For the 147th time, the world’s greatest golfers return to golf’s motherland for the opportunity to vie for one of sports most prestigious trophies — the Claret Jug — and the right to be called champion golfer of the year.
The Open Championship — the tournament anyone on the right side of the pond will tell you is the most important major of the year — is upon us.
In the U-S-of-A, it means a week of setting our alarms for ungodly call times so we can watch our favorite golfers before heading out to the links ourselves to post scores twice as high the guys we watched in the morning.
This year, the Open returns to Carnoustie — the site of Open victories by Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington.
While those men have tasted glory, plenty have also experienced agonizing defeat. No one more famously than Jean Van de Velde in 1999. I don’t need to say anything else about that, do I?
Rory McIlroy — Sure, he’s been inconsistent — but he’s still Rory McIlroy and this is still the Open. The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year has already picked up a victory this season at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and is always a force to be reckoned with on links courses. His record in the Open as well as the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship should not be ignored.
Justin Rose — I feel like I said this right before the U.S. Open and right before the Masters, but Justin Rose is a favorite this week at Carnoustie thanks to some incredible form. It’s hard to believe it, but the last 12 months for Rose may be the best 12-month run of his entire career. Rose, who is yet to best his T-4 showing in the 1998 Open where he was the low amateur. He bests that this year.
Francesco Molinari — If recent form means anything to any of you, then you’d be nuts not to include Francesco Molinari. In his last five starts, he’s won of finished runner-up in four of them. While he’s been playing some great golf stateside, he grew up in Europe. He’s played a lot of links golfs and should have no problem translating that form to success at Carnoustie.
Tommy Fleetwood — Once an also-ran, Tommy Fleetwood has turned himself into one of the top players on the European Tour year in and year out. It seems the only thing missing from his resume is a major victory. Could that come this year? He’s already got a top-3 at the U.S. Open — after finishing with 63 — and is the course-record holder here at Carnoustie (also a 63). So — if you’re looking for an anchor, you might’ve found it in Fleetwood.
Bubba Watson — It’s a little hard for me to put Bubba Watson in the posers portion of this piece, thanks to the fact that he’s the only three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season. Watson has had a great year and is always a threat with his dumb length and deft touch around the greens. That said, he’s never fared well in an Open. The Open favors patience and calm. Bubba is neither of those things. Don’t be fooled by the form — stick to your gut (er, my gut) and leave Bubba on the bench.
Louis Oosthuizen — Normally, Louis Oosthuizen would be a shoe-in as a player for the Open Championship, but he lands here due to last week’s injury withdrawal at the Scottish Open last week. For those expecting him to bounce back, you might be right — but there are plenty of players who will provide the same type of spark Shrek could without the added mystery of returning from injury.
Bryson DeChambeau — See above. DeChambeau has had a great season thus far but enters play this week coming off an injury WD at the John Deere Classic. Like Oosthuizen, it was a sore shoulder that kept DeChambeau from attempting to defend his title at TPC Deere Run. At the risk of being redundant, there are plenty of players who will provide the same type of spark DeChambeau could without the added mystery of returning from injury.
Phil Mickelson — It was really neat to see Phil Mickelson return to the winner’s circle earlier this year at the WGC-Mexico Championship, but anyone expecting him to return to major glory this week is nuts. Not that I don’t think Phil still has the game to compete, I just don’t think he’s been showing any sort of form that would lead me to believe he’s ready to tackle Carnoustie.