Ahead of next week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale, the form of some of the leading players is a concern.
World No1 Dustin Johnson is certainly losing some of his early-season heat, having missed the cut in his last two tournaments – the US Open and the Memorial. Johnson’s poor show in Jack Nicklaus’ event could be an aberration, having had his second child at the start of that week.
Rory McIlroy has fallen to No4 in the world order as his stop-start season due to his rib injury continues. The 2014 Open champion could not make it to the weekend in last week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, a tournament he hosts, and also at the US Open. In between, a sparkling final-round 64 catapulted him to tied 17th place at the Travelers Championship, a tournament where he famously used three different putters.
And then there is Jason Day. The Australian, who revealed earlier this year that his mother is terminally ill, can be rightfully excused if he has other things on his mind than golf.
Compared to his amazing run from the 2015 Open onwards, 2017 has been poor with just two top-10s and he comes into the third major of the season on the back of two missed cuts.
Even though there seems to be genuine reasons for the sudden slump in the form of these superstars, the time is now right for them to pull up their socks as we reach the business end of the season. July, August and September are three huge months in golf – with two of the four majors, one World Golf Championship event and the FedEx Cup Playoffs all coming one after the other.
The links course at Royal Birkdale will provide a different kind of test for the players. While McIlroy has had success in the past, Johnson and Day have been consistent at best without being spectacular. The American has three previous top-10s, including a tied second in 2011, while the Aussie has struggled and has only a tied fourth place in the 2015 Open to show as a decent outing.
Both Johnson and Day are not playing this week again, but McIlroy is at Dundonald Links for the Scottish Open.
The Northern Irishman has made the right decision in adding the tournament to his schedule. He desperately needs some more time out on the course, having played only nine tournaments in the first half of the year – at least four fewer than in previous years.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson is also not in his usual solid form, although this is the period of the year when he usually turns it around.
Based purely on current form, the top favourites would be Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Tommy Fleetwood.
Another one bites the dust
If Phil Mickelson and Jim ‘Bones’ Mackay parting ways last month came as a surprise, the split between Lee Westwood and his manager Andrew ‘Chubby’ Chandler is an even bigger shock.
The 44-year-old English golfer and agency International Sports Management (ISM) were together for more than 25 years. Westwood was one of Chandler’s first signings, immediately after the ex-Tour player formed the company in 1989. The former world No1 is joining IMG.
Westwood, who was believed to be part owner of Chandler’s company along with Darren Clarke, had several joint business interests with his manager, including owning champion race horses.
Both parties have remained silent on the reasons for the split.