Jordan Spieth is the defending champion but is a little below his best
The Open Championship begins on Thursday July 19th at Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, the first time the event has been played at the venue since 2007 and the 8th occasion overall.
The layout has developed a reputation for being one of the most demanding on the Open Championship rota and has created some great history in the event including Ben Hogan’s victory in 1953 and the bizarre win by Paul Lawrie in 1999 when he became the beneficiary of a 72nd hole Jean Van de Velde meltdown.
Let’s take a look at some of the leading prospects and assess their chances.
This will be Johnson’s 10th Open Championship and he does enjoy a good record in the event despite not winning. His best was when runner-up to Darren Clarke in 2011 but he is a much better player now and his most recent form tells the story of a man on top of his game. His chances appear good.
Thomas’ two starts to date in this event are hardly encouraging in terms of his prospects this year, having missed the cut in one and finished 53rd on debut two years ago. He is playing well in 2018 however not having missed a cut in 14 starts but his record in the event and on links golf layouts, if we are to get picky, is a little ordinary.
Honed a lot of his early professional skills in Europe and displayed a capacity at Shinnecock Hills to handle windy, dry golf courses very well. He has improved in each of the four starts at the Open Championship to a best of 6th last year. His most recent form includes a runner-up finish in Fort Worth and his great win at the US Open. Hard to fault and seemingly hard to beat.
Since his 4th place finish as an amateur in 1998, Rose’s record in 15 starts at the Open has been disappointing with just one top 10 in that time. He is certainly playing well enough right now to be a real chance but his record at the Open Championship for a player of his standing is a cause for concern.
The defending champion will need a form reversal if he is to be a chance this year. Leading in to last year’s win he had won the Travelers Championship and had finished runner-up three starts earlier. This year he has not been inside the top thirty in his last four starts so unless he has been able to improve since his last start 42nd at the Travelers then there is risk about his chances.
There has been just two Open Championship starts for the Spanish star making the cut in both but finishing well back. He has continued to develop as a golfer and with three top five finishes in his last four starts this season including a 5th place at the Irish Open he is not far from where he needs to be in order to contend this week. If he was to become just the second Spanish golfer to win the Claret Jug this week it would be no real surprise.
Fowler enters calculations for a possible breakthrough major victory give his capabilities and passion for links golf. He has missed only one cut in eight Open Championship starts and does have a best of runner-up finish in 2011 at Royal St Georges and has played the Scottish Open on similar style of courses very well. Perhaps of just as much importance however is Fowler’s current form which is very impressive often putting himself in position to contend.
McIlroy is playing well enough this season to extend what is a good record at the Open Championship, highlighted by his win in 2014, but there have also been three other top five finishes. He carries the burden of regularly being Great Britain and Ireland’s best hope but it does not seem to faze him and his chances of contending appear good.
Day has yet to miss a cut in seven attempts at the Open Championship but he has had only one top 10, that coming in 2015 when one shot out of the playoff at St Andrews. Other than that, there have been no other top 20 finishes. Day is having a good season overall in 2018 but of late his form has dropped off a little.
Noren was very impressive when winning in France three weeks ago and there have been several other finishes of late which suggest he could well be a threat this week. Noren’s 6th place finish at Royal Birkdale last year gave evidence of his capabilities in this event and I think he stands a very good chance.
More than any other performance, Fleetwood’s runner-up finish at the US Open told the story of his capacity to win a major. He does not enjoy a good record at the Open Championship having missed three of four cuts and a best of 27th in the other but he is now amongst the elite of the game and a much better effort is expected.
Casey has developed into one of the game’s most consistent players and has done well enough on occasions at the Open Championship for him to be a consideration at Carnoustie. But for a rather strange second round of 77 last year he might well have been in the mix for the title but finished 11th. He has been outside the top 20 in just two of his last 12 starts and although this will be his first start since the Travelers he is no doubt primed for a good week.
The Masters champion’s record at the Open Championship is average at best but there is a feeling that he is getting the hang of links golf each and every year and it would not surprise if he was to contend for his second major of the year.
Matsuyama has played well enough in his five starts at the Open including when 6th on debut in 2013. He was also 14th last year. He has begun to play well again after an injury issue earlier this year although a missed cut in Scotland last week was a little setback.
Molinari is playing some of the best golf of his career at present and is perhaps the most in form golfer at Carnoustie. Although his decision to stay in the US rather than play in Europe in the lead-up to this week might not have necessarily helped his Open Championship chances, that he has played so well in the US of late will allow him to bring a tremendous level of confidence to the event. There is plenty of evidence to suggest he can do well on links terrain and he might do just that.
Stenson’s Open Championship victory in 2016 saw perhaps some of the highest quality of golf ever produced in the event. The Swede has been inside the top three in the event on three other occasions and for much of 2018 has played beautifully. His last start 6th at the US Open was a month ago but a return to tournament golf at the Scottish Open last week was disrupted by an elbow injury. Much will depend on his fitness but if fully fit then he has hopes.
Leishman’s form has been a little inconsistent of late but he has developed into a big event player and has played the Open Championship well in the past. He has been inside the top six finishers in the event in three of his last four starts so this type of golf suits him well. His weekend last year of 66 and 65 at Royal Birkdale will have him with good memories of the Open Championship. Deserves serious consideration.
Garcia is getting his game back together after a series of un-Garcia like performances perhaps caused by the distraction of the arrival of his first child. Garcia finished runner-up to Padraig Harrington at Carnoustie in 2007 and boasts numerous other top tens in the event. At his last start he finished 8th at the Open de France so on that basis his chances are good of at least contending this week.
Poulter has played well over much of the last three months and does enjoy a very good record at the Open Championship. It is hard to see him winning necessarily but he is more than capable of finishing inside the top ten. He has been runner-up and 3rd on previous occasions.
It is hard to ignore the New Zealander’s impressive form of late. His runner-up finish in Ireland was followed by a 6th place last week at the Scottish Open, both on links layouts, and while his lack of major championship experience is a concern there is little doubting that his current form suggests he could contend at various stages of the week.