The British Open returns to St. Andrews Links in Kingdom of Fife Scotland this week for the PGA Tour's third major of the season. To most, the Old Course is simply known as the Home of Golf ever since leather bound balls were first struck off its cavernous sand dunes and fluttered in mighty wind gusts off the Irish Sea more than six centuries ago. It is a major unlike any other. One where many of the mighty have crumbled, where doubt is forsaken, where patience is tested and where a knack for ingenuity is most-often rewarded. But, there is one word that is almost synonymous when it comes to links golf and its idiosyncrasies--experience.
It was the theme at the 2009 British Open held at Turnberry, when Tom Watson at age 59--and with two new hips--tried to become the oldest-ever to win a major, channeling his youth and evoking images of his epic "Duel in the Sun" match versus Jack Nicklaus in the 1977 Open Championship (also at Turnberry), but fell short of hoisting his sixth Claret Jug with a bogey at the final hole. Watson shot a 72 and lost his way in the playoff against eventual champion Stewart Cink. The year prior, Greg "The Shark" Norman also attempted to rewrite the annals of history in attempts to clinch a third Open Championship at Royal Birkdale heading into the final round with a two-stroke lead until he finished tied for third.
This year, as the Open returns to St. Andrews for the 28th time in Open history, the eyes will be on many. Questions will be posed: Will Tiger--already a two-time winner at St. Andrews--recall on his past championships to become the victor crossing the Swilcan Bridge Sunday? Can Stewart Cink repeat? How many will Hell Bunker capture this year? One thing is certain--St. Andrews will not disappoint. Whether it's the deep, textural history that's woven into the brush or that runs through the burns, St. Andrews sets the perfect stage for a climatic ending. Yes, experience is key, but perhaps Old Tom Morris will guide the young hopefuls of this year's Championship. They after all bring vitality, power and a sense of style not reminiscent of the game's past. Here's a look at a few young players that are poised for greatness this week--experience or not.
Rory McIlroy: It's been more than 10 years since a British golfer has clinched the Claret Jug. At this year's British Open there is one young lad who may change that glaring statistic--none other than 21-year-old Rory McIlroy.
No stranger to links golf, and with one win under his belt already this year at the Quail Hollow Championship, the Northern Irishman seems prime to be in contention this week (no pressure). Yet, pressure is something that suits the man who sports unruly, maroon ringlets all so well. He turned pro in 2007, gained his European tour card without the help of Q-school and was ranked within the top 10 in the world all before his 21st birthday. If the leader board sports his name week, it would come as no surprise.
Rickie Fowler: Bold colors, floppy hair and a golf game to match? There are only a few players who can pull that one off, but for 21-year-old Rickie Fowler his effortless, bold style mirrors that of his fluid play. He tied the 36-hole record at this year's Memorial golf tournament hosted at Muirfield Village Golf Club and has five top-10 finishes this season.
Though many will be looking to what flashy duds this California-cool will be sporting, Fowler, who played at Oklahoma State University for two seasons, will hopefully be making heads turn this week for what he shoots.
Ryo Ishikawa : He's been coined the next "It Kid" and at just 18 years of age this young player from Japan is a marvel to watch. At last month's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Ishikawa found himself in the thick of the hunt in a four-way tie for second after the second round, but after making the cut the youngster fell victim to the pressure that only a major can produce, finishing tied for 33rd. It was only his second cut made at a major championship, the other coming at last year's U.S. PGA Championship where he tied for 56th.
He's won seven times on the Japan Tour since he turned pro in 2007 and etched his name into sports history books marking the lowest recorded score ever on a major tour shooting a 12-under 58 in the final round at The Crowns in his homeland in May. Fresh of the heels of Pebble, it will be exciting to see what he has learned to put in play this week.
Sources: AP, PGATour.com