Just three months after Tiger Woods sent the sports world into a frenzy by winning the Masters, the year’s final major is already upon us. The world’s best have congregated at Royal Portrush for one final go at 2019 major glory. After Sunday’s final putt drops, we’ll have to wait another nine months before spring and Augusta to roll around.
But between now and then should be a terrific, and historic, week of golf. This week marks the first time the British Open—or Open Championship, or simply The Open, depending on who you ask—has returned to Northern Ireland since 1951, a hugely significant event for a country that has been plagued by sectarian violence. The Dunluce course at Portrush is a picturesque, dramatic venue that has been drawing rave reviews from players, pundits and fans alike.
To get you prepared for this week’s action, SI.com has ranked the top 100 players in the 156-man field from least-to-most likely to win. This should help you win your pool, a wager, or simply be a more informed viewer as you enjoy a week of watching links golf.
Happy reading, and happy viewing.
JUMP TO: 100-71 | 70-51 | 50-31 | 30-11 | 10-1
100. Padraig Harrington
Age: 47 | World ranking: 310 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2007 2008
Two-time British Open champ and three-time major winner is struggling in the late 40’s purgatory, where he’s perhaps not good enough to win big events but not old enough to play on the Champions Tour. Recently started working with speed guru George Gankas, who coaches phenom Matt Wolff. He’s the European Ryder Cup captain for 2020, so you have to think he’s watching just as much golf as he’s playing.
99. Tom Lewis
Age: 28 | World ranking: 81 | Best Brtish Open finish: T30, 2011
British player has made the cut in both of his Open starts, including winning low amateur honors as a 20-year-old in 2011. Started the year extremely well in the European Tour’s Middle East swing but hasn’t impressed much since February.
98. Charley Hoffman
Age: 42 | World ranking: 82 | Best British Open finish: T17, 2018
Perennial Thursday-at-a-major leaderboard presence has missed more cuts than he’s made this year, including each of the last four.
97. Adri Arnaus
Age: 24 | World ranking: 124 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Young Spaniard has two runner-up finishes on the European Tour this year, including the Andalucia Masters in June. Made the cut in his first major start last month at Pebble Beach.
96. Jimmy Walker
Age: 40 | World ranking: 117 | Best British Open finish: T26, 2014
2016 PGA Championship winner has shown some signs of form since returning from Lyme disease but the head says his days as a Ryder Cup-caliber player may be behind him. Was one of only 18 players who shot over par last week at the Scottish Open.
95. Corey Conners
Age: 27 | World ranking: 84 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Pulled off the rare Monday qualifier-to-champion run at the Valero Texas Open, which got him into the Masters the following week. Been a bit of a slog since, with no top 30s and three missed cuts in seven events.
94. Luke List
Age: 34 | World ranking: 74 | Best British Open finish: T39, 2018
A classic American bomb-and-gouge player, the Vanderbilt grad’s game doesn’t project as a perfect recipe for links golf. Did well to make the cut at Carnoustie last year, though, and he did have by far his best major championship showing (T6) at Bethpage Black, but he’s missed four cuts in a row since.
93. Shugo Imahira
Age: 26 | World ranking: 71 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
He continues to be quite successful on the Japanese Tour, which has boosted his world ranking high enough that he gets into the majors. This will be his seventh, and should he make the cut, it would be the first time he’s seen the weekend at one of the big four.
92. Mikko Korhonen
Age: 38 | World ranking: 93 Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Finnish player won the European Tour’s Volvo China Open in May to crack the world top 100. Has missed the cut in both of his previous major championship apperances.
91. Aaron Wise
Age: 23 | World ranking: 70 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is having a sophomore slump: no top 10s in 16 starts in 2019.
90. Robert MacIntyre
Age: 22 | World ranking: 146 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Promising young Scottish lefty was paired with Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler in his country’s national open last week but missed the cut. Posted back-to-back runner-ups in two European Tour events in May.
89. Joel Dahmen
Age: 31 | World ranking: 81 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Washington grad finished second in the Wells Fargo earlier this summer, which brought him into the top 100 in the world. He’s still searching for his first win on a major Tour. Nothing jumps off the page statistically. Making the cut in his first Open appearance would make this week a success.
88. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
Age: 25 | World ranking: 145 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
South African has five top-10 finishes on the European Tour this year and blitzed the field at last month’s Andalucia Masters, winning Sergio Garcia’s event by six shots.
87. Kyle Stanley
Age: 31 | World ranking: 57 | Best British Open finish: T39, 2012, 2018
Clemson graduate has been on Tour for over a half decade now, but his reticent nature and failure to pop up on big leaderboards means he’s not well known by non-diehards. His next top 20 finish in a major will be his first.
86. Brandon Wu
Age: 22 | World ranking: N/A | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Recent Stanford grad has patiently stayed amateur while his peers have turned pro. He wants to play the Walker Cup…and he will, thanks to a T35 at the U.S. Open and finishing as the medalist at his British Open qualifying site, among other accomplishments.
85. Doc Redman
Age: 21 | World ranking: 192 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Monday qualified into the Rocket Mortgage Classic then closed with a round of 5-under to book his place in Portrush.
84. Kurt Kitayama
Age: 26 | World ranking: 112 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
UNLV grad from California plays full-time on the European Tour, where he won for the first time in March. Made the cut at Bethpage in his first major championship appearance.
83. Andrew Johnston
Age: 30 | World ranking: 221 | Best British Open finish: 8, 2017
‘Beef’ secured his spot in the field on the last day possible, firing a 62 on the final day of the Scottish Open to book his trip to Portrush. His emotional interview afterwards, where he describes his recent struggles and what it means to be back in the field, is must-watch stuff:
82. Sung Kang
Age: 32 | World ranking: 67 | Best British Open finish: T44, 2017
Won his first PGA Tour event at the AT&T Byron Nelson but has missed three of his four cuts since.
81. Joost Luiten
Age: 33 | World ranking: 80 | Best British open finish: T44, 2017
Six-time European Tour winner hasn’t been able to replicate that success in the big events; he’s yet to crack the top 20 in 17 major starts. Comes in off back-to-back missed cuts.
80. J.B. Holmes
Age: 37 | World ranking: 53 | Best British Open finish: 3, 2016
He loves to throw the ball way up in the air, so his third-place finish at Muirfield in 2016 remains a bit flummoxing. But that was a bit of an anomaly, as he’s missed the cut in five of his nine British Open starts. Won at Riviera in February but had missed five cuts in a row before finishing T21 in his last outing at the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
79. Lucas Bjerregaard
Age: 27 | World ranking: 49 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Long-hitting Dane has two European Tour wins and has had some success in big events this year, including a fourth at the WGC-Match Play (where he beat Tiger Woods in the quarters), T21 at the Masters and T16 at the PGA. It’s been ugly recently, though—Bjerregaard has missed five cuts in a row, including last week in Scotland.
78. David Lipsky
Age: 30 | World ranking: 130 | Best British Open finish: T58, 2015
Won the 2010 Big Ten individual crown at Northwestern and has been playing in Europe since. Would do well to make all four of his tee times in this major—at Bethpage, he was penalized two strokes for arriving late to the tee on Friday. True story.
77. Kevin Streelman
Age: 40 | World ranking: 88 | Best British Open finish: T54, 2014
Got into the British Open when John Daly pulled out. His invitation to participate was so incredibly….casual.
76. Si Woo Kim
Age: 24 | World ranking: 64 | Best British Open finish: T67, 2018
Sweet-swinging South Korean is suffering a terrible run of form, missing eight of his last nine cuts. Perhaps there’s a health issue here—he collapsed after hitting a shot in the final round of the Valero Texas Open, where he finished T4, and has not been the same player since. The iron play has been poor this year, as he ranks a putrid 170th in strokes gained approaching the green.
75. Thomas Pieters
Age: 27 | World ranking: 108 | Best British Open finish: T28, 2018
There’s no reason a player of his ability should be ranked outside the top 100. Looked for all the world to be the next European Ryder Cup stalwart after his great rookie showing at Medinah in 2016 but he continues to struggle with his putter and his temper. Has made the cut in all three Open starts.
