Commentary

Ranking the British Open field

Originally Published: July 14, 2010
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- When it comes to prognosticating the Open Championship, one question always takes priority over all others: weather or not?

If it remains calm and dry for all four tournament rounds, expect low scores, as those who have a penchant for making birdies in bunches should hold a distinct advantage. If it starts raining sideways and the wind blows, that will obviously adversely affect scoring, perhaps benefiting those who are most patient or accustomed to performing in such conditions.

The only problem, of course, is that predicting the weather 'round these parts is, well, just as difficult to predict as a winner -- and it can changes more frequently than the leaderboard.

That doesn't mean we can't glean some information beforehand.

With the year's third major championship returning to the Old Course for the third time this century, many players will be acutely aware of the subtleties on this historic track. Those who compete here annually at the Dunhill Links Championship, however, might hold an even greater advantage.

"Because of the European Tour playing here every year, you're going to have a huge European presence here this week," said Ernie Els, who finished in a share of second place here 10 years ago and T-34 in '05. "The guys know the course like the back of their hands now. This place used to be a special place to come every couple years for the Open. We play a tournament here every year now, so the guys know the course well. So you're going to have a big group of guys on Sunday with a chance to win, I think."

That narrows it down only slightly, but Els might have been speaking as much from his own experiences as those of other players. In fact, the Big Easy seems like the right place to start when seeking a potential champion this week.

He heads the top-50 list of candidates entering the 150th anniversary of the initial Open Championship.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.