aNewDomain — The Open Championship returns this week to the Old Course at St. Andrews, the ancestral home of golf. Pros are gathering this week to determine the “championship golfer of the year,” as the winner of this fabled event is known. Tournament organizers know fans want to watch the best play the best, so the event comes back here every five years.
The biggest question right now is whether the Summer of Spieth continues and the young American keeps his Grand Slam hopes alive or someone steps up and ruins the Texan’s hopes. The landscape certainly has changed with Rory McIlroy out of the field with a ruptured tendon in his left ankle suffered while playing soccer with his mates.
Admittedly, this isn’t the most imaginative pick to win at St. Andrews; Oosthuizen finished on top by seven shots in 2010. If the South African star does win, he would match Tiger Woods’ feat of raising the Claret Jug in back-to-back appearances on this legendary course (2000 and 2005). Oosthuizen has seven European Tour wins, the most recent coming in January 2014 at the Volvo Golf Championships. He contended all week at the U.S. Open last month, finishing tied for second. He’ll get the job done this time.
While he took a little criticism for playing the John Deere Classic instead of the Scottish Open this past weekend, the proof is in the results. After sitting in 101st place after the opening round, Spieth won the event in a playoff with journeyman Tom Gillis to enter Open Championship week on a roll. He already has Masters and U.S. Open titles, but we think he’s going to come up just short this week.
The only player to finish in the top five at every major last year, Fowler is coming off a win at the Scottish Open this past weekend by posting three birdies on his last four holes. The drastic swing changes he made in 2013 are paying off and he’s become a much more consistent threat to win. He won The Players Championship just two months ago and he’ll be in contention this week.
The Dutchman has four career European Tour titles and is coming off a tie for fourth at the Scottish Open. There’s always a surprise in the top 10 at the Open Championship and Luiten is the first stretch on our list. Luiten finished 11th in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai last season and we believe his performance at the Scottish Open is the start of good things.
One of the better players without a major championship title, Stenson has spent more than 100 weeks in the Official World Golf Ranking Top 10. He has four PGA and nine European Tour victories so getting to the winner’s circle is nothing new for the 39-year-old Swede. He’s not the longest hitter out there, but he hits fairways and leads the PGA Tour in greens in regulation. Those are good qualities to have when playing the Old Course.
He burst on the scene as an 18-year-old amateur in 1998 to finish tied for fourth at the Open. That finish has been his high-water mark in the event. Amazingly, he has missed the cut three of the past five years. The South African does have a major title in his career, the 2013 U.S. Open, so he can handle the pressure of major championships. It just seems that the British is one tournament that has given him a little too much trouble.
Johnson can’t go an entire career without winning a major. His heartbreaks at the 2010 PGA Championship and last month’s U.S. Open are bad memories. He hits the ball farther than anyone else in the game and has nine career PGA Tour titles. No doubt he will be in the running this week. We just don’t think he’ll win.
European Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley thinks Lowry has a shot this week, so that’s good enough for us. Lowry has long been pals with McIlroy and you have to know that he’s inspired to carry the Irish flag for his fallen comrade at St. Andrews. He finished in a tie for ninth at last year’s Open Championship.
Another quality player without a major title, Garcia has eight PGA and 11 European Tour titles. He has second-place finishes in the 2007 and ’14 Opens, so he’s been there at the end a couple of times. This is his 19th shot at the title and, while the competition is thick, not having McIlroy in the field gives everyone a slightly better shot.
Our veteran pick, the 45-year-old Mickelson has five major championships, including the 2013 Open. He won that event the week after raising the Scottish Open trophy. Mickelson usually puts his daring game aside during the Open Championship – remember his 3-wood during the ’13 victory? Don’t be surprised if he makes a little noise at the Old Course.
Coverage starts bright and early on ESPN this week: 4 a.m. Eastern for Thursday and Friday’s two rounds. Set the alarm clock or DVR. This one is going to be worth a little lost sleep.
Photo of the Old Course at St. Andrews by Nicolesabrina at English Wikivoyage, Photo of Louis Oosthuizen by Bob Stapleton, All Rights Reserved; Photo of Dustin Johnson by Jeffrey Gordon (thegordons @ Flickr), All Rights Reserved.