Open Championship experts' picks

July, 17, 2012
07/17/12
3:55
PM ET
Each week of the season, our experts will share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Horse for the Course


Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Ernie Els
The 2002 Open champion is the only player in this year's field to get top-10s in the two previous Opens at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. In 1996, the South African finished in second place, 2 shots back of Tom Lehman, when warm and dry conditions made the course play very fast. When David Duval won here in 2001, Els tied for third.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Padraig Harrington
The two-time Open champion loves links golf and has been on a nice run of late, playing well at the U.S. Open, Travelers Championship and Irish Open.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Ernie Els
Not many in the field are playing their third Open at Lytham, but the Big Easy is. And he owns a pair of top-three finishes at the links on the northwest coast of England.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Lee Westwood
Westwood knows this course fairly well, played it more than a few times as an amateur and has the tee-to-green game to survive those 205 bunkers. Plus, his short game is better than he's given credit for.


Birdie Buster


Farrell Evans: Zach Johnson
The 35-year-old former Masters champion has never finished better than a tie for 16th at the Open, but over the past two months, perhaps only Tiger Woods has played better. His win last week at the John Deere Classic was his second victory of the year to go with two second-place finishes.

Bob Harig: Zach Johnson
There's nothing like confidence coming into a major, and Johnson has it after his victory Sunday at the John Deere Classic. It was his second win of the year, and the former Masters champ has contended several other times.

Kevin Maguire: Tiger Woods
Woods won't have to use many drivers around Royal Lytham this week, like when he won at Royal Liverpool back in 2006. That alone jumps him up into serious contender status.

Gene Wojciechowski: Zach Johnson
I picked him to win the U.S. Open and, well, let's not talk about that. But he's fresh off a win at the John Deere Classic with a playoff shot for the ages. He could definitely make a run here.


Super Sleeper


Farrell Evans: Jeev Milkha Singh
Last week at the Scottish Open, the 40-year-old Indian won his fourth European Tour title in a playoff over Francesco Molinari. Singh's last European win before that came in 2008 at the Austrian Open. In his only previous appearance at the Open Championship at Carnoustie in 2007, he missed the cut.

Bob Harig: Darren Clarke
The defending Open champion was nobody's pick a year ago and is nobody's pick this year. But he loves links golf and, perhaps, is inspired upon his return to the Open after a rough year on the course.

Kevin Maguire: John Daly
He's made three of his past four cuts, so his game is starting to come around. Oh, having won two majors -- including the Open Championship in 1995 -- might be of some help, too.

Gene Wojciechowski: Toss-up
After Darren Clarke won here last year, anything is possible. I'll take a semi-flier on John Senden or Peter Hanson.


Winner


Farrell Evans: Dustin Johnson
Who knows what might happen if Johnson has to test his sometimes-shaky short game out of these troublesome bunkers, but I have a hunch this could be his week to get his first major. Last year, he finished in a tie for third at Royal St. Georges, and he had a win earlier this year in Memphis.

Bob Harig: Tiger Woods
The three-time Open champion hasn't won a major in four years, but the thought here has been all year that if he were to win one in 2012, it would be at Royal Lytham. He's not won here previously but has played well on this course and has a good strategy for avoiding the numerous bunkers. If he can hit greens as he's been doing all year, this is an excellent opportunity for him.

Kevin Maguire: Lee Westwood
Can England's own win a breakthrough major? Absolutely. And Tony Jacklin did so here at Lytham back in 1969. History definitely can repeat itself.

Gene Wojciechowski: Coin flip
Westwood or Tiger Woods.

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