2009 British Open Golf Championship Preview: The Top 10 Contenders

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2009 British Open Golf Championship Preview: The Top 10 Contenders
(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

This year's British Open Championship returns to Turnberry, Scotland—the site of one of golf's greatest duels, the 1977 battle between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.

The Open Championship has not been to Turnberry since 1994, when Nick Price took the title. With so few participants having played back then, who stands out as the top 10 contenders?

1) Tiger Woods

It doesn't matter what the layout is or where the course is—he's the favorite. He's won three Open Championships and won his most recent start at the AT&T Championship.

Woods has finished in the top 10 at both the Masters and the U.S. Open in this year. He'll be motivated to match buddy Roger Federer's 15 majors.

Odds of winning: Even

2) Sergio Garcia

Why would I think Sergio Garcia has a chance to win the Open Championship?

He has only one top 10 finish on the PGA Tour this year.

Garcia is still one of the best ball strikers in the game—he just can't putt.

British Open greens are typically slower, with less break than the other three major tournaments.

Garcia has six top 10s in the last eight British Opens. In recent years, he's played British Opens as well as anyone who has won one.

Odds of winning: 5 to 1

3) Padraig Harrington

In a year where Padraig Harrington wanted to challenge Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson atop the world rankings, Harrington has struggled.

He is the two-time defending Open Champion, and he might just be rounding into form. He just won the Irish PGA, ending weeks of poor play.

Before winning his last two British Opens, he also won the Irish PGA both times.

Odd of winning: 8 to 1

4) Jim Furyk

Jim Furyk either contends at British Opens or plays awful.

Since 1997, Furyk has finished in the top 15, which he has done six times—or finished outside the top 40, which he has also done six times. He's played well in the Open recently, with top 10 finishes in two of the last three years.

He comes into Turnberry playing well. He finished T7 in his most recent start at the AT&T Championship.

Odds of winning: 10 to 1

5) Rory McIlroy

McIlroy might only be 20 years old, but the other players lack familiarity with Turnberry.

McIlroy growing up in Ireland on links golf, and his young age may not matter that much. His T10 finish at this year's U.S. Open proves he has the game to play major championship golf.

The only question is whether or not he can handle the pressure of being Europe's next great player.

The talent is there to contend.

Odds of winning: 12 to 1

6) Ian Poulter

I like the English and Irish players in this year's tournament.

As I said with McIlroy, very few players have experience playing Turnberry, so I favor the players with the most links experience.

Born in England, Poulter has had solid finishes in some strong tournaments this year. These include a second place finish at The Players Championship and T5 at the Quail Hollow Championship.

He finished second in last year's British Open.

Odds of winning: 15 to 1

7) Retief Goosen

Retief Goosen is quietly returning to the form that made him one of the best golfers in the world in the late '90s and the early part of this decade.

He has five top 25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, including a victory at the Transitions Championship in March. He also finished T6 at this past week's Scottish Open.

From 2002 to 2005, he had four straight top 10 finishes at the British Open, so he's had success in golf's oldest major.

Odds of winning: 20 to 1

8) Ben Curtis

The surprise winner of 2003 British Open at Royal St. George's, Ben Curtis is not a one-hit wonder.

He has finished in the top 10 in his last two British Opens and even finished T2 at last year's PGA Championship. With a T4 finish in his last start at the Traveler's Championship, he comes in under the radar but playing well.

Odds of winning: 25 to 1

9) Ross Fisher

Another golfer from England, Fisher has moved into the top 25 in the world golf rankings. What I especially like about Fisher is that while he's ranked 115th on the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, he's first in Greens in Regulation.

That scrambling ability will serve him well at Turnberry.

He is coming off a fifth place finish at the U.S. Open.

Odds of winning: 30 to 1

10) David Duval

Can David Duval win the 2009 British Open? He came so close to winning the U.S. Open with a T2 finish.

I wouldn't be too concerned with his missing the cut at the John Deere this past week. There was a lot of pressure on him to perform well after that U.S. Open finish.

He shot a 75 in round one but came back with a solid 66. He won the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes.

He contended early in last year's tournament before fading. If he gets into contention this year, he'll stay there.

Odds of winning: 50 to 1

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