The Open Championship: Ones to watch

The Open, by definition, is the most ‘open’ of all the majors where luck of the draw (and bounce) can play havoc with the form book and allow unheralded victors such as Todd Hamilton, Ben Curtis and Paul Lawrie to step in and emerge victorious. here we highlight a select few from the field to keep an eye out for at Royal St Georges.

Jon Rahm

Open Pedigree: T59, T44, Cut, T11
The latest member of the Major club is well placed to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Padraig Harrington in recent times and make it back-to-back Major wins at The Open. The 26-year-old is a two-time winner of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart and Lahinch, so his links pedigree is good – but he is yet to post a top-ten in four attempts at The Open.

Rory McIlroy

Open Pedigree: T42, T47, T3, T25, T60, Cut, WIN, T5, T4, T2, CUT
The four times Major winner is warming up by playing in both the Irish and the Scottish Opens, which is something he did in 2014, the year he won at Royal Liverpool. He also did the same in 2017, missing the cut in Ireland and at Dundonald Links before finishing T4 at Royal Birkdale.

Dustin Johnson

Open Pedigree: CUT, T14, T2, T9, T32, T12, T49, T9, T54, CUT, T51
Runner-up to Clarke the last time it was held in Kent on a mostly wet and miserable week back in 2011, Johnson hasn’t got the best record in Britain and arrives needing to find a bit of form. The 2020 Masters winner clinched the Saudi International earlier this season, but has only posted two top-tens since and missed the cut at Augusta in April and the PGA Championship.

Bryson DeChambeau

Open Pedigree: CUT, T51, CUT
This will be the first Open since DeChambeau transformed his body into a tool to bludgeon the ball eye-watering distances and it remains to be seen if this method will suit Open conditions. Was in contention at the US Open last month but mentally imploded on the back nine. Hasn’t missed a cut since February.

Louis Oosthuizen

Open Pedigree: CUT, CUT, CUT, WIN, T54, T19, WD, T36, T2, CUT CUT, T28, T20
Comes alive for the Majors as runner-up finishes in last the two highlight. All aspects of the game are in good shape, but questions loom about his mental ability to close out a big win having been denied last month’s US Open by Rahm, who was playing in three groups ahead of him. Notoriously hasn’t won on American soil and it’s 11 years since he won The Open. Has the grand-slam of runner-up finishes across the Majors. Will he walk though the door again? Now is as good a time as any.

Brooks Koepka

Open Pedigree: Cut, T67, T10, T6, T39, T4
The 31-year-old has a game that travels. A winner in Scotland, Spain, Turkey, Japan, South Korea and a hatful of titles on American soil (including his four Majors). Top fives in the last two Majors and a win earlier this year in Phoenix has him trending towards making it Major No.5 this month.

Xander Schauffele

Open Pedigree: T20, T2, T41
A Major machine with nine top tens in 17 starts including runner-up behind Francesco Molinari at the 2018 Open, Schauffele is a fixture on leaderboards whenever and wherever he tees it up. The American warms up at the Scottish Open.


DEBUTANTS

All five of these Open debutants are bone-fide stars and in the running for maiden Ryder Cup appearances later this year. A good week on the links could all but cement their spot on their respective teams.

Viktor Hovland

Now a virtual lock for Team Europe having won the BMW International in Germany last month, Viktor Hovland arrives as one of the form horses. Lets just hope he doesn’t get sand in his eye and is forced to withdraw, as happened at Torrey Pines last month. Like Morikawa, Hovland has been consistent at the highest level, maintaining his spot inside the top 20 in the world since his Mayakoba win in December.

Collin Morikawa

Last year’s US PGA Champion hasn’t dropped out of the top ten in the world since his Major breakthrough last August, such has been the consistency in his game. Won the WGC in Florida earlier this year and posted top-5s at the notoriously difficult Memorial tournament and US Open last month. Might take a while to adapt to the slower greens but he should be a factor.

Victor Perez

Winner of the 2019 Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and a resident of Dundee, Victor Perez has an affinity to seaside golf which could see him contend. His form has deserted him in recent months after ending 2020 well and making a good start to this year. Was runner-up at Wentworth in October and posted a top ten in his DP World Tour Championship debut. Fourth at the Saudi International and WGC Match Play represent his best results this season.

Scottie Scheffler

On the bubble for Steve Stricker’s team, Scheffler has impressed on the big stage this year with top tens at the two World Golf Championships, US Open and US PGA Championship. A warm-up on the gentle links of the Renaissance Club at the Scottish Open should provide a good week of preparation and a chance to get acclimatized.

Matthew Wolff

Prodigious 22-year-old Matthew Wolff will make his first appearance in Europe as a professional and already knows how to compete in the Majors having pushed DeChambeau all the way at the US Open last year and posting a T4 at the US PGA Championship. Wolff, who won the 2019 3M Open in Minnesota, played in the Palmer Cup of 2018 in France.


SLEEPER PICKS

Sergio Garcia

A veteran of 24 Opens who came closest in 2007 with a play-off loss to Padraig Harrington, Garcia has been inconsistent this season, hovering at around 50th in the world rankings but will be looking to do well back on European soil for the summer as the Ryder Cup deadline looms. Between 2000 and 2016 he finished in the top ten on ten occasions at The Open but notably hasn’t had a Major top ten since his Masters win of 2017 – but that’s got to change sometime soon, surely?

Kevin Kisner

Another player with Ryder Cup ambitions, Kisner was the 54-hole leader at Carnoustie in 2018 but was usurped by a steady Francesco Molinari in Scotland. A short but accurate hitter, the American has been out of form since April but a return of T5 at the Travelers Championship has him trending as he heads to Britain.

Martin Kaymer

Wasn’t exempt for the 2019 Open but a return to form – including more than his fair share of recent near misses – sees Kaymer back in the field for The Open and he’s showing good form with a runner-up to Viktor Hovland on home soil last month. Has plenty of links experience and won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship early in his career.

Danny Willett

Aside from his 2016 Masters victory, Willett’s only other Major top tens have come at The Open in 2015 (T6) and 2019 (T6) and his links history is solid with top tens at recent Irish Opens to his name. Treading water with some inconsistent displays on the PGA Tour this year, a good tune-up at the Scottish Open will go a long way in his quest for a second Major win on home soil.

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