Six who can challenge Woods and Els

Click to follow
The Independent Online

DARREN CLARKE (Northern Ireland)

Though will have a stern battle with Padraig Harrington just to be the leading Irishman, the 34-year-old is a natural links player who has matured as a player this year. His mental game has improved, his driving has been long and straight all season while his putting is coming round after visiting expert Harold Swash. Twice in contention at the Open but now taking a more relaxed approach in hopes of easing his way into the frame. Four top-10s in his last six events.

JOSE MARIA OLAZABAL (Spain)

Needs only the Open to go with his other Royal and Ancient titles of the British Boys, British Youths and Amateur Championship. Has never made a secret of his love of the Open and would swap any number of tour wins for a Claret Jug. Best finish remains third in 1992 at Muirfield. Always a magical long-iron player, has now improved his driving but has been frustrated with his putting of late. Sergio Garcia main contender for leading Spaniard.

NICK PRICE (Zimbabwe)

Faces opposition from Olazabal and Ernie Els for the leading contender in the category of genuine nice guy on tour and from in-form Phillip Price. The champion at Turnberry 11 years ago the 46-year-old is one of the veteran brigade still performing at the highest level. Runner-up in two of his last four starts and fifth at the US Open. Sixth here 10 years ago and possesses all the wily tactical know-how to get himself into contention if his putter cooperates.

JUSTIN ROSE (England)

Still only 22 but has arrived as a genuine contender. At Muirfield last year went off in the final groupings on Sunday but did not quite believe he could win. He does now. Fifth at the US Open last month, his best finish in a major since his incredible fourth at Birkdale five years ago. Will have to fend off the likes of Casey, Poulter and Donald to be the leading member of the Brit pack. Last two missed cuts hopefully irrelevant.

DAVID TOMS (United States)

As steady as they come and performed admirably at the Ryder Cup at The Belfry. Links pedigree less certain. Has only played in three Opens but finished fourth on his debut at St Andrews three years ago. Has won twice this season after facing down Phil Mickelson to win the 2001 US PGA. Will be battling with Davis Love, US Open champion Jim Furyk and Kenny Perry, winner of three of his last four starts, to be best American who is not Tiger.

MIKE WEIR (Canada)

The Masters champion who showed all his gritty battling qualities to win at Augusta. Gets it round however he can and then makes all the putts that matter. Continued his good major form at the US Open during a run of three third places in his last three outings. Previous best only 37th at Open, but the 33-year-old from Ontario is the first ever Canadian major winner. Will be contending with Phil Mickelson to be the leading left-hander.

Comments