Sports Outside the Beltway

Defending British Open Champ Padraig Harrington has a sore right wrist

However the Irish golfer thinks he will be able to tee it up when play begins tomorrow.

SOUTHPORT, England — If this was nearly any other week, Padraig Harrington would already be home.

Instead, he was strolling around blustery Royal Birkdale, still trying to cope with the pain in his right wrist, still trying to work out how he can possibly defend his British Open championship.

Harrington cut short another practice round Wednesday on the eve of the tournament, managing only three full swings before his wrist started throbbing again. He walked the rest of the course, limiting himself to chipping and putting, the only things he felt comfortable enough to risk.

So, will he play?

“I can’t say honestly at this moment,” Harrington said as he strolled down the middle of the 18th fairway, midway through a practice round that was little more than a pleasant walk.

Later, after coming off the ninth green, he was a bit more specific about his prospects. Harrington said it was 75 percent likely he would at least tee off, but put his chances of making it through the first round at only 50 percent.

To me the wrist sounds too sore to make Harrington a legit threat to repeat this year. If healthy, I may put him in a list of the 10 players most likely to win the 2008 British Open. Englishman Luke Donald withdrew from the BO Open earlier this week, and now looks doubtful in regards to this fall’s Ryder Cup.

Who do I think will win? Ryan at Golf News Net gives the odds for certain players as set by bookmakers in the UK.

8/1 – Sergio Garcia
12/1 – Ernie Els
14/1 – Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood
16/1 – Padraig Harrington
20/1 – Justin Rose
22/1 – Jim Furyk
25/1 – Vijay Singh, Robert Karlsson
28/1 – Adam Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Andres Romero
33/1 – Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Henrik Stenson, Stewart Cink, Anthony Kim
40/1 – Luke Donald, Trevor Immelman, Paul Casey, Justin Leonard, Robert Allenby, Martin Kaymer

Jason Sobel of ESPN ranks the top 50 players as he sees them.

Here’s my prediction- I think it will be a fairly obscure player, probably one of the Europeans. Someone this admitted golf nut is unlikely to have known of before this week.

Birkdale has a history of unknowns contending. Syd Scott, Mr. Lu, a then unknown Spaniard Seve Ballesteros at the 1976 British Open, Eamon Darcy, Mike Harwood, Raymond Russell and Brian Watts. Then you always seem to have one of these at any Britih Open venue. They usually come in second or third, but they surprise sometimes. Paul Lawrie for example. There were also Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis more recently.

So I’d take the field. According to Ryan, the odds with the bookmakers for that selction is 3/2. Alot of golfers at pretty low odds.

That’s what I think will happen this weekend. Phil Mickelson never plays well in the British Open, most of the other likely contenders have one or more marks against them going into this week’s play. If some were to make me name three golfers, they would be- Jim Furyk(3rd at the 1998 BO, the last played at Birkdale), 1997 BO Champ and 99 runner up Justin Leonard, and Stuart Appleby. It will be an interesting weekend.

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