struggles on the roadbut is king of the hill at home. His British Open stats don't lie--he's been inthe top 10 in five of the last six Opens. Maybe that's because of the slowergreens or maybe he's simply back in his comfort zone.
If Sergio is ever going to win a major--and that remains a big if--the BritishOpen is the one.
6 VIJAY SINGH
World Rank 6th
Vijay's biggestweakness is that he wants to hit driver all the time. It's like the old PhilMickelson took over Vijay's body. He has become the poster boy for bomb andgouge. That style of play works well in the Houston Opens of the world but notin majors. He makes bomb and gouge work by taking his wedges out of play everythree weeks or so because he wants his grooves to be new and sharp so hisapproach shots grab out of the rough. After three weeks my wedges are juststarting to feel as if they're getting broken in. . . . Get this: Vijay has a32-degree wood in his bag that he picked up at a Second Swing store. I'm notkidding--he bought three of those heads for $16. So he put a $100 shaft in a $5head and hits it out of the rough from 160 or 170 yards. It's like a 12-wood,and it's the modern equivalent of the old wooden Ginty fairway wood.
Vijay's mad-bomber approach isn't the way to go at the British. He should playto his real strength--his iron game.
5 JIM FURYK
World Rank 2nd
It doesn't matterwhich major we're talking about, you have to have Furyk in the conversation.He's always up there near the end. He wasn't in the picture at Oakmont, then hethrew up three birdies in a row on the final nine and could've--or maybeshould've--won. I picked him to win, and for a few minutes I thought he wasgoing to. . . . Hey, a straight driver and great putter is a good bet in anymajor, although the British doesn't fit his game all that well. He's great atdriving the ball in a crosswind, but I'm not sure how good he is on thebump-and-run shots you have to play over there. One other thing that makes theBritish Open a crapshoot is that driving the ball in the fairway isn't the sameas having your ball stay in the fairway.
I still think the U.S. Open is Jim's best major, but he's so tough anddetermined, he could win any of them.
4 GEOFF OGILVY
World Rank 8th
I may havecritiqued Geoff a little harshly before the U.S. Open. Winning the Open andbecoming a first-time father are life-changing experiences, and now, finally, Ithink Geoff has realized that he needs to get back into playing more, and hehas. . . . He hits the ball a lot better than people think and has become anexcellent putter. His biggest asset is that he doesn't seem to get upset on thecourse anymore. He used to be semivolcanic. Now his pulse never changes. I haveto ask him how he does that. . . . My only concern is that he's a high-ballhitter who doesn't play many knockdown shots. He usually hits it straight up inthe air--great at the Masters or the U.S. Open, but not the kind of ball flightfor a windswept British Open. On the other hand, he's a smart guy who knows howto get around a course and hit long irons to set up his putter.
Four days of howling wind would hurt his chances, but if it's relativelycalm--and you never know what you're going to get in Scotland--beware.
3 K.J. CHOI
K.J. reminds me alittle of Furyk--he doesn't beat himself and he's kind of an emotionless playerin that every shot he hits stands on its own. For example, he doesn't say (inKorean, of course), "I bogeyed the last hole so I have to birdie thisone." He simply plods along playing the shots that are called for. It's asecret that he's among the best ballstrikers on Tour, and one of the bestdrivers. . . . K.J. obviously has issues with his putter. Every time I see him,he's got two or three putters. He goes from a belly putter to a short putter toa mallet. At Congressional, he had one with a grip the size of a baseball bat.I don't know what the heck that thing was. . . . When he putts well, he'sdangerous.
This guy is good and, probably because of the language barrier, extremelyunderrated.
Angel's nicknameis the Duck, but I think of him as the Gorilla. He's stocky and has this freakystrength because he doesn't look as if he's swinging hard, but his shots goeight miles. It's neat to watch--unless you're trying to beat him. . . . Angeldoesn't get much attention because he's a quiet guy from Argentina who won'tspeak English. If he were an American, he'd be a household name. . . . This manwas no fluke winner at the Open. He had come close before in majors, notablylast year at Royal Liverpool, and has put up some good rounds in Augusta. . . .At Oakmont, I loved it when he hit that shot close at 15 and his reaction was,"Oh, man, I think I just won the Open!"
Don't try for me, Argentina, but back-to-back Open titles, while unlikely, ispossible.
And the Winner is...
1 TIGER WOODS
World Rank 1st
Right now, theputter and the driver are Tiger's weakest links. The greatest drivers of theball don't swing as flat as Tiger does. It looks as if he's trying to groovehis swing in a room with a seven-foot ceiling. It doesn't look right for hisbody. He looks like an NFL cornerback swinging a golf club. His continuedsuccess is a testament to his scrambling ability. . . . Ever since Tigerswitched to a 45-inch graphite-shafted driver, the club has been a nightmarefor him. Nearly all of his bogeys come after he has driven into the rough.How'd he win the British Open last year? He didn't hit his driver. . . . I'm abig Butch Harmon fan, and nobody will ever convince me that 1999, 2000 and '01weren't Tiger's best ballstriking years. He hit so many iron shots to a foot ortwo then, you simply couldn't beat the guy. Now he beats you with hisscrambling. . . . We perceive Tiger as a great putter, but the truth is he'sextremely streaky. I still don't understand how he made so many clutch six- andseven-footers for par down the stretch at Oakmont when he couldn't makeanything else the rest of the week. Maybe it's time he tried a differentputter.
Despite all of the above, Tiger has won two and been second twice in the lastfour majors. I think he'll outsmart the field at Carnoustie and leave hisdriver in the bag and hit a smorgasbord of three- and five-woods and two-irons.The man simply knows how to play the game.