1. How will Tiger do?
At the Greenbrier Classic, the 14-time major champion carded three rounds in the 60s as he finished T32, a result and a week’s work which he referred to as ‘very positive’.
The 39-year-old added that he made ‘nice strides’, especially with his ball-striking, but as he arrived in St Andrews on Saturday, he found the Old Course’s green grass and slow fairways nothing like what he expected it to be.
Speaking to ESPN, Woods said: “I was shocked. I had seen photos of it a month ago. It was bone dry. It looked like it was going to be one of those dust bowls again; hard, fast, like the years I’ve played at St Andrews. It’s changed.
“I'm going to have to do a little bit of feel around the greens, my putting. I wasn't expecting the firmness to be that soft. We made ball marks on the greens. I don't ever remember making ball marks around this place.”
In a year where Woods has twice recorded his worst ever score as a professional, expect the unexpected at St Andrews this week.
2. Can Spieth’s calendar year slam hopes continue?
Jordan Spieth took some flak for not being in attendance at Gullane and instead opting to honour a pre-arranged agreement to play the John Deere Classic – maybe not a bad decision after he clinched his fourth PGA Tour win of the year there yesterday.
But how much of an effect will not ‘acclimating’ – a word used by pretty much every American in the field at the Scottish Open – have on his chances of adding the Open to his list of major wins, following on from glory at the Masters and US Open?
European Ryder Cup-winning captain Paul McGinley certainly thinks it will. He said: “All I can say is that Jordan played 63 holes practice around Chambers Bay the week before the US Open. He was more prepared for that tournament than anyone else. He had a caddie on the bag who used to caddie there, he got married there.
“I don’t want to be critical of Jordan because I really admire his loyalty but if you want to be absolutely ruthless about it, I’m of the belief that you should be practicing like tennis players are, on the same surface as an upcoming tournament. He’s not putting the odds in his favour, lets put it that way.”
3. Can Rickie ‘do a Phil’?
Fresh from his win at the Scottish Open – his first on the European Tour and second this year after the Players Championship – Fowler will be hoping to emulate Phil Mickelson’s Scottish double in 2013 by going on to triumph at St Andrews.
“Phil made sure I was well aware of what he accomplished two years ago when I saw him this morning,” said Fowler after his win yesterday. “I’ve taken care of the first leg of it but there’s a lot of work to be done going into this week.”
Fowler has now boosted up to third favourite for the Open with the bookmakers, behind Spieth and Dustin Johnson, and can be found at anything between 14/1 to 20/1.
4. Will Rory’s absence affect crowds?
The R&A have taken some pretty hefty criticism since announcing ticket prices for the Open at £80, and they were no doubt kicking themselves when news arose of Rory McIlroy’s ruptured ankle ligament injury.
The absence of the world No.1 seemed to have an effect at the Scottish Open, where the attendance for the week at Gullane was 63,030, down on the 65,833 at Royal Aberdeen in 2014 and 65,528 at Castle Stuart a year earlier.
While St Andrews tends to attract bigger crowds – a total of 201,000 attended in 2010 as Louis Oosthuizen lifted the Claret Jug – in the past two years, only 142,036 visited Muirfield in 2013 compared to 160,595 at the same venue in 2002 and at Hoylake last year, a crowd of 202,917 was down significantly on the 228,976 when Tiger Woods captured his third Open title in 2006.
Will Rory’s absence have an effect? Looking at the Scottish Open, and factoring in ticket prices, it certainly seems that way.
5. Will Watson make the cut?
In his final Open Championship appearance – where the R&A granted him a special exemption to bring the curtain down at the Home of Golf this year – Tom Watson has one aim: to make it to the weekend.
“Quite simply, I want to make the cut,” Watson told bunkered as he prepares to take the trip over the Swilcan Bridge one last time. But the five-time Claret Jug winner acknowledges that the Old Course, where none of his triumphs came, is now incredibly tough for him, given that he’s such a short hitter.
“There are certain parts of the course where I have a bit of difficulty now,” he explained. “I’m going to have to be on my game. I hope that I am and hope I can play four rounds and walk across the Swilcan Bridge for the final time on the Sunday.”
If Watson gets his wish, we’re pretty sure there won’t be too many dry eyes in the vicinity of the 18th green when he lifts his cap at the Open for one last time.
The Open :: What are you looking forward to?
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