By Tony Jimenez
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) – Gary Player has a hunch it will be Rickie Fowler’s week at the British Open but his “big wish” is for Tiger Woods to end a 10-year major drought by holding aloft the Claret Jug for the fourth time.
The 82-year-old South African, who won the second of his three British Opens at Carnoustie 50 years ago, believes world golf needs Woods back at the top of his game.
“Tiger is responsible for all these guys playing for a million dollars every week,” Player told reporters on the eve of the championship.
“I think Tiger is what has captured the young people, which we need in this game desperately at the moment.
“He brings more people, the sponsors are delighted, the public are delighted, you media are delighted because you are still in awe of him. My big wish would be that Tiger would win.”
Player, who collected nine major victories in total, said Woods’s career first began to unravel when he left long-time coach Butch Harmon in 2002.
“What I never understood is, when you win the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 shots, we’re not talking about five shots we’re talking about 15, within two weeks he’s having a lesson,” said the super-fit, silver-haired veteran.
“From there on he was never the same force. He then went to another coach and he got confused. That was one of the sad things I saw because this man was doing things and getting people excited.”
Fowler, like his fellow American Woods, has proved he has the game to thrive on exposed seaside links courses like Carnoustie.
The 29-year-old Fowler has twice finished in the British Open’s top-five without managing to secure a breakthrough major victory.
He also won the Scottish Open on a links at Gullane in 2015 and was tied sixth in the same tournament last week.
“If you get a feeling about somebody winning, my feeling is for Rickie,” said Player. “He’s been very close at majors.
“He played so well last week and he’s in a good frame of mind. He’s a marvelous putter and he hits the ball pretty straight.”
Fowler will accompany Spain’s Jon Rahm and Chris Wood of England when the trio launch their British Open campaign at 1009 local time on Thursday.
(Editing by Toby Davis)