Top five picks for The Open Championship

There are few tournaments where the winner earns such an all-encompassing title as ‘Champion Golfer of the Year,’ but this week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is one of the them.

The winner of The Open Championship receives a replica of the famous Claret Jug complete with the above inscription, enough to make any golfer beam with pride.

With the last seven major winner’s being first-time champions, we reckon the trend may continue. As such, here are our top five picks to chalk their name up in golfing history for the first time.


JON RAHM


World Ranking: Seven
2017 top tens: Nine
Best Open finishes: T59 in 2016

Few golfers have experienced the meteoric rise to the upper echelons of golf like Jon Rahm. The Spaniard turned professional just last year and notched his first win at the Farmers Insurance Open (pictured) in January with a 60 foot putt on the last hole.

A plethora of top ten finishes saw him fly up the world rankings and into the minds of many pundits.

It also helps that the 22-year-old is coming off a special win at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open last week. The star-studded field included many vying for Open honours this week, but Rahm was resolute, with pair of 65s and 67s taking him to an impressive six stroke win.

Confidence is key in major championships and Rahm has it in spades this week.

RICKIE FOWLER

World Ranking: Ten
2017 top tens: Seven
Best Open finishes: T2 in 2014, T5 in 2011

Fowler is on a roll. The American has four top nine places in his last five appearances, building his belief that a second win for 2017 is just around the corner.

Fowler has also proved himself on links courses, no more so at Royal Liverpool, where he played superb golf in 2014 only to bested by eventual winner Rory McIlroy. His final round of 67 earned him a runner-up finish.

Arguably the best player in the field to have never won a major, Fowler’s time is no doubt coming. After a decent 12 month period where he’s picked up two wins and a host of top tens. He could get that monkey off his back on Sunday.


TOMMY FLEETWOOD


World Ranking: 14
2017 top tens: Eight
Best Open finishes: Cut

This pick may be a touch out of left field – especially for a player that is yet to make the cut at The Open in three attempts – but 2017 has been a breakthrough year for Fleetwood and it could very well continue at Royal Birkdale.

The Englishman beat Dustin Johnson by one stroke at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship (pictured) earlier in the year and his closing 66 earned him a win at the recent Open de France, his second of the year.

Fleetwood also has two runner-up finishes this year, both by just one stroke. He also played well at the US Open, finishing solo fourth. Throw in his ample time spent on the links courses of his home country and the local favourite tag, and Fleetwood could be flying high this week.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA


World Ranking: Two
2017 top tens: Three
Best Open finishes: T6 in 2013, T18 in 2015

Another consistent performer that is scratching the surface of a maiden major win. Matsuyama burst onto the scene with five wins in 2016 as well as two top seven finishes in the majors.

The 25-year-old seems unperturbed by the big stage, as is evident by his runner-up finish at the recent US Open. While the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and McIlroy all failed to make the cut, the Japanese star fired a sizzling six under 66 in the final round to surge up the leaderboard.

Matsuyama is also money under pressure, as he edged Webb Simpson on the fourth hole of a playoff with a birdie to defend his Waste Management Phoenix Open title in February.

It’s not a matter of if Matsuyama will become Japan’s first ever major winner, it’s a matter of when

PAUL CASEY

World Ranking: 16
2017 top tens: Four
Best Open finishes: T3 in 2010, T7 in 200

Whether he bombs or is in the final group on Sunday, make no mistake, we will see that Casey grin this week. Rankled outside the top 100 in 2013, the Englishman’s best days on the course seemed to be behind him. But he has battled his way back into contention and has been in the mix for the last few majors.

The 13-time European Tour winner finished solo sixth at the Masters, 26th at the US Open and is coming off a T5 at the Travelers Championship.

With nine top ten’s in the majors and much links golf experience, there is no question Casey has the calibre – and the smile – to be in the final pairing on Sunday afternoon.

Honourable mentions:

Despite playing great golf, Rafael Cabrera Bello had to wait five years for his most recent win. The Spaniard tamed the Dundonald Links on Sunday to card his sixth professional win at the Scottish Open.

From one Scottish Open champion to another, Alex Noren – the 2016 winner – has also been in good touch. Five wins in the last 12 months have seen the Swede rise into the top ten in 2016 but he still has to prove himself on the big stage.

 

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