Faldo backs Rose to weather the storm

Former champion picks in-form Englishman and Westwood as main hopes for the Open

Sir Nick Faldo yesterday made a prediction which will excite all of those British golf fans who remember him as the last home Open winner at the Home of Golf. "Something is going to happen this week," said the 1990 champion. "I would think a British winner is a probable."

A probable? At Tiger's place? That is some statement, considering the fact that the world No 1 has won the last two majors held on the Old Course by a combined margin of 13 shots. But then, when Justin Rose tees off alongside Woods in the 9.09am grouping today, there will be only one golfer with the recent victories to claim the intimidation factor. Rose has won two of his last three events; Woods has lost every event he has entered in 2010. There is so much to indicate that only the bookmakers have Tiger Woods as the clear favourite to make history and win his third St Andrews Open.

Of course, Woods can never be written off at the course he calls "my favourite on earth", regardless of the state of either his life or his game. Yet the temptation is to read the forecasts and do just that. Yesterday the rain, the wind, the fog and the cold forced the cancellation of the Champions Challenge. In the opinion of a few experts here, similar conditions will ruin the champion's challenge. The champion who is Woods has yet to won an Open in anything other than breathless conditions, even when he has gone in on form.

He is certainly not that now, as shown by his decision to employ a new putter for the first time in 12 years. There are two things a pro must do to prevail at St Andrews. The first is to stay out of the bunkers. The second is to avoid the three-putts on the huge greens. While Woods has so emphatically proved he has everything required to achieve both these aims, does he still possess what it takes for the mental test? After everything he has been through? Just one of the question marks which will accompany the most ridiculed sportsman on the planet.

That is why good judges such as Faldo are finding it so irresistible to look elsewhere. And as the tents blew and the fires raged here last night, there was little else to do but analyse the field's chances. This Wednesday was supposed to be all about the celebrations of the Open's 150th anniversary, about watching the heroes of now and yesteryear reliving their glories on their four-hole exhibition. As it turned out the weather stole the show. It has ever been thus on the links.

The Met Office is saying the conditions will be changeable, that the gusts and winds will cause their intermittent havoc. Today it is forecast to start off calm and become progressively worse all day. Tomorrow the opposite is forecast. If that is accurate then it will herald a right-half, wrong-half draw scenario. Those like Woods, Rose, Ernie Els, Padraig Harrington will be the beneficiaries of nature's lottery. Those like Lee Westwood, Phil Mickelson and Graeme McDowell will see their tickets whipped away in the gale. That's the Open for you. Nobody said it is always fair.

The perceived shame is that it has been calm in the last two stagings here, when the magic of St Andrews was witnessed in all of Woods' uninterrupted magnificence. Instead, what Tiger and Co will be presented with this time is what the locals call the real St Andrews. The Old Course will reveal it still has its own teeth, after all. With the extended Road Hole looking more menacing than for many a decade and with so many of the other holes suddenly assuming their imposing quality, this could turn into a war of survival. Just like it was at Carnoustie three years ago, just like it was at Birkdale two years ago. Padraig Harrington was the last golfer standing on both of those occasions and at the very least the Irishman must have a squeak of a third Claret Jug from four. The word is the Irishman has never been so confident.

But then, neither has Rory McIlroy, a young tyro who has so plainly been inspired by the breakthrough of his best friend McDowell at last month's US Open. The 21-year-old has played eight competitive rounds at St Andrews – and broken 70 each time. When one also factors in his outrageous 62 to win the Quail Hollow Championship in North Carolina two months ago, it is easy to understand how and why he has been backed down to second favouritism.

Yet Faldo's money is staying rather closer to home. "Rosey might be a very obvious first choice," said the six-times major winner. "He's played very well in the last month, seems to have found something in the game, in his mind, in everything. And Lee is very solid tee to green, which St Andrews is all about. They would be my main choices, but there are others well up there in the rankings who have the game."

He was thinking of Ian Poulter, Paul Casey, Luke Donald, all members of the world's top 10. Never has England gone into a major, as Westwood, puts is "so mob-handed" and not since Faldo's day has the expectation soared so high. McDowell has shown them the way and each one believes he now has the impetus to follow. Woods is struggling, Mickelson is unsuited to links and there is a gap to America's next generation of winners. This is it. The time to grab British golfing glory at British golf's most glorious venue of all.

