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Can Westwood triumph at Lytham?

The year's third major is set to begin across the pond, and ESPN.com's golf staff will be on the grounds in northwest England covering all the storylines: Can Tiger get back to his major-winning ways? Has Phil Mickelson shaken off his recent struggles? Will another first-time major winner raise the Claret Jug at Royal Lytham & St. Annes?

With all these questions, we'll hopefully get a few answers by week's end. In the meantime, our experts examine all the pressing issues in our first edition of Open Championship Four-Ball.


1. Which top-10 player without a major has the best shot to break through this week?

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Lee Westwood. It's another place he has fond memories of, and his game has been in good form so far in both 2012 majors. The one bad thing is the last time the Open Championship was played here, in 2001, Lee finished tied for 47th. Maybe a chance for redemption?

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: I love Jason Dufner's chances at Lytham. He has two wins on the year and a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open. At the Masters, he held a piece of the lead going into the third round before faltering on the weekend with two 75s.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Lee Westwood. Beware the injured golfer. Westwood hurt his groin at the French Open but finished the tournament in good form. It was a bit of a scare for the Englishman, who has been knocking on the door at majors for years. Of the six players in the top 10 without a major -- Luke Donald, Westwood, Matt Kuchar, Dufner, Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan -- I like Westwood's chances the best.

Kevin Maguire, ESPN.com senior golf editor: Lee Westwood. The Englishman's ball-striking ability is well known, as is his lack of putting. But if there's one major in which the flatstick has the least amount of impact on deciding a winner -- and yes, I mean relatively speaking -- then it's the Open Championship. The greens aren't usually lightning-quick like an Augusta National and not as penal as a U.S. Open or PGA Championship. Don't get me wrong, though. To win any tournament, you must roll the rock well, but at the Open Championship, the putter won't play as crucial a role as in the other majors.


2. Thumbs up or thumbs down to Royal Lytham starting with a par-3?

Michael Collins: Thumbs way up! Remember what happened to Ian Woosnam in 2001? All because he started on a par-3. And this one is 205 yards, which means anything from a 5-wood to a 3-iron depending on the wind and rain. It can set the tone for your round quickly if you don't have a good caddie.

Farrell Evans: Thumbs up. As the only course in the Open Championship rotation to start with a par-3, it's something different for the players. Plus, with seven bunkers protecting the green on the 205-yard hole, everyone will be forced to be very precise with their irons right out of the gate.

Bob Harig: Thumbs up. There's nothing wrong with a course beginning in this way. It's unique, and it creates a bit of a soft opening for players -- not that the hole is in any way easy. But they get to begin a major without having to worry about a driver off the tee. They simply get to delay the inevitable.

Kevin Maguire: It's not the worst start to a major championship, but beginning with a par-3, no matter how difficult, makes it a little easier on the player. Given that the majors are the most-sought-after titles every year, I'd like to think it would be more challenging for the best players in the world. So I'll go with thumbs down.


3. What percentage chance do you give Tiger Woods of winning a fourth Claret Jug?

Michael Collins: Sixty percent. A little better than half but not too high because, when it comes to this major, and his game in majors, he's just not quite there yet. As Tiger said, "I'm close, but I'm still working on a few things." Has he ever not said that? Now, if he can hit his stingers around this place in miserable conditions, he'll finish in the top 10.

Farrell Evans: Tiger has played in two previous Opens at Lytham. He was low amateur in 1996 with a T-22 finish and had a T-25 in 2001. His last victory anywhere in the Open was in 2006 at Royal Liverpool. So I expect him to come in fired up, but Opens are so quirky. Therefore, I give him only about a 3 percent chance of winning.

Bob Harig: He is the pick here to win, but that doesn't mean his percentage chances of winning are good. Perhaps 10 percent. And that simply means that there are so many possibilities in the majors right now. We've had 15 different winners in the past 15 majors, with several surprises thrown in. It would be difficult to give anyone more than a 10 percent shot at winning.

Kevin Maguire: I'll say 40 percent. He likely won't have to go with his driver too much at Royal Lytham with it being just south of 7,100 yards. Then again, if the wind blows -- OK, when the wind blows -- that could change things considerably. I'm not as caught up in his missed cut at the Greenbrier as I am about his difficulty with the slower greens at the West Virginia resort. Woods can expect similarly paced putting surfaces on England's northwest coast.


4. What do you both love and hate about the Open Championship?

Michael Collins: The weather. I love and hate the fact that I'm going to get charged $20,000 in baggage fees because I have to bring everything I own and will be changing clothes every 27 minutes to accommodate the weather. At least that's my fear, and, because it's the first time for me going to "jolly old England," everyone has me so paranoid about the food that I'm bringing a suitcase full of peanut butter and jelly along with McDonald's, Subway and Chipotle … just to be safe.

Farrell Evans: I love that the links courses force the best players in the world out of their typical regimen of target golf. The premium on shot-making at the Open is the event's greatest asset. But, at the same time, I hate the unpredictability of the weather and its ability to affect the outcome of the tournament. Yet it's hard to talk about the Open without talking about the weather. They are mutually bonded.

Bob Harig: This is where the obligatory crack about lousy British food comes in, but there is really nothing to hate about the Open. Everything about it is neat, even the hassles that typically show that Americans are spoiled. From the golf standpoint, there is nothing better. The courses are unique, and there isn't one on the Open rota that isn't interesting. Weather is never a problem -- they simply play through it -- and there is no better place to take in the history of the game.

Kevin Maguire: I love the quirks and bounces you get from every single shot and the fact that the best in the game play a completely different style of golf week to week, then head over to the U.K. for a taste of the links. As for hate … there's not much you can do about it, but I'm not a big fan of the fact that which side of the draw you are on can determine whether you have a shot to win. Mother Nature rules the roost, and, if she doesn't want the early tee times high on the leaderboard one day, they won't be making an appearance. If I wanted games of chance, I'd stick to playing the lottery.