Open Contenders - Magnificent Seven
Derek Clements takes a look at 7 players to watch out for at this year's Open Championship.
The Big Easy is in good shape, having just won in Germany and narrowly missing out at the US Open. He is the defending champion and also won the last time The Open was played at Muirfield. Swinging as well as ever. Just wish he would dump that awful belly putter, as he promised to do.
Not many players win successive majors, but Rose is on the crest of a wave and he was in the mix when The Open was played at Muirfield in 2002. He has become a big-time player, and has a wonderful temperament. Now up to third in the world rankings, don't be surprised to see him lift the Claret Jug.
Another South African who should have added to The Open title he won so convincingly at St Andrews. Beaten in a playoff at The Masters last year thanks only to Bubba Watson's wonder shot from the trees. Has a tendency to change his putting style when the mood takes him and really should stick with what works for him.
We saw a different side to Mickelson at Merion. Instead of letting fly with the driver and ending up in knee-high rough on every other hole, the left-hander left his driver at home and used a special three wood all week. If he can come up with a similar strategy at Muirfield then he may well make up for his latest US Open disappointment.
The only surprise is that Schwartzel hasn't added to his 2011 victory at The Masters, when he took advantage of Rory McIlroy's final-round implosion. A fantastic ball striker with a sublime short game. He must win The Open sooner rather than later.
Kuchar's inclusion on this list may surprise some but he hits the ball low, is accurate and is very handy on and around the greens. If the wind blows, as it surely will, Kuchar has the game to cope with it. Like Rose, he is blessed with a perfect temperament and will take everything Muirfield throws at him on the chin.
It may surprise you to learn that 25-year-old Day has only won once on the PGA Tour, and that was three years ago at the Byron Nelson. But he lives for the majors. So far he has twice finished second at the US Open, including this year, and was runner-up at The Masters in 2011 and third this year. His best finish at The Open is a tie for 30th, but there is no reason why he should not be there or thereabouts. It's just a shame he is so damn slow.
Best Each Way
Just 20-years-old, the Italian has already won four times on the European Tour, including this year's BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth - a victory that answered many questions about his ability to cope with a long golf course. He has every shot in the bag, shrugs off bad breaks and will win multiple majors. It could be too early for him, but if makes a good start he will remain in contention until the final round.
It seems odd not to include Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as genuine contenders, but it isn't going to happen for either of them. Woods has been carrying an elbow injury and The Open will be his first tournament since a wretched performance at the US Open. It might have been a different matter had he played well at Merion. He is undercooked, despite his four wins this year, and will do well to make the top 10. He will start as the bookies' favourite at odds of around 8/1 - for once, they have got it wildly wrong.
As for McIlroy, it could all turn around overnight, but he has endured a miserable time of it this season and shows no sign of improvement. Graeme McDowell was much fancied for the US Open but seems to have lost his early-season mojo. OK, that takes care of 11 players, only another 145 to go...
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Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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