Tiger Woods Aims to Repeat at British Open

The British Open, one of golf's most important tournaments, is underway in northern England. Tiger Woods is the defending champion. John Ydstie talks to commentator John Feinstein about what to expect from this year's event.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

The world's oldest golf tournament, the British Open, or as its called in the British Isles, the Open Championship, is underway today in Hoylake, England, just outside Liverpool. Tiger Woods is attempting to defend the championship he won a year ago at St. Andrews in Scotland.

Commentator John Feinstein joins us now. Good morning, John.

Mr. JOHN FEINSTEIN (Author, A Good Walk Spoiled): Good morning, John.

YDSTIE: Tiger Woods missed his first cut ever in a major championship as a pro last month at the U.S. Open. Any hangover from that, do you think?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: I think he's beyond that now, John, because he went and played the Western Open two weeks ago and played very well; ended up finishing second, shot a couple of low scores.

Obviously at the U.S. Open he was very rusty. He hadn't played in nine and a half weeks because of the death of his father. A difficult golf course. And I think that was a blip. I think we will see the normal Tiger Woods this week, which means that come Sunday he'll probably be somewhere on the leader board if not on top of it.

YDSTIE: Speaking of hangovers, Phil Mickelson, by his own admission, threw the U.S. Open away on the 18th hole. What do you think of his chances here?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Not great. First of all, he's never played well in the British Open. He doesn't like it over there. He doesn't like the food, he doesn't like the showers. He's never finished higher than ninth. He's only been in the top ten in the British Open once. And I think you throw that in with the hangover from the U.S. Open, because he did throw that tournament away on the last hole with the awful double bogey he made.

I would be surprised if Tiger's not in contention; I'd be surprised if Phil is in contention. So that probably means, given my work as a prognosticator, that Mickelson will win by ten.

YDSTIE: He doesn't like the showers? That's pretty fussy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FEINSTEIN: They're different over there than what we're used to back home.

YDSTIE: What about some not as familiar names. Who should we watch?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Well, you know, at the British Open the last few years unknowns have really made names for themselves. Ben Curtis won his first tournament ever three years ago. Todd Hamilton, two years ago, beating Ernie Els in a playoff. So no-names can jump up in this event. Frequently they're names that we don't know who are good overseas players.

But I think one guy you have to watch and kind of root for, and he's not an unknown, is Colin Montgomery; the Scotsman who again almost won the U.S. Open. He's never won a major. He's 43 years old. He'll be the crowd favorite if he gets anywhere near contention. And maybe he can build on his performance at Winged Foot and play well in front of his home fans - which traditionally he hasn't done, except last year when he did finish second to Tiger Woods at St. Andrews.

YDSTIE: Let's talk about what makes this championship unique. It really isn't like any other major is it?

Mr. FEINSTEIN: It's not. And you start with the golf courses, which are entirely different than the ones in the United States. Most Americans, the first time they go over to Great Britain, when they drive by a links golf course they say, that's a golf course? Where're the trees? Where's the water? It looks entirely different. It looks like a sheep meadow, because that's what golf courses were first created out of over there.

But the other thing, John, is the fans. The fans are so devoted over there. I'll never forget driving in one morning to the first round at Muirfield and it's pouring down rain and there are thousands of people lining the fairways. And I remember saying to somebody, don't these people know it's raining? But over there they don't know it's raining, they don't care if it's raining.

If it, you know, the old Scottish saying, if is nay wind and nay rain, it's nay golf. And it's a completely different feeling over there when you're there for the British Open.

YDSTIE: The comments of John Feinstein, author of A Good Walk Spoiled. Thanks, John.

Mr. FEINSTEIN: Thank you, John.

(Soundbite of music)

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