Ahead of the start of The Open Championship on Thursday, we look at six star players set to shine.
Who do you think will win?
Without a doubt, one of the most talented player in the sport. Results may have not gone his way over the past 12 months but the 24-year-old is still a three-time major winner. If he can improve his putting – his biggest strength in previous years – then expect him to challenge strongly by the final round on Sunday. The Texan is currently ranked 175th of 201 players in strokes gained this season, a depressing statistic for an area of his game that used to be a cut above any of the field. Needs to prove again that he can hit the right shot when it matters after missing the cut at Shinnecock Hills.
Last five results at the Open: MC-T23-T6-T22-T54
Last five results in 2018: T23-1-T6-T10-T9
The rock-solid Englishman had one of his most successful seasons in 2017 with 10 consecutive top-10 finishes and three tournament victories. Has started this year brightly with a dominant victory at the Fort Invitational last month and looks every bit as threatening from the tee and further up the green. The 37-year-old is consistent, resilient and should be within a shout of a second major on Sunday if he continues his recent sparkling form.
Last five results at the Open: MC-1-DNP-T5-T4
Last five results in 2018: 2-T8-MC-T12-T28
It’s hard to believe it’s been over four years since his last major win. And after a rib injury ruled him out of action last season, the Northern Irishman is slowly looking back to his best in 2018 with a win, two runners-up and one third-place finish in 16 events since January. A loss of confidence looks to have lowered his stock among the game’s elite, but the former world No1 will be bidding to show that he still has the tricks in his armoury after missing the cut at the US Open.
Last five results at the Open: DNP-MC-MC-MC-T27
Last five results in 2018: T20-T23-2-T59-MC
After the pressure of having The Open on his doorstep in Southport last year, Fleetwood may shine even brighter on the east coast of Scotland this weekend. With a second place finish at the US Open last month, the 27-year-old has proven he has the short game and game management to deal with whatever situation is thrown his way. The world No10 will have to cope with high expectations again as he holds the course record at Carnoustie.
Last five results at the Open: DNP-DNP-DNP-T59-T44
Last five results in 2018: T63-T5-MC-T5-T4
The 23-year-old has been superb since joining the professional ranks in 2016, winning twice on the PGA Tour and three times on the European Tour. The Spanish sensation looks in strong form heading into The Open this week, recording three top-fives in his last four events, including a superb final round at the Irish Open two weeks ago to finish in a tie for fourth alongside Erik van Rooyen. Has buckets of talent and could easily finish the year as the world’s top ranked player.
Last five results at the Open: MC-MC-MC-T5-MC
Last five results in 2018: MC-MC-T6-T16-T9
The Englishman suffered four missed cuts in five events earlier this season, but went on to finish a remarkable sixth at the US Open and fourth in the French Open. Showed composure and nerve to successfully defend his Dunhill Links Championship title last October before lifting the Italian Open one week later. At 26, the High Wycombe native is showing signs of his class and comfortably leads the Ryder Cup qualification rankings ahead of Rose and Fleetwood.
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Jordan Spieth will be bidding to defend his Open title on Thursday as the third major championship of the year gets underway at Carnoustie.
Here, we look at five talking points ahead of the tournament.
Can Spieth become the first back-to-back winner since 2008?
Padraig Harrington was the last player to successfully defend his Open title, with a four-shot victory at Royal Birkdale back in 2008.
But Spieth’s form has been something of a mixed bag, with a third place finish at the Masters, but also missing four cuts in 16 starts this season, including at the US Open when he fired a miserable nine-over par 149.
While a repeat of last year’s heroics in Southport might seem too much to ask, the Texan certainly has the class to mount a challenge for his fourth major.
Can US dominance of the majors be broken?
Brooks Koepka’s victory in the US Open means American players currently hold all four major titles, with Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas holding the Masters, the Open and the PGA Championship trophies respectively.
American players’ strong hold on the Open Championship is also tight, winning three out of the last five championships.
Based on current form, it looks difficult to see America golf’s dominance toppled in Scotland this weekend and at majors any time soon.
Will there be an English player in with a shout of winning?
While Darren Clarke, Stenson and McIlroy have all lifted the Open title in recent years, only Matthew Southgate and McIlroy finished inside the top-10 in 2017.
The struggle of English players continuing at Carnoustie look unlikely though, with Rose, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood all showing consistent form this year.
Rose, in particular, appears to be the front runner to challenge the Americans at the top of the leaderboard, with some glittering rounds over the past seven months.
The Englishman has recorded three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 12 starts, including a win at Fort Worth Invitational.
While Fleetwood finished second at the US Open, a result that is sure to give him confidence around the sweeping greens at Carnoustie.
What condition is the course in?
After the USGA came in for serious criticism over their approach in the recent US Open at Shinnecock Hills, the R&A will be determined to avoid similar mistakes at Carnoustie.
Bad weather and a severe course set-up made the 1999 Open one of the most challenging in history, with Peter Lawrie winning in a famous play-off.
The 156-strong field finished the week with 3,746 over par – something the organisers will not want a repeat of in the east coast of Scotland this week.
With the lack of rainfall in the UK over the past six weeks, the course looks baked but the greens are pure, making for fast and firm conditions.
What next for Tiger Woods?
The American has not played in the Open Championship since missing the cut in 2015 – with the last of his three Open titles coming 12 years ago at Royal Liverpool.
Since returning to action after undergoing back surgery last April, Woods has recorded three top-five and three top-15 finishes, including a tie for fourth at Quicken Loans National earlier this month.
Winning a fourth title would be a fairytale way to seal one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history and recent form suggests the 42-year-old could well be in contention for a first major since 2008.
Spieth is the defending champion at Carnoustie and Thomas the reigning US PGA champion, while Fowler is seeking a first major title after several near misses, including a runners-up finish to Patrick Reed in April’s Masters.
The trio are such good friends that they go on holiday together and Fowler, who finished fifth, was among the first to congratulate Thomas when he lifted the Wanamaker Trophy at Quail Hollow last August.
“It is a very unique group of us, I guess you could say,” Thomas said. “Obviously we want to beat each other’s brains in. I never want to lose to any of my friends, especially my best friends.
“As weird as it is, sometimes it’s harder losing to your closest friends than it is someone you don’t even know, whether it’s bragging rights or whatever it is, but it is a weird feeling.
“Then again, like last year when I didn’t play well [in the Open] and missed the cut, I was pulling for Jordan to win. You want to see one of your friends win if you can’t.”
Thomas finished 53rd on his Open debut in 2016 and missed the cut at Royal Birkdale last year, but believes that is not a fair reflection of his abilities.
“Two years ago I was on the bad side of the draw but then last year I just had two terrible holes that caused me to miss the cut,” the 25-year-old world number two added.
“I feel like I’m a good links player although I don’t have the results to show it. I played well at Chambers Bay in the US Amateur which is a links-style course and I truly enjoy the creativity required.
“The Open is a very special event I hope to get at least once or twice in my career. It would mean a lot. I can’t necessarily put it into words, it’s one of those things you can’t describe unless it happens.
“I’ve always felt this would be one of my favourite wins as a player because it takes such a wide variety of shots and such a complete game to win here.”