Here are five of the dark horses most likely to upset golf’s biggest names in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, starting Thursday:
World ranking: 7
Best British Open finish: T-59 (2016)
The eye-catching Spaniard’s rise to the top of the world game has been staggering. He made the cut at last year’s British Open in just his third event as a professional, before claiming his first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines earlier this year with an eagle on the final hole. A run to the WGC World Matchplay final and his runaway victory at the Irish Open have confirmed him as one of golf’s brightest prospects.
Tipped by many to win multiple majors, there is no reason why Rahm will not get that ball rolling in north-west England.
“I know why there’s some confidence in me from people who think I’m going to play good this week. And I like to think if they have the faith in me, I should have faith in myself that I’m going to do it properly,” he said on Tuesday.
A year ago after #TheOpen, Jon Rahm was 278th in world. This week, he's getting better odds (18/1) than Rory (20/1, per Ladbrokes) to win.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 18, 2017
World ranking: 10
Best British Open finish: T-2 (2014)
One of the most talented players yet to win a major title, Fowler appears to have regained some of his best form so far this season. After finishing in the top five in all four majors in 2014, Fowler failed to post another top-10 until this year’s US Open.
The 28-year-old was well-placed to launch serious title challenges at both the US Open and April’s Masters, but produced poor final rounds on both occasions.
A former Scottish Open champion, Fowler has showed himself to be a fine links player. He finished tied for second behind Rory McIlroy three years ago at Hoylake, and also contended at Royal St George’s in 2011.
World ranking: 11
Best British Open finish: T-10 (2015)
The powerful American stormed out of the pack to claim his maiden major crown at the US Open last month. The 27-year-old’s final-round 67 showed he can produce his best under severe pressure. Koepka will be well-rested too, having not played since his breakthrough triumph at Erin Hills.
Unlike some of his compatriots, he shouldn’t struggle to adapt to the British conditions, having made his name on the European Tour.
“I love links golf. I think it’s the best kind of golf you can play. So much imagination that goes into it. You can play 10 different shots from the middle of the fairway and I think that’s so cool. You’ve really got to be creative,” he said Tuesday.
World ranking: 14
Best British Open finish: Missed cut (2014, 2015, 2016)
The Englishman is one of the most in-form players in the world and will be buoyed further by the prospect of playing in his hometown of Southport. The 26-year-old has risen to 14th in the world from 99th at the start of the year thanks to some stellar performances.
His first event of the season saw an impressive victory in Abu Dhabi, while he also finished second at the WGC event in Mexico. Fleetwood eased to the French Open title two weeks ago, having also finished fourth behind Koepka at Erin Hills for his best major-championship effort to date.
World ranking: 32
Best British Open finish: Debut
The young Korean showed maturity far beyond his years when comfortably beating a field of the highest quality to win the Players Championship in May by three shots.
The 22-year-old has never played the British Open, but showed he can compete at the top of major leaderboards at last month’s US Open, before falling away on the final day to finish tied 13th.
The British Open in five figures ahead of the start of this year’s championship at Royal Birkdale in Southport, north-west England, on Thursday:
1.85 million: The total prize money, in dollars, designated for the winner. The total prize pool is a cool $10.25 million. This year the R&A, golf’s governing body, has decided to pay out prize money in dollars rather than sterling.
156: The total number of players in the field. Five of those due to start Thursday’s first round are amateurs, while 38 players are making their debut at the British Open. Ben Curtis of the United States is the last player to win the Claret Jug on his debut, in 2003 at Royal St George’s in southern England. Sixteen players in the field are past champions.
25: The number of countries represented in the field. The United States is the best represented with 52 players — a third of the total — while 38 come from the United Kingdom. In contrast, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, China, Colombia, Germany, the Netherlands, Paraguay and Venezuela have all contributed just one player to the line-up.
7,156: The total yardage of the course. That is 34 yards shorter than for last year’s championship at Royal Troon in Scotland. It also pales in comparison to the whopping 7,741 yards total distance for last month’s US Open at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, which was the longest ever distance for a major championship.
25: The number of years since there was last an English winner of the Claret Jug, going back to when Nick Faldo won it for the third time at Muirfield in 1992. No Englishman has ever won The Open at Royal Birkdale, with Americans and Australians dominating the nine previous editions held on the Southport links.
American Justin Thomas equalled the lowest score in major championship history as England’s Tommy Fleetwood remained in contention for a maiden major title in a pulsating US Open.
Thomas fired nine birdies before finishing with an eagle on the 18th to card a nine-under-par 63 at Erin Hills, the lowest score in relation to par in tournament history – eclipsing the eight-under 63 by Johnny Miller to win at Oakmont in 1973.
That took the 24-year-old to 11 under and a share of second place with Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka, who both shot 68 to finish a shot behind leader Brian Harman, who compiled a flawless 67 as he bids to become the first left-hander ever to win the US Open.
“A 63 for a par 72 is a heck of a score, even if it was the Milwaukee Open.” – @RyanLavnerGC spoke to Johnny Miller and relayed his less than gracious reaction to losing his record.
Thomas had 310 yards to the pin for his second shot to the 18th and hit a perfect three-wood onto the green to set up the eagle putt from seven feet which completed a record-breaking 63.
It has to be Thomas again, who fired nine birdies, an eagle and two bogeys in his 63, while also missing from six feet for an eagle on the 15th after driving the green on the short par four.
“At 12 under par, I’d have a 10-shot lead at most (US) Opens.” – Leader Brian Harman reflects on unusual scoring conditions this week.
Brian Harman leads alone.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 17, 2017
Sunday at the U.S. Open awaits. pic.twitter.com/IpjypTNbLQ
In the first 116 stagings of the US Open, only six players had reached 10 under par at any point. Five players ended Saturday at -10 or better – via @JustinRayGC
The par-four third hole proved the toughest on day three, with a tricky pin position at the back of the green contributing to 20 bogeys, two double bogeys and just two birdies for a scoring average of 4.368.
For the first time this week the easiest hole was not a par five, with a forward tee turning the 15th into a reachable par four of 288 yards. Exactly half of the 68-man field played it under par as three eagles and 31 birdies produced a scoring average of 3.515.
The prospects of a seventh consecutive first-time major winner. None of the top 16 players have won a major before, with Masters champion Sergio Garcia and 2010 Open winner Louis Oosthuizen both eight shots off the lead.
Paul Casey carded a triple bogey for the second day running but unlike on day two, was unable to bounce back with five birdies in succession. Casey’s third round of 75 dropped him from a tie for the lead to joint 17th.
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