Woods favored for 3rd Open win at St. Andrews
AP National Writer
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) – The British Open has begun with a tee shot by 1999 champion Paul Lawrie.
Tiger Woods won at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005, and he’s again a heavy favorite as golf’s oldest major returns to the birthplace of golf. Still, the world’s No. 1 player has yet to win since returning in April from a five-month layoff stemming from scandalous reports that he cheated on his wife with multiple women.
A steady rain soaked the course on Wednesday, forcing officials to postpone the Champions’ Challenge. Twenty-six former winners were scheduled to play a four-hole exhibition, with the winning team earning $76,000 for its designated charity.
Under gray skies and an uncertain forecast, Lawrie opened with a tee shot down the middle toward the famous Swilcan Burn.
With speculation about his private life swirling around, Woods is teeing off at mid-morning in a group that includes English favorite Justin Rose, who has won two of his last three PGA Tour events and is trying to become the first British golfer to win the Open since Lawrie.
Woods has 14 major titles, just four off the career record held by Jack Nicklaus.
Playing in the group right behind Woods and Rose will be two-time champion Padraig Harrington, looking for his first sanctioned tournament win since capturing a third major title at the 2008 PGA Championship. Harrington is joined by 60-year-old Tom Watson, who nearly became golf’s oldest major winner at Turnberry a year ago.
Watson would have claimed the claret jug for the sixth time if he had made an 8-foot putt on the 72nd hole. Instead, he lost in a four-hole playoff to Stewart Cink.
The defending champion will be playing the first two rounds with Ernie Els of South Africa and Ian Poulter of England.
Woods has been atop the world rankings for more than five years, but Phil Mickelson can take over the No. 1 ranking for the first time in his career if he wins this week. Lefty captured his third Masters title in April, contended at the U.S. Open and believes his long-hitting game sets up well for the Old Course.