The British Open begins in earnest this Thursday at Royal Troon in Scotland. As 200,000 golf fanatics will descend upon this 137-year-old golf course for the 145th Open, American hopes of regaining the Claret Jug will fly high. Last year, Zach Johnson won at St Andrews in a 4-hole playoff. Royal Troon has hosted The Open on eight previous occasions, last in 2004. The kicker? The last six times it has been staged in South Ayrshire, an American has claimed victory. Arnold Palmer, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Watson, Mark Calcavecchia, Justin Leonard, Todd Hamilton all winning here. So, as we count down the days to another week-long festival of golf, will the storied Claret Jug once again head across the pond to the good, ol’ U.S. of A.? Here are our five American golfers to watch out for:
Jordan Spieth: The Texan goes off as third favorite for this week’s action. Last year, his quest for a first Open title went all the way down to the wire, to the 72nd hole to be exact, missing out on a three-way playoff by one shot. There is not a better player on Tour whose will and desire to win are matched by Spieth’s, and he will need all of that self-belief if he is to challenge. Sure, his form is in-different of late, but a win (Colonial) and a T-3 (WGC-Bridgestone) in his last four starts is nothing to bat an eyelid at. Expect him to finish in the top 10, no more, no less.
Dustin Johnson: Quite simply the most in-form golfer on planet earth right now. He followed up his maiden Major victory at the US Open by winning WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Akron last Sunday. Watch overhead, DJ may be about to take flight; his worst finish in his last four starts is fifth. Having led this competition at the halfway point last year, he has finished top four in seven starts at The Open. There is nobody playing better than him right now, and he leads the American charge by a distance. Top 5 looms large for him on current form.
Phil Mickelson: This will be Lefty’s third Open at Royal Troon, so he knows his way around. A T-24 finish here in 1997 followed by a third place seven years later, Mickelson has had success here. Indeed, his recent appearances at The Open have been fruitful. Despite a missed cut in 2012 at Royal Lytham, he won this Major a year later at Muirfield. The worry: that was his last victory of any description. On top of that, he has failed to make the cut in the first two majors of this year. It goes without saying, there will not be a more popular winner should he do so, but on current form, it’s hard to see that materializing. His experience will stand to him though: makes the cut, mid-field finish on the horizon.
Rickie Fowler: Ah Rickie, the epitome of an enigma. By far and away, the most well-regarded golfer on Tour who has yet to fulfill his undoubted potential. He’s had some decent form this season, including a huge missed opportunity at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte. He has missed the cut at the Masters®, THE PLAYERS® and US Open. A trend beginning to unravel? Don’t get me wrong, his exploits on Snapchat are phenomenal, but the young buck who finished top 5 in all four majors in 2014 and on the cusp of becoming golfing elite now seems long forgotten. His three top-15 showings at The Open give hope. If, IF he can remain solid from tee to green, he may go a way to fulfilling some of that talent. Makes cut at best, sorry Rickie.
Scott Piercy: Who? This guy’s name has been making some waves as of late. An impressive second place finish at the WGC Bridgestone in Akron last week, he also was not too far away in the US Open, eventually finishing joint-second. Though his numbers do not exactly jump off the page, he does possess an arsenal of power off the tee. The concern is his lack of exposure to this kind of setting; he has competed just once at The Open, missing the cut in 2013. If you are looking for a dark horse to throw your hat on, Piercy is perfect. At odds of 100/1, he may shoot his way to history, but also might be out of the running after 18 holes. Top 15 would represent a solid week.
Ok, so now you have the low-down on which Americans to watch this week, who holds some hope and who will probably shoot like Bob Hope. While your attention to this week’s action may stretch about as far as the comfort of your living room, why not catch the action up close and personal?
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