74. Erik Van Rooyen
Age: 29 | World ranking: 84 | Best British Open finish: T17, 2018
Big South African looks the part and swings it beautifully. Won’t be overcome by the moment nor the competition, as his T8 at Bethpage Black proves. A solid T17 in his first Open Championship last year. Was the 36-hole leader last week in Scotland and still finished T14 despite making an 8 on Sunday.
73. Lucas Glover
Age: 39 | World ranking: 75 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2011
Quietly having a very fruitful season, with 13 top-20 finishes in 20 starts. That will go a long way in accruing FedEx Cup points and dollars in the bank account (he’s made over $2 million already this year). Has not had much success in the Open with four missed cuts in eight starts.
72. Cameron Smith
Age: 25 | World ranking: 42 | Best British Open finish: 78, 2018
Baby-faced Aussie is perhaps the least-known player inside the top 50 in the world. Had a terrific FedEx Cup playoffs last year and won the Australian PGA Championship in December, but he has not played particularly well at all in 2019, with no stroke-play finishes better than T29 since February.
71. Jason Kokrak
Age: 34 | World ranking: 72 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Big-hitting Ohioan had made 22 straight cuts before missing the weekend at the Travelers Championship. Very little links golf history to draw from apart from a missed cut at Carnoustie. Ranks eighth in strokes gained approaching the green.
70. Keith Mitchell
Age: 27 | World ranking: 66 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Won the Honda Classic in March, beating Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka with a birdie on 18. Had some success immediately after that but has struggled since the Tour left Florida. One of the better drivers of the ball (sixth in strokes gained) out there.
69. Bubba Watson
Age: 40 | World ranking: 21 | Best British Open finish: T23, 2012
He only wins on certain types of courses, and he knows this, and he also knows that this isn’t one of those courses. Missed the cut in three of his last five British Open starts and could well do the same this week. If it’s windy, that’s the most likely outcome.
68. Zach Johnson
Age: 43 | World ranking: 111 | Best British Open finish: WON, 2015
Won the 2015 Open at St. Andrews, which is a top-shelf golf achievement. Lower-ball hitter has two other top-10s in this event and has finished T17-T14-T2 in the last three Opens. Recently dropped out of the top 100 in the world rankings for the first time in over 15 years. Why? He has no top 10s in 15 starts this season and no top-3 finishes since July 2017.
67. Russel Knox
Age: 34 | World ranking: 73 | Best British Open finish: T30, 2016
Scottish player has two wins on the PGA Tour but has not fared well in his home major championship, as he’s missed the weekend three of the four times he’s played the Open.
66. Jorge Campillo
Age: 33 | World ranking: 60 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Spaniard—who played collegiately at Indiana, of all places—has been one of the best players on the European Tour this year. He has a victory, two seconds and two thirds over there so far in 2019.
65. Billy Horschel
Age: 32 | World ranking: 40 | Best British Open finish: T30, 2015
Fiery Floridian has missed just one of 16 cuts this year but has just two top 10s, most recently at the Memorial. His record in the Open is poorer than poor: four missed cuts in five starts.
64. C.T. Pan
Age: 27 | World ranking: 49 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Washington grad was the world’s top ranked amateur before struggling to find his footing as a pro. He has indeed found it, though, with a win at the RBC Heritage and a T3 at Colonial. He’s not going to wow you with length—he’s 172nd in driving distance—but he’s a gamer.
63. Branden Grace
Age: 31 | World ranking: 65 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2017
On a windless day at Royal Birkdale in 2017, he became the only man in the history of major championships to shoot 62. He finished T6 that year, his only finish better than T20 in eight Open starts. We should also note that he is having a brutual year, with no stroke-play finish better than T33 since January, and is in danger of missing the Presidents Cup team.
62. Adam Hadwin
Age: 31 | World ranking: 63 | Best British Open finish: T35, 2018
Canadian player has two top-sixes in his last three starts, including a solo fourth two weeks ago at the John Deere. Never finished better than T24 in 11 major starts.
