By Taylor Snyder
The British open is not always every pro golfer’s cup of tea. Matter of fact, it is known by most to be the most challenging, and mentally toughening major tournament out of the four played each year. With fairways as wide as the Grand Canyon, and bunkers as deep as Drake in the winter time, it makes it very hard to come out victorious, even if you have a strong resume on the tour. Oh, did i mention the greens are as fast as Paul Walker at the end of Fast and Furious? Okay, I’m sorry Ill stop with all of the metaphors and comparison. So far with two majors down, and two to go, we have Brooks Koepka (U.S. Open), and Sergio Garcia (Masters) taking home their first major championships. Both men rose to the occasion, and have made these major tournaments fun to watch. But as I mentioned, this is the Open, it is no longer about rankings, but about who has a skill set more adaptable to the conditions of this course. The elements, specifically the wind, wreak havoc and can make scoring absolutely brutal when it gets going on these coastal British courses, which makes it tough to pick a champion.
This year’s Championship is taking place at Royal Birkdale, a challenging and scenic course, located in North West England. The United Kingdom will be watching anxiously as Birkdale hopes to crown its first Champion from the UK. A lot of eyes will be set on Henrik Stenson, as he is the defending champion. The last time an Open winner won the following year as well happened to be on this course in 2008 when Padraig Harrrington followed his playoff win over Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie with a blowout win at Birkdale. Harrington is in the field again this week and still playing great golf a decade later. He’ll be one of several golfers trying to keep Henrik Stenson from following his Open win at Royal Troon with another one this week in England.
When it comes to majors some names that always come to mind are Rory Mcllroy, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, and many other greats. But as we have seen so far sometimes that the not so obvious, can be the obvious. Let’s also remember that in years past it usually isn’t about how you are on moving day, but how you compose yourself on Sunday. With all this being said, here are my five golfers to look out for at this year’s Open Championship.
5. Jason Day
Let’s be honest, it is very hard not to like Australian golfers, especially this one. However, considering that he only has one top 20 finish EVER at this tournament, it makes this pick seem a little far fetched. But, this opportunity above all is his chance to turn around what has been an underwhelming season for Day. Other than his T-4 at St. Andrews in 2015, Day’s best finish in five other starts in the oldest championship is T-22. At the Old Course, when his 20-footer for birdie on the 18th to get into a three-way playoff finished three inches short, the immediate result left Day in tears. But he said the insight he gained in the days that followed were the key to his attaining No. 1. Although Day professes to love links courses and the atmosphere, his high-ball style is admittedly not ideally suited to windy conditions and firm ground. What can set him apart is the fact that he is a sleeper, and man do I love sleepers in major tournaments. The Aussie is a guy to look out for in my opinion because of how bad he needs a leaderboard finish here. It has not been easy on him the past year, but I think he’s still got something to prove in 2017. Don’t sleep on Mr. Day.
4. Sergio Garcia
Garcia has arguably the best track record at The Open Championship of anyone in the field, and the only thing that is missing is a Claret Jug. He finally added a major championship to his resume at The Masters, and I think this week really sets up for Garcia to make a run for adding on to his collection. He is among the best ball strikers in the world and has a low-ball flight which helps him in the wind. If the conditions get tough (which they probably will), it just makes me like Garcia even more. With 10 Top-10 finishes since 2001, The Open Championship was the logical choice for Garcia’s first major victory until he finally had his moment in Augusta earlier this season. The last three appearances, in particular (T5, T6, T2), have contributed to him having one of the lowest Open scoring averages in the field over the last five years, and his recent form has continued to be great with a T2 at the BMW International Open and no missed cuts since the Masters win. If I were to put down money on any golfer, he is definitely the one I would be betting on to win this.
3. Adam Scott
Scott has played really well at Open Championships throughout his career and may fly under the radar due to his mediocre form. I see Scott as a “big tournament” player who usually shows up at majors and the other big events. Scott is an incredible ball striker who can shape the ball in any direction, which is crucial in windy conditions. Scott missed the cut at the U.S. Open because his putting was absolutely horrendous, but I think that the greens at Birkdale (and links courses in general) will help the weaker putters this week. What will really make him an interesting golfer to keep an eye on is his irons. He’s just so pure with his iron play, it really is fun to watch. Scott is No. 31 in strokes gained off the tee and No. 15 in approach shots this season. If he hits fairways, he’s going to have flat surfaces to hit off of and make magic on these greens. That’s his bread and butter. I expect nothing less than a leaderboard finish for the Aussie.
2. Tommy Fleetwood
On the eve of The Open Championship one of Southport’s own is being tipped to claim one of the most pretigious titles in the world of sport. Southport’s Tommy Fleetwood is a leading contender to win at the 146th Open Championship, the 10th to be held at Royal Birdale, and if his recent form is to go by, he has a great chance. In 2017, he has earned $2,465,649 in prize money on the tour. He will launch his bid to become the first English winner of the Open Championship in 25 years, and the first ever at Birkdale. The hometown kid is as good a bet as anyone else to win the 2017 British Wide Open. The 26-year-old Brit has posted top 10s in his last four events on the European Tour, including a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open, and has local knowledge of this week’s track since as a youngster he would sneak onto Birkdale, and has dreamed of winning this tournament since he was five. I will personally be keeping my eyes locked on the hometown kid, as I feel like the home field advantage will be more of a blessing than a curse.
1. Rickie Fowler
I actually had Rickie Fowler winning the U.S. Open, and up until that final round back at Erin hills, it sure looked like he would. I know what you are thinking. “Taylor we LOVE Rickie, but c’mon really? He doesn’t have it in him to win a major?”. Well it is time to ditch that thought like your dark days of middle school, because this year is the year for the Murrieta, CA boy. He loves links golf, but more importantly, he’s ready to win a major. When he walked off Erin Hills after the final round last month, another golden opportunity gone to waste, there was a feeling of confidence around him. Confidence that suggested he knew something we didn’t. He then said all the right things after the crushing defeat at the U.S. Open. He was pleased with his play that week. And he was well aware that if he keeps knocking on the door, he’ll win one. Fowler expressed that he “can’t let that pressure bother him too much”. That’s the kind of attitude that gets rewarded. It’s the kind of attitude that has me picking him to win the 2017 Open Championship.