While in England as captain of the United States in the 2000 Palmer Cup, college golf’s version of the Ryder Cup, former Kansas University golf coach Ross Randall had a chance to play Royal St. Georges with wife Linda, evidently quite an accomplished stick herself.
“It’s hard,” said Randall, from the air-conditioned snack shop Tuesday at Alvamar. “It’s hard. It’s as tough as any of the courses over there and the wind can really rip, so that course is all you want.”
So expect the scores to be high in this year’s British Open, which gets under way Thursday morning?
“Well, you don’t know,” Randall said. “There could be no wind and they could go really low.”
Randall has an even greater interest than usual in this year’s Open because the field includes one of his former players.
Gary Woodland tees off at 7:25 a.m. local time, which translates to 1:25 a.m. Central time. He played in the Scottish Open last week, giving his body time to adjust. He missed the cut in the rain-shortened event.
“Without question that was smart to play in that,” Randall said. “There is a six-hour difference. When you first get over there, you don’t know what’s going on. I used to get screwed up just going to Hawaii and that’s the other way. Flying from west to east is much harder. I’m sure it screwed up everything in his body.”
As for a prediction on how his former pupil will perform, Randall said, “I told him before he left I thought he would do well. It may not be the best course for him, but I think he’ll do fine.”
Woodland, from Topeka, now lives in Orlando, Fla. He ranks 13th on the 2011 PGA tour money list with $2,381,229 in earnings.
Fellow former KU golfer Chris Thompson, who has earned $55,000 on the mini-tour circuit this season, was asked for advice in trying to forecast a British Open winner.
“You definitely have to like someone from over there,” Thompson said after practicing his stroke on the Lawrence Country Club putting clock. “Any time you can pick Lee Westwood, he’s always a good pick. But I’m going to say Ian Poulter.”
Of Woodland, Thompson said, “I think he’ll do great if he can drive it well. I’ve heard that course is a little weird, but if he can get the angles and he’s got a caddy who’s been over there before, I think he’ll do fine. I think any time you can hit it far over there and hit it low, you’ve got a chance.”
Naturally, oddsmakers have made Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, 22, the favorite at 13/2, followed by Luke Donald and Lee Westwood at 11/1.
McIlroy went 16-under for an eight-shot victory at the U.S. Open.
“That’s the finest golf I’ve ever seen,” Randall said of McIlroy’s performance. “I’ve never seen anybody better at being able to make pure, full swings under pressure. No choking. No punch shots. Beautiful, full-motion swings.”
McIlroy tied for third last year in the British Open. Seeking his first victory in a major, Westwood has finished in the top three in five of his past nine majors. In that order, they should be the first two picks in British Open drafts that take place today in offices and tonight in local taverns throughout town.