Top 5 Picks for the 2017 Open Championship
The third major of the year is going to be held at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Liverpool, England this week from 20-23 July. Here are the top five picks to conquer the windy and wild links of The Open Championship this year:
It may surprise a lot of people, Rickie Fowler being on the top of the LWOS Open Championship Rankings. However, Fowler has played undeniably consistent golf this year. He has a win under his belt and four of his last five starts have been top tens. He had a really strong showing at the U.S. Open, before failing to close out the tournament, stuttering with an even par final round 72. I am adamant that he is ready to break his major duck this year. He leads the tour in scoring average and is third in strokes gained putting, both of which will be very important.
Jordan Spieth is second on the LWOS list of picks to win the U.S. Open. Fresh off the stunning playoff win to clinch the Travelers Championship, Spieth is ready to win his third major. He has Open Championship experience, having come close with a T4 in 2015 and plays very well in the wind as he hails from the windy state of Texas. He sits in the top five for key statistics such as birdie average, scoring average and greens in regulation percentage. Having been one of the few big names not to miss the cut at the U.S. Open, he is ready to take on whatever conditions he faces. If his putter really catches fire, the rest of the field better watch out.
The local boy Tommy Fleetwood has had an exceptional run since the solo fourth at the U.S. Open. Having has not finished outside the top ten since, Fleetwood has also won the HNA Open de France. He will be more mentally prepared now having had the experience of being in the hunt for a major at the U.S. Open. He leads the European Race to Dubai and ranks in the top five for Greens in Regulation percentage and stroke average. Fleetwood will be further buoyed by the home crowds, which will simply drive him on.
Jon Rahm continues his incredible rise in world golf, reaching seventh in the World as of this week. He comes into the week in good form after outperforming the field on his way to clinching the Irish Open. He is third with strokes gained on the field and his putting and long game looks in brilliant shape ahead of the Open. However in his last major start at the U.S. Open he missed the cut, and that lack of Open experience may play a big part. If Rahm continues as he did in difficult conditions at the Irish Open, he should come close to a victory at The Open Championship.
Hideki has had a relatively quiet rise to the top of the game. After a quick start to the season, in which he won twice, Matsuyama has slowly been building back towards his best form. His Major form hasn’t been shabby this year; a stellar T2 at the U.S. Open followed a T11 at the Masters. He has the capability to catch fire in majors, shown by his final round 66 in the U.S. Open. Matsuyama remains in the top ten for key statistics such as birdie average and scoring average, and will have a good Open.
Under the Radar:
These players may not have had the best form coming into the week but cannot be ruled out if they bring their A-game. They either have vast experience or the raw ability to change the outlook of the field, or even both. In no particular order:
The world number one has rested since a shock missed cut at the U.S. Open so it is hard to gauge his current mind-set and form. He remains the world number one and the FedEx Cup leader and has not had a slump in a while. Johnson remains on three victories this year, but has missed the cut in his last two tournaments, The Memorial and The U.S. Open. However he does lead the field in strokes gained and has had five top 15s at the Open since 2010. Dustin is therefore not a favourite of to win the Open this year, but if he pieces his game together he will be a real threat to the rest of the field.
The 2014 Open champion has struggled this year with form and with injury, playing only eight PGA tournaments. A third missed cut in his last four events at the Scottish Open only underlined how much he is fighting his game coming into this year’s Open. McIlroy is really only on this list due to his pedigree as a player and his experience in the Open, as a 2014 Champion. If he discovers how to putt again, he will be a major player at Royal Birkdale.
Henrik Stenson has had an average, if not poor year after winning the Claret Jug in a mind-boggling battle with Phil Mickelson last year at Royal Troon. He may just have felt the pressure of being Champion Golfer of the Year and dropped his form. However he has proved he can win the Open, and if he rediscovers that form and ball striking he will be a factor.
Brooks Koepka has rested since his win at the U.S. Open so, like Johnson, his form is hard to judge. Accurate and long drives were the basis of his U.S. Open victory but I am unsure how this game will hold up in the wind. Yet he was dominant in his U.S. Open victory so if he continues that type of form, he will be a threat, especially with the experience he picked up playing on the European Tour.
Justin Thomas had an extremely good U.S. Open this year, shooting an incredible 63 to catapult himself into the lead. Yet he folded on the final day with a 75 and recorded a T9, demonstrating that he still has much to learn. Two missed cuts followed that U.S. Open showing, but should he rediscover the form of the record round of 63, he can see be a threat to win the Open Championship.