61. Dylan Frittelli
Age: 29 World ranking: 92 Best British Open finish: CUT in both appearances
Played alongside Jordan Spieth on the national-championship winning 2012 Texas Longhorns team. Picked up first PGA Tour victory last week at the John Deere to get into the Open field, then hopped on overnight charter to Portrush. A bit of a whirlwind.
60. Nate Lashley
Age: 36 | World ranking: 100 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
His victory at last month’s Rocket Mortgage Classic was the ultimate feel-good story; his parents and girlfriend were killed in a plane crash after watching him play a college tournament.
59. Ryan Palmer
Age: 42 | World ranking: 68 | Best British Open finish: T30, three times
Texan has made the cut in each of his four Open starts and finished T18 last week at the John Deere. Knows his game—he plays almost exclusively draws—and plays within himself. Could make some noise should it get windy.
58. Kiradech Aphibarnrat
Age: 29 | World ranking: 51 | Best British Open finish: T75, 2018
It’s impossible not to love the Barn Rat, with his easy smile and…relatable physique and his on-course vaping and his lack of grace when trying to hit shots.
It is possible not to love the form he’s in: three missed cuts in his last four events, and he’s missed the cut four times in his five British Open starts.
57. Andy Sullivan
Age: 33 | World ranking: 106 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2016
Played his way onto the Ryder Cup team in 2016 before experiencing a dramatic drop in form shortly thereafter. He’s on the mend, though, and had a terrific links run-up to this tournament: T2 at the Irish Open and T28 at the Scottish Open, with eight straight rounds in the 60s for a combined 28 under par. A deep sleeper indeed.
56. Emiliano Grillo
Age: 26 | World ranking: 59 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2016
PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 2016 has seen his age contemporaries—Spieth, Thomas, DeChambeau, Schauffele, etc.—race past him in recent years. Did make the cut in the first three majors of the year, highlighted by T23 at Bethpage.
55. Mike Lorenzo-Vera
Age: 34 | World ranking: 90 | Best British Open finish: T62, 2-17
Frenchman is having a terrific summer on the European Tour, with three top-10s in his last five events. Impressively managed a T16 at Bethpage Black, the most American of American layouts, and shot four rounds in the 60s last week in Scotland. A cheeky wager on this guy to finish in the top 10 or 20 would be money well invested.
54. Alex Noren
Age: 37 | World ranking: 47 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2017
He’s won 10 times on the European Tour, including seven since June 2015, but has struggled considerably while playing an U.S.-heavy schedule in 2019. Yet to post a top 10 anywhere in this calendar year but there have been some positive signs of late. He favors a lower ball flight and fares well in wind. His only two top-10 finishes in majors have both come in British Opens.
53. Andrea Pavan
Age: 30 | World ranking: 77 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Beat Matt Fitzpatrick in a playoff to win the BMW International Open last month and closed with 62-66 to nab T4 at last week’s Scottish Open. In between those two impressive finishes were back-to-back missed cuts. Feast or famine, and this will be just his second-ever major and first since 2014.
52. Thorbjorn Olesen
Age: 29 | World ranking: 63 | Best British Open finish: T9, 2012
Danish player was a member of last year’s Ryder Cup team. His last two outings have been positive—a T10 in Germany and a T15 at the Irish Open—and he finished joint 12th at Carnoustie last year.
51. Justin Harding
Age: 33 | World ranking: 48 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Laconic South African has proved to be quiet the late bloomer. Won a European Tour event then followed it up with a solo second to sneak into the top 50 just in time to earn a Masters invite, then finished T12 at Augusta to ensure his return next year. Has missed three cuts in a row, though, including last week in Scotland.
50. Byeong Hun An
Age: 27 | World ranking: 54 | Best British Open finish: T26, 2014
New year, same story for the Cal-Berkely graduate. Watching him on the driving range, you’d think he’s one of the 10 best players in the world. Watching him on the putting green can sometimes painful. He’s ninth in strokes gained tee-to-green and 197th in strokes gained putting. If An ever figures out the flatstick—and it’s not for a lack of effort, as he’s tried different putters and methods—he has a chance to be a true force on Tour. Until then, it’s going to be very hard for him to contend consistently. To his credit, he does have three top-20s in his last four starts, including a T16 at the U.S. Open.