"We all want a major," said Casey. "We want something like Graeme McDowell achieved at Pebble Beach and we're all capable of doing that. It's a question of doing it, a question of holding your nerves. It's the pressure of coming down the stretch, not making mistakes and keeping your head on your shoulders. If there's a place to win an Open it's definitely at St Andrews."

The men to salvage England's sporting summer? Five contenders for the Claret Jug

Justin Rose (Age: 29, World Ranking: 16)

The hottest player in the world has an outstanding chance. Proved as a 17-year-old amateur how much he loves the links and it will be a surprise if he doesn't figure. But will playing with Tiger be too much of a distraction?

Lee Westwood (Age: 37, WR: 3)

Missed play-off by a shot at Turnberry last year, just like he did at the US Open in 2008. When his runner-up placing at The Masters in April is factored in, his chance becomes clear. Is carrying a calf injury, however.

Luke Donald (Age: 32, WR: 7)

Dreadful record in the Open up until his fifth-place finish last year. Donald has enjoyed a fine season so far and his chance should not be discounted. Not the longest, but believes his game can prevail around the Old Course.

Ian Poulter (Age: 34, WR: 8)

Finished 11th here in 2005 and was disgusted to do so after so many missed chances. Golf's most improved player is almost unrecognisable now (apart from the trousers). His short-game will suit St Andrews.

Paul Casey (Age: 32, WR: 10)

Links golf continues to baffle England's biggest talent and his best chance of winning a major obviously lies elsewhere. On his day, however, Casey is capable of anything and if the mood grabs him he could do it.

Guide to Day One of The Open

Weather

Today Mostly dry, with sunny spells in a morning featuring light winds. Heavy showers will arrive in the afternoon and the winds will rise to 15mph with gusts of 22mph. Maximum: 19C. Minimum: 11C.

Tomorrow Heavy rain in the morning will eventually dissipate. The winds will be 15mph with gusts of up to 35mph. Maximum: 15C. Minimum: 10C.

Saturday Patchy rain all day, with winds of 25mph, gusting to 35mph. Maximum: 17C. Minimum: 11C.

Sunday Starting to brighten up, although showers will remain. Winds of 15mph, gusting to 25mph. Maximum: 21C. Min temp: 15C.

Selected tee-off times

Today and tomorrow (GB and Irl unless stated):

07.36 & 12.47 N Faldo, M Laird, S Kjeldsen (Den)

07.47 & 12.58 D Duval (US), R McGowan, T Immelman (SA)

08.09 & 13.20 R Allenby (Aus), N Watney (US), O Wilson

08.20 & 13.31 L Glover (US), R McIlroy, Tim Clark (SA)

08.42 & 13.53 I Poulter, E Els (SA), S Cink (US)

08.58 & 14.09 Y Ikeda (Japan), S O'Hair (US), R Fisher

09.09 & 14.20 T Woods (US), J Rose, C Villegas (Col)

09.20 & 14.31 P Harrington, Ryo Ishikawa (Japan), T Watson (US)

13.53 & 08.42 G McDowell, J Furyk (US), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus)

14.09 & 08.58 S Stricker (US), H Fujita (Japan), S Garcia (Sp)

14.20 & 09.09 C Montgomerie, P Mickelson (US), R Goosen (SA)

14.31 & 09.20 E Molinari (It), R Davies, J Leonard (US)

14.42 & 09.31 Z Johnson (US), M Kaymer (Ger), E Chun (S Kor)

16.10 & 10.59 G Day (US), J Cunliffe (SA), T Hatton

Betting

Tiger Woods 7-1

Rory McIlroy 16-1

Phil Mickelson 20-1

Lee Westwood 20-1

Ernie Els 20-1

Justin Rose 25-1

Padraig Harrington 33-1

Ian Poulter 33-1

Graeme McDowell 40-1

Martin Kaymer 40-1

(William Hill)

TV coverage

BBC 2, Red Button, today 0900-2000

News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game