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Which 50-something will make a run at the British?

Kevin Currie, Golf Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The British Open returned to the Old Course at St. Andrews this week for the 28th time. No course has hosted more Open Championships.

In keeping with the vintage of the historic venue, the story of the last two British Opens was a 50-something making a memorable run at the title. In 2008, 53-year-old Greg Norman was the third-round leader and clung to the lead on the 10th tee of the final round before falling apart on the back nine.

Last year, 59-year-old Tom Watson birdied the 71st hole to take the lead. He was looking to become the oldest major champion ever, and he would have tied the record for most wins at the British Open.

Watson bogeyed the 72nd hole, then lost to Stewart Cink in the playoff.

Whose turn is it this year? There are six names that come to mind, though only one of them has won the Open Championship on the Old Course at St. Andrews.

The six that could make a run this week are Mark Calcavecchia, Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle, Tom Lehman, Mark O'Meara and Loren Roberts. The first five are former Open champions, while Roberts is the reigning Senior British Open champ.

Here's a breakdown of the six, and we'll tell you at the end which member of the group we think has the best chance to position himself for a title this week.

- Calcavecchia won the '89 British at Royal Troon. Prior to turning 50 in June, he missed two of his last four cuts on the PGA Tour. Since joining the Champions Tour, he has shared sixth and 16th in his two starts. Look for him to make plenty of noise on the Champions Tour, but not much this week.

- Faldo won the Open at St. Andrews in 1990, but has played just once all season. At the BMW International three weeks ago, Faldo missed the cut by nine strokes in his first start since the '09 Senior British Open. It is unlikely you'll be there down the stretch, so enjoy your birthday on Sunday, Sir Nick.

- Lyle, who won the '85 British at Royal St. George's, has been a non-factor in his last three starts on the Champions Tour. The two-time major champion missed the cut at the Senior PGA Championship, but has a pair of top-12 finishes in his last two European Senior Tour events. That's all well and good, but Lyle not's the choice here.

- At Royal Lytham & St. Annes in 1996, Lehman claimed his lone major championship. He won the Senior PGA back in May and shared 41st at the Memorial before missing the cut at the U.S. Open. He would be a good choice, for next weekend's Senior British Open.

- That leaves us with Roberts and O'Meara. Roberts would be a great choice since he has gone third-first-fifth in his last three Champions Tour starts. However, the choice here is O'Meara.

The 53-year-old teamed with Nick Price to win the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour in April. That came after a runner-up finish in the rain-shortened Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.

In his last three starts, his only top-20 was a fourth-place finish at the Senior PGA Championship. O'Meara, who won the '98 Open Championship at Birkdale, has only broken par in six of his last 10 years.

I didn't say I was picking the hottest player among the group, just the one I think has the best chance at making an unlikely run at winning the season's third major.

Keep an eye on O'Meara.

THE UNWANTED TITLE DEFENSE

Most, if not all golfers, will tell you explicitly that one of their top goals is to win a major championship. Only a select few are able to accomplish that feat.

John Rollins will not be among those players this week, though he will be attempting to defend a title at a PGA-sanctioned tournament, the Reno-Tahoe Open.

The British Open is technically a European Tour event, and for those who were unable to qualify to play at St. Andrews, the PGA Tour offers Reno-Tahoe Open. Winning the Reno-Tahoe Open counts as official victory on the PGA Tour, but does not automatically qualify a player for the four major championships.

Rollins, therefore, has the somewhat thankless task of defending his title this week in Reno. His victory last year came when the event was played opposite the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational.

Rollins, ranked 116th in the world, is the fourth-highest player in the field in Reno. Chad Campbell is the highest-ranked, at No. 93.

With 85 of top 100 in the world playing at the British, Rollins has to contend with only two players that have won on the PGA Tour this year and two former major champions in his quest to repeat as the Reno-Tahoe champion.

If Rollins does repeat, he would join Vaughn Taylor as the only two players that have repeated in Tahoe.

MINI-TIDBITS

- Tiger Woods is using a new ball and a new putter this week at the British Open. Will either matter? Probably not, but I still think he finishes in the top-five, at worst.

- Meg Mallon announced her retirement from competitive golf last week. The 17- time winner's move is a big loss for the LPGA Tour, even though she has missed the cut in all seven starts this year.

- Lonnie Nielsen will be out of action for the remainder of the Champions Tour schedule as he is set to undergo knee surgery on July 21. Nielsen said his right knee has troubled him since he was in college, when he injured it playing basketball.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Kevin Currie at kcurrie@sportsnetwork.com.

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