aNewDomain — Having sleep issues? Love golf? Excellent.
This week is the perfect marriage of those two conditions.
With a five-hour time difference between Scotland and the American East Coast, you’re going to need to get up early to watch golf’s third major of the year. Either that or fire up your trusty recording device.
ESPN has coverage of the Open throughout the weekend, with live play starting at 4 a.m. Eastern on Thursday and Friday, at 7 a.m. ET Saturday and at 6 a.m. ET Sunday. The Worldwide Leader is also live streaming featured groups and the legendary Road Hole, the par-4 17th, during tournament week.
With the tournament closing in, we present the 10 most intriguing groups to watch this week. These 30 players are either major title winners or players who have the potential to grab one during their careers. And check out our predictions here.
All times listed are Eastern (ET).
Victor Dubuisson, Ross Fisher and Billy Horschel
Thursday, 3:11 a.m., Friday 8:12 a.m.
Dubuisson has come into his own the past two years, finishing second at the Accenture Match Play Championship and tied for ninth at last year’s Open Championship. Fisher will be a UK favorite and the fiery Horschel won last year’s FedEx Cup title on the PGA Tour.
Ernie Els, Brandt Snedeker and Tom Watson
Thursday 3:33 a.m., Friday 8:34 a.m.
Els, 45, and Watson, 65, have combined to win the Open seven times. Watson almost took the title for a sixth time himself in 2009. Only a late collapse ripped the Claret Jug from his hands in favor of Stewart Cink. This is Watson’s last appearance in the British Open and fans will be cheering for him to be playing on the weekend. Snedeker won the PGA Tour’s 2012 FedEx Cup, a testament to an excellent season.
Ian Poulter, Charl Schwartzel and Bubba Watson
Thursday 4 a.m., Friday 9:01 a.m.
It’s doubtful any of these players will win the title, but they are all fun to watch. Poulter finished second in the 2008 event, tied for seventh last year and Watson left last year’s event in a snit over the fans and media.
He is, however, wearing an $825,000 Richard Mille watch.
Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed and Lee Westwood
Thursday 4:11 a.m., Friday 9:12 a.m.
Some of us would still like to see Garcia or Westwood win a major. Garcia has too much talent to go without one (this is his 69th shot) and Westwood is one of the most self-effacing guys in golf in the post-match media room.
Reed didn’t win fans in Europe with his cocky antics during the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama and Jordan Spieth
Thursday 4:33 a.m., Friday 9:34 a.m.
This grouping feels borderline cruel. Just last month, Spieth won his second career major at the U.S. Open when Johnson three-putted the 72nd hole to wind up tied for second.
The big stories are whether Spieth can continue his Grand Slam run this year or if Johnson can break through to win his first major.
But don’t discount Matsuyama, who has seven career victories and finished sixth at the 2013 Open.
Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and Tiger Woods
Thursday 4:55 a.m., Friday 9:56 a.m.
This group contains two serious curiosities and a player who could win it all. When we last saw Day, he was battling vertigo and still contending at the U.S. Open.
Woods, once thought to be a threat to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles, hasn’t won one since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Amazingly, he turns 40 years old at the end of the year. Where does time go? Oosthuizen returns to the course where he won the Open in 2010 and is among the favorites.
Martin Kaymer, Adam Scott and Jimmy Walker
Thursday 9:12 a.m., Friday 4:11 a.m.
Kaymer parlayed swing changes into wins at The Players Championship and U.S. Open last year. Scott has a Masters title and second place finish in the 2012 Open along with his trusted anchor putter for the rest of the year.
Walker has five PGA Tour titles to his name.
The winner might come from this group.
Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson
Thursday 9:34 a.m., Friday 4:33 a.m.
Kuchar and Stenson have the games to win a major, although their windows have to be closing a little at this point. Kuchar is 37 and Stenson 39. Mickelson, the anti-Patrick Reed in the field from the fans’ perspective, has an amazing 42 PGA and nine European Tour titles in his career. He won the Scottish Open and Open Championship in 2013. At age 45, can he deliver another week of magic in Scotland?
Nick Faldo, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose
Thursday 9:45 a.m., Friday 4:44 a.m.
Fowler won last week’s Scottish Open and finished in the top five in all four majors last year. Rose is overdue to win the Open Championship and he believes playing in Scotland last week gives him an advantage over fellow contender Spieth, who instead chose to play in (and win) the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois.
Faldo has three Open titles among his six majors and is playing his final Open Championship.
Paul Casey, Jim Furyk and Branden Grace
Thursday 9:56 a.m., Friday 4:55 a.m.
Casey finished third the last time the Open was held at the Old Course, before a divorce and shoulder injury sidetracked his game. He’s back in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Furyk has 17 career PGA Tour wins, including the 2003 U.S. Open, and Grace was in contention until the final round at last month’s U.S. Open.
Image credits: Phil Mickelson by minds-eye, All Rights Reserved; Billy Horschel by Florida Today, All Rights Reserved; Jordan Spieth by Erik Charlton, All Rights Reserved. Photo of Martin Kaymer by Pvt Pauline, All Rights Reserved.