-- HOYLAKE, England -- "Hey, you know what'd be fun ..."
How many times has your boss or husband/wife (they could be one and the same in some cases) started a conversation with you like that?
Then you find out they're not actually participating in this "fun" activity. Yep, that's truthfully how this root canal -- I mean fun exercise -- began.
Two years ago, I let my 5- and 3-year-old boys pick. Got in a little trouble for that one. This year, I'm taking it much more seriously so that an adult is involved in the picks.
She also reads tarot cards but said that would cost extra. Dang! I still don't know how I'm going to hide that phone call on an expense report!
Oh well, guess I'll do it alone... again.
Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke ... Looking back at the past three men who have won the Claret Jug, does it seem to fit that a guy counted out most for having a shot at a major would finally get this one? Last time he was here, Westwood finished 31st at Hoylake. If patience is a virtue and gets rewarded, this man has waited long enough.
There are two ways to look at things. One side: Sergio is back and contending for majors! The other side: Sergio gets in contention and chokes, again. This one will sting like the 1996 Masters for Greg Norman. Not to worry, because I'm an optimist. Sergio will win a major within the next three years.
Roller-coaster times for the man from Northern Ireland. He's unable to put four complete great rounds together, but three really good rounds and a so-so one will get him this high finish. It's not a win, but the closest he's come in a while.
I almost forgot that the guy who is No. 1 in the world still plays golf. We haven't seen him in the U.S. since our national championship. Although I'm not a fan of playing so little and winning majors, it's hard to argue his numbers: 10 events in 2014 with six top-10s, including a win. His worst finish? A T-38 at the Players Championship.
This will be his best finish since 2011 (when he was fourth at Royal St. Georges). Bjorn is having an extremely good year on the European Tour and will have a chance to win the Race to Dubai. Although I don't see him winning a major anytime soon, contending wouldn't surprise me.
If you're not on this bandwagon yet, you'd better get some sneakers that help you jump, because he's the real deal. The biggest fallacy was that he tried to change his swing to go from hitting only a fade to hitting only a draw. The fade is and always has been his go-to shot, and now (unlike before) he can hit a draw whenever he wants. Dangerous? You bet your ass.
Since last year's Open Championship runner-up finish, this man has gone on to win the money title on two tours and accrue three wins. Stenson comes in having not missed a cut since the Honda Classic in February. Although he's close to touching the No. 1 ranking in the world, that will remain just out of reach after Royal Liverpool.
Remember how we all got caught up in national pride for the World Cup only to get our hearts broken? Well, I'm sure some of will feel that way when you realize that Spieth will be the last American name you see near the top of the list. I put him here hoping he can have a slight attitude change on the course. If he doesn't stop beating himself up so badly inside the ropes, he will stop growing as a player.
It's not like he's had great success at this major (one top-10 in 10 tries). That said, his game has been trending in the right direction since he missed the cut at the Masters. I say he's playing for his new baby girl who's coming in August, which is motivation enough for a top-10 finish.
Y'all know I can't lie to you. I finished this story before Tuesday's practice rounds ended. So if after Thursday's opening 18 he's complaining that he doesn't like the course, all bets are off. Bubba is ranked so high on the OWGR that he shouldn't be allowed to use that excuse, so suck it up and play like you're ranked.
While some would say he isn't having a particularly successful year, I'd beg to differ. Even without a win, he's missed only two cuts in 13 starts worldwide. Now throw in a couple of top-20s and a couple of top-10s, and you can see why a solid performance shouldn't be out of the question. If you do debate this one, I still have that tarot card reader's number.
Although a few of you will understand this rank, most of you will knee-jerk and start typing in the comments area. But before you start complaining about my ranking him outside the top 10, have a look at his record the past four Opens. (I'll wait.) Now you can see this is actually a very generous spot for the man who won recently in D.C.
"The No. 13 thinks he's lucky," says the voice about the most interesting man in golf, except this time it's not a joke. Currently ranked inside the top 30 in the world, the 50-year-old Spaniard is making a serious push to qualify for the Ryder Cup team, or at the very least to be a captain's pick. Cigars and red wine ... now that's a workout routine I can get into!
Many forget that Fowler finished second at the U.S. Open this year (not his fault with all the Erik Compton love happening). That's two top-5s in majors so far this season. Not bad for a guy who started working with a new swing coach (Butch Harmon) late last year. While Fowler hasn't seriously contended for this major in four tries (including a missed cut last year), I have a feeling that this year he might surprise us.
He's relatively unknown in the States except to those who remember his second-place finish at Doral this year. Those who do know his name remember his win in Abu Dhabi last year against a stellar field. Although he hasn't won since, in his past 20 starts he's missed only two cuts -- and both occurred in the U.S.
For a guy who's missed only four cuts, there sure has been a lot of gloom-and-doom talk around him. Maybe it's because Bradley needs a couple of big weeks to make the Ryder Cup team. Maybe it's because we want that enthusiasm and quirky pre-shot routine to win. Either way, this week should be considered a success.
He'll be playing with a heavy heart but with an angel on his shoulder. McNeill's sister died as he was shooting 61 on the Sunday of the Greenbrier Classic. So the thought (and hope) of a very special week happening for this really good guy isn't a stretch.
For a guy who's ranked inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, he hasn't had a very good run at the Open, missing three of six cuts. So why is a top-20 in his future? Because that's what a top-50 player does: He figures out a way.
This ranking that will get uninformed people angry cause they'll say, "He's ranked fifth in the world and top-10s every major!" What they don't know is Day has never had a top-10 in the Open Championship and this will be his best finish in this event.
This is another guy we rarely see in the U.S. except for majors and WGCs. He did miss the cut at the Players this year, but who wants to focus on the negative? He's going into the Scottish Open off a runner-up finish in France, and did I mention he won the Nordea Masters right before the U.S. Open?
It's been an up-and-down season so far for the South African. He's had a couple of good top-10s at Memorial and Doral mixed with a couple of bad missed cuts at the Masters and U.S. Open. The time off after the U.S. Open has done him well, and he'll come into the week fresh, healthy and ready to get a top-25.
Dunne is the only amateur to make the list. The Irishman plays at Alabama but shot back-to-back 67s in qualifying to beat professional Oliver Fisher by 3 shots. The kid has heart and the game to back it up coming off a Palmer Cup victory earlier this year.
I know, I know. Why would this guy have a snowball's chance in hell to even make the cut? Because he's the Barn Rat, that's why! Gimme the guy who's short off the tee and doesn't even think about working out to buck every trend making us experts scratch our collective heads. He's my Vegas long shot with a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos!
Yes, he missed the cut last year at Muirfield, but this is a much different track. Of course, we haven't seen him stateside since he missed the cut at the U.S. Open. That's two majors, two MCs this season. Not to worry, a new made-cut major streak can start now.
OK, so it won't be as great a story as Watson in 2009. Regardless, a guy at age 54 comes out of the broadcast booth, plays two warm-up events and scores a top-25 at the Open Championship. Can you be knighted twice? Maybe they can put the "sir" in all caps.