Open Championship pairings: a guide to the best (and some of the rest)
By Conor Nagle under The Open Championship


It will take a little over ten hours for the 157-man field at this year’s Open Championship to clear Lytham’s first tee on each of the opening days.

Enough to trouble the vocal chords of Ivor Robson, the tournament’s official announcer since 1975, the endless parade of international talent will also disorient all but the most ardent supporters.

But you needn’t worry! Someone – me – has stepped forth to produce an abridged list of tee times and subplots.


07.47 – David Duval, Raphael Jacquelin, Miguel Angel Jimenez

Duval, the last man to win an Open Championship at Lytham, plays in the company of Spanish maestro Miguel Angel Jimenez, who tied for 5th in 2001. Smooth-swinging, uncomplicated Raphael Jacquelin stands as an object lesson in efficiency to amateurs everywhere.

08.09 – Stewart Cink, Raphael Cabrero-Bello, Johnson Wagner

That. Moustache. I… I don’t understand.

08.31 – Davis Love III, Tim Clark, Paul Lawrie

On for the purists. All three players excel at course management, while Love and Lawrie share a particular affinity for links golf.

09.09 – Darren Clarke, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson

Last year’s winner, Darren Clarke, plays in the company of the 2002 champion and an in-form Zach Johnson. Though not especially enamoured with links golf, the latter fits the profile of a potential winner (straight, resilient, intelligent).

09.20 – Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto, Bubba Watson

Serial bridesmaid (and strong home favourite) Lee Westwood will play in the company of the Masters champ… and some guy. Who needs a short game when you can hit all the greens (for three days)?

09.31 – Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Hiroyuki Fujita

The slower greens will likely suit DJ and McDowell, a course manager par excellence, will feel at home on Lytham’s claustrophobic fairways.

09.42 – Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia

A win this week would see Tiger return to the summit of the world rankings. To get there, he’ll need to produce four consecutive days of solid golf, a feat he hasn’t accomplished since Barack Obama entered the White House. Coincidence?

10.15 – Jason Dufner, Martin Laird, Kevin Na

Is Jason Dufner a big-name player now, worthy of consideration regardless of his playing partners or prospects? I’m not so sure. The FedEx Cup hopeful will tackle Lytham in the company of Martin Laird, a Scot who doesn’t like the wind, and prominent neurotic Kevin Na.

12.59 – Ben Curtis, Paul Casey, Trevor Immelman

Hmm… there’s a message here, but what?

14.21 – Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen, Keegan Bradley

All three have struggled for form in recent weeks, but…

14.32 – Rickie Fowler, Padraig Harrington, Manuel Trappel (a)

Harrington arrives at Royal Lytham a changed man, all confidence and consistency. He’ll be hopeful of adding a third Open Championship to his resume. Similarly upbeat, Fowler returns to England a PGA Tour winner. What odds an improvement on his tie for fifth at Royal St. Georges last year?

14.43 – Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy

Their games may be a study in contrast, but both Donald and Mickelson struggled to find form of the major-winning variety at last week’s Scottish Open. Ogilvy, on the other hand, is engaged in a long-term struggle. The Aussie has yet to record a top-10 finish this season.

15.27 – Marc Leishman, Brandt Snedeker, Alex Noren

I like Leishman as an Open Championship contender – at some point in the future, perhaps; not necessarily this week – while Noren has the skills, if not the self-belief, to mount a sustained challenge.

… and breathe.

Conor Nagle