49. Tyrell Hatton
Age: 27 | World ranking: 44 | Best British Open finish: T5, 2016
Deliciously demonstrative Brit might be the funniest watch in all of professional golf.
Best finish in 2019 is a T8 at the Charles Schwab, though he did show nicely at the Scottish Open, finishing T14.
48. Haotong Li
Age: 23 | World ranking: 45 | Best British Open finish: 3, 2017
Young Chinese player tends to perform best in tournaments outside America. Finished third in 2018 at Birkdale as a 21-year-old and has hung around the world top 50 for the better part of two years. Took T15 in the Irish Open two weeks ago but missed the cut in Scotland despite a second-round 65.
47. Joaquin Niemann
Age: 20 | World ranking: 79 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
Still just 20 years old, the Chilean former world No. 1 amateur is having a terrific summer, with three top 10s in his last four starts, including last week at the John Deere. That run has put him on the cusp of Presidents Cup consideration, and a strong finish in this event would go a long way toward boosting his chances of making Ernie Els’s team.
46. Danny Willett
Age: 31 | World ranking: 75 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2015
Masters champion deserves a ton of credit for taking an embarrassing stretch on the chin and slowly but surely working his way back. Finished T12 at a demanding Pebble Beach setup and has had some success in British Opens, with three top 25s in seven go’s.
45. Brandt Snedeker
Age: 38 | World ranking: 44 | Best British Open finish: T3, 2012
Nine-time PGA Tour winner owns one of the best short games in the world, ranking in the top 10 in both strokes gained around the green and strokes gained putting. He’s a shorter, lower-ball hitter, so it would not be totally surprising to see him make a run here.
44. Jazz Janewattananond
Age: 23 | World ranking: 52 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Thai youngster popped on the radar of American golf fans at the PGA Championship, where he was on the front page of the leaderboard until a Sunday 77. He then returned to the Asian and Japan Tours, where he continues to play the vast majority of his golf—though you’d think a move to the European Tour is imminent—and kept the momentum, posting a win and four other top fives since. He’s absolutely in the mix for a Presidents Cup spot and gets another opportunity this week to prove that his game is good enough to compete anywhere, against anyone.
43. Sungjae Im
Age: 21 | World ranking: 62 | Best British Open finish: Making first appearance
The 21-year-old South Korean rookie hasn’t gotten the same attention as a Cameron Champ or Matt Wolff, but he’s having a fine debut campaign and has a good shot at making the Presidents Cup team. He has six top 10s on the year and comes in riding four straight top-25 finishes, while ranking an impressive 24th in strokes gained overall.
42. Phil Mickelson
Age: 49 | World ranking: 28 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2013
The year is beginning to look eerily similar to 2018: start fast, win early, struggle mightily in the summer. He’s missed four of his last six cuts and hasn’t finished better than T52 since the Masters. In an attempt to jolt his game into gear, Mickelson decided to skip the Scottish Open—which he almost always plays the week before a British—took a six-day fasting retreat and lost 15 pounds. If nothing else, he should be well-stocked in the energy department this week, which isn’t always the case at this stage of his career. Despite his sky-high stock ball flight, he has won this tournament and finished second twice. Still possesses the short-game variety to stick around in an event where greens in regulation will be hard to come by. But, in his own words..."My game's not sharp. I'm here because I love this tournament. I love this style of golf course. And I love the game of golf." Read between the lines: he doesn't expect much of himself this week.
41. Lee Westwood
Age: 46 | World ranking: 78 | Best British Open finish: 2, 2010
He was the proverbial Best Player Without a Major for years, and he seems to have come to terms with the fact that he’ll end his career without one. He’s had golden chances to win this tournament—2009 comes to mind—and can still get it around just fine, but a major championship is quite the ask at 46.
