16 May 2018

The Open preview: Five stars to watch

Tiger returns for 20th bite

Tiger Woods is making his Open Championship return for the first time in three years. The American finished T32 at the Masters earlier this season and failed to make the cut at the PGA Championship but will be looking to make amends at Carnoustie – a course he has played two different Opens on out of the 19 he has competed in. He shot 10-over in 1999 to finish seventh when Jean Van de Velde had his infamous meltdown (see previous page) and secured tied-12th position on 2-under in 2007 when Padraig Harrington overcame Sergio Garcia in a play-off. Therefore, the Big Cat has not played an Open since 2015 and hasn’t made the cut at one since 2014. However, he has lifted the Claret Jug on three occasions. He first was triumphant by eight strokes in 2000 at St Andrews as part of the Grand Slam ransack that saw him hold all four Majors after he claimed the 2001 Masters Tournament. Tiger then won back-to-back Opens in 2005 and then 2006. Having shown glimpes of form of late it will be intriguing to see how the 42-year-old fares in the 20th Open Championship of his career. 


Five to watch 

Sergio Garcia

Since winning the Masters last year, Sergio has only won one event but he is starting to find form again with three top tens in his last six starts. The Open Championship is the Major the Spaniard should have won first as his record is exceptional. He’s had 10 top 10s, including two runner-ups. However, he may still have nightmares from Carnoustie in 2007 when he lost in a play-off to Padraig Harrington having been six strokes ahead of the Irishman at the start of the day. 


Brooks Koepka

Koepka has proven he’s the man for the big occasion with an outstanding record in Majors which has seen him post five top 20 finishes and two victories in his last eight Grand Slam starts. He defended the U.S. Open in June  on a course that’s as similar to a Scottish links course that the States has to offer. The 28 year old finished tied-sixth in last year’s Open – there’s a huge chance he’ll be right up there again at Carnoustie. 


Tommy Fleetwood

All that Fleetwood is missing from his CV is a Major win after having the season of his career last year which saw him win two European Tour titles and finish top in the Race to Dubai. The brilliant ball-striker was runner-up in the U.S. Open where he shot an astounding 63 in the final round at Shinnecock and was fourth at Erin Hills so has proven he has what it takes to mix it with the elite in a Major – let’s see if he can go one better in The Open.


Justin Rose

Mr. Consistent Justin Rose doesn’t know the meaning of an off-round – well it seems like that of late anyway. Since he last missed the cut in the PGA Championship in August, he has had 12 top 10 finishes, two top threes and four victories out of 21 tournaments. The only concern for Rose is that it’s now been five years since he last lifted a Major and his best finish in this tournament (tied-fourth) was 20 years ago when he was 17. However, if he can produce what he’s capable of – it will be hard to stop the world number three winning his second Major. 


Dustin Johnson

The World No.1 only has one Major to his name and it’s only a matter of time before he adds to that. DJ’s piercing low ball flight could be perfectly suited to the demanding Carnoustie track, especially if the wind blows, which is why he goes into the event as the bookies’ favourite. The 34 year old came close to winning the U.S Open with his third place finish and he was runner-up at The Open in 2011 so there’s no doubt he’ll be gunning to add to his trophy collection on his first trip to Carnoustie. 

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