Before getting to this week’s action, I’d like to mention one of my fancies for the forthcoming Open Championship. The price is fast disappearing so this may be the last chance to take 25/1 about RORY MCILROY for this year’s championship, or indeed any Opens over the next decade. Regular readers will know how highly I rate McIlroy; in my view the best teenager ever to play the game with the sole possible exception of Sergio Garcia. Rory’s last two efforts very much left the impression that a second title is imminent. Tenth place was a quite outstanding US Open debut, and a similar display of breathtaking iron play was on show in Germany last week, even if the putter ultimately let him down.
In truth, though, neither of those courses in question really maximised McIlroy’s talents. Turnberry surely will. Its important to remember just how proficient Rory was at links golf even before he turned pro. He first sprung to prominence in the 2007 Open, easily outperforming the limited expectations of a 16 year-old, and in one of his very earliest professional outings, Rory finished an outstanding 3rd at the Dunhill Links. I expect McIlroy to win several Opens throughout his career, and there’s much to suggest he’s ready now.
Onto the French Open, the first leg of a lucrative three week spell in Europe. The field is as strong as any I can remember for this national open, with several stars seeking to translate their excellent PGA Tour form over to Europe. Nobody more so than IAN POULTER, who has been a regular visitor to Le Golf National since his days as a Euro Tour journeyman, yet who now features on many shortlists for that forthcoming major at Turnberry.
Poulter generally goes well here, making the top-30 on each of his last five visits, with a best of 3rd in 2006. Whilst that record is a positive, it pales into insignificance compared to his claims on recent form, as Poulter has progressed to become a frequent candidate in the very best PGA Tour company. That improvement began about 49 weeks ago at Royal Birkdale, so he’s never headed to Paris with such a strong chance.
Poulter did pretty well in 18th place at the US Open, but that wasn’t a patch on SOREN HANSEN, for whom 6th place rates the highlight of his career. Taking the week off after Bethpage was a sensible decision in my view, because it ensures that he can arrive at what must be his favourite course fresh and fully prepared. Soren is only a very rare winner, but if he’s ever going to land another title, Le Golf National must be the likeliest venue. In the last four years, he has made the top-3 three times without the ultimate success, so everything points to another strong challenge.