40. Keegan Bradley
Age: 33 World ranking: 30 Best British Open finish: T15, 2013
One of the better iron players in the world, he ranks seventh in strokes gained approaching the green but 134th in strokes gained around the green and 179th in strokes gained putting. He’s had some success in British Opens, with three top-20 finishes in six starts, and he was solo second at the Travelers in June.
39. Abraham Ancer
Age: 28 | World ranking: 57 | Best British Open finish: CUT, 2018
Oklahoma grad who represents Mexico is 15th this season in strokes gained off the tee, and he’s coming off a T19 at the Irish Open. He’s currently ninth in the International Presidents Cup standings—the top eight qualify automatically for December’s matches at Royal Melbourne—so there is certainly some extra incentive to impress captain Ernie Els.
38. Kevin Kisner
Age: 35 | World ranking: 27 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2018
Runner-up last year at Carnoustie is a lower-ball hitter who loves when the going gets tough. He’ll want the wind to blow and for the longer hitters to be neutralized—that was the case last year, and that’s how he played his way into the penultimate group on Sunday. Feels like the British is his best chance at a major. Missed the cut last week at the Scottish Open.
37. Chez Reavie
Age: 37 | World ranking: 26 | Best British Open finish: CUT in both appearances
Ended a nearly 11-year winless drought on Tour last month at the Travelers, which came a week after a quieter-than-quiet T3 at the U.S. Open (the television broadcast hardly showed a shot of his). Leads the Tour in driving accuracy at over 75%.
36. Patrick Reed
Age: 28 | World ranking: 25 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2016
Reed’s struggles since winning the Masters last year have been well-documented, including his move to bring in swing instructor David Leadbetter. He’s been better recently, highlighted by a T5 at the Rocket Mortgage, and he’s a sneaky good links player. Might be worth a longshot wager, if you’re into that sort of thing.
35. Eddie Pepperell
Age: 28 | World ranking: 35 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2018
Came back from a nearly two-month absence to deal with a bad back at the Irish Open and promptly finished tied for fourth. He’s maybe the funniest professional golfer alive today, and you know he won’t psyche himself out if he’s in contention. Famously shot 67 at Carnoustie last year for a backdoor top 10…while hungover.
34. Sergio Garcia
Age: 39 | World ranking: 39 | Best British Open finish: 2, 2007, 2014
If he were a better closer, he’d probably be a two-time British Open champion. Historically, his ability to flight the ball below the wind has helped him put together a remarkable Open record: he has 10 top-10 finishes in 22 Open appearances, by far his best mark in any of the four majors. But he’s also missed four of his last seven cuts overall, and his T52 at the U.S. open broke a hard-to-believe streak of seven straight missed cuts in majors. It’s the same old story for Sergio statistically: great ball striking numbers (fourth in strokes gained approaching the green, 12th in strokes gained tee-to-green) and poor short game numbers (131st in strokes gained around the green, 138th in strokes gained putting).
33. Bryson DeChambeau
Age: 25 | World ranking: 6 | Best British Open finish: T51, 2018
Science guy struggled quite a bit throughout the spring and early summer but seems to have turned things around just in time for Portrush. He picked up his first top 10 on the PGA Tour since January at the Travelers then followed it up with a runner-up at the 3M Open, where he would have been in a playoff if not for Matt Wolff’s closing eagle. The early returns to his British forays have been poor, which seems to follow logic—he loves to hit it high, he insists on playing golf his way and can seem uncomfortable (if not irritated) when he can’t control every aspect of the golf shot. And for all his success in regular PGA Tour events, he has just one top-20 finish in 13 major starts.
32. Grame McDowell
Age: 39 | World ranking: 97 | Best British Open finish: T5, 2012
Alongside his countrymen Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy, he’ll feel like he’s playing part-time host this week. Former U.S. Open winner was in danger of missing this week, the first time the Open has been in Northern Ireland since 1951, until he drained a 30-footer on the 72nd hole of the RBC Canadian Open to earn his place. He’ll be inspired to put on a show at a track he’s played, by his own count, between 300-500 times.
31. Shane Lowry
Age: 32 | World ranking: 33 | Best British Open finish: T9, 2014
Short-game wizard has had a resurgent 2019, winning a big European Tour event in Abu Dhabi and posting T3-T8-T2 in the RBC Heritage, PGA Championship and RBC Canadian Open. Grew up playing links courses and has one of the better sets of hands anywhere, so a bit curious that he’s missed four straight cuts in British Opens.
30. Jim Furyk
Age: 49 | World ranking: 46 | Best Brtish Open finish: 4, 1998 and 2003
Since his decisively unsuccessful Ryder Cup captaincy, he’s returned to playing a full-ish schedule and has had some considerable success…most so at the Players Championship, where he finished solo second to McIlroy. The other three majors are a big ask for him at this time in his career—he simply doesn’t carry it as far as you’d like—but length tends to be least important at the Open Championship. It’s hard to describe a surefire Hall of Famer as a sleeper, but at 49, that’s exactly what Furyk is this week.
29. Hideki Matsuyama
Age: 27 | World ranking: 29 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2013
Was just two years ago that he was the world No. 2. His ranking has dropped significantly since then, due more to a lack of top finishes than a dramatic dip in form. In fact, he’s made 18 of 18 cuts on Tour this season—the last cut he missed anywhere was last year’s British Open—and he’s trending in the right direction, with six straight top-25 finishes. He’s third on tour in strokes gained tee to green but 113th in strokes gained putting; it’s the flatstick that continues to hold this elite ball striker back.
28. Jason Day
Age: 31 | World ranking: 18 | Best British Open finish: T4, 2015
It’s been a bit of a meh year for Day. He does have five top 10s in 15 starts, but he has no finishes of third or better and hasn’t really contended for a tournament in over a year. Consequently, he’s dropped all the way to No. 18 in the world, the lowest he’s been since November 2013. Perhaps searching for a spark, he hired Steve Williams, Tiger’s old caddie, before the U.S. Open. The results have been just okay—T21 at Pebble, T8 at the Travelers and T66 at the 3M Open. Day’s still one of the best putters out there but his ball striking has dipped, and his sky-high flight is suboptimal for British Opens. Case in point: Of his 15 top 10s in majors, just one has come in the British.
27. Rafa Cabrera Bello
Age: 35 | World ranking: 37 | Best British Open finish: T4, 2017
The bad: He struggles to win tournaments. He had a great chance at the Irish Open before bottling the back nine a bit, and he has just three European Tour victories—and zero PGA Tour wins—in his 14 years as a professional. The good: His game is elegant, travels well, and he’s in good form. He’s made 11 cuts in a row and the week before Ireland, he was tied for third at the BMW International Open. He finished T4 at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale. As always, a good bet to finish in the top 20, even if he doesn’t really contend.
26. Jordan Spieth
Age: 25 | World ranking: 38 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2017
Spieth looked to have turned the corner and left the slump behind when he posted three straight top 10s in the PGA, Charles Schwab Challenge and Memorial. But those came thanks to historically great putting performances, and his T65 at the U.S. Open and missed cut Travelers reminded us that his ball striking still has a long, long way to go. He’s a feel player who likes to work his way around a golf course, so he could manufacture a solid performance this week. Remember, he was the guy who looked most likely to win this tournament a year ago before a birdie-less final round.
25. Bernd Wiesberger
Age: 33 | World ranking: 40 | Best British Open finish: T64, 2013
Austrian reached as high as world No. 23 in 2015 before falling outside the top 370(!) earlier this year. He’s been a revelation since, winning in Denmark in May, finishing T2 at the Irish Open two weeks ago and winning the Scottish Open just last week. All the sudden, he’s all the way up to world No. 40. He’s on a heater, so to speak, and would absolutely love to keep it going for just one more week.
24. Justin Thomas
Age: 26 | World ranking: 9 | Best British Open finish: T53, 2016
It’s been a frustrating summer for JT, who pulled out of the PGA with a wrist injury and looked out of sorts in missing the cut at Pebble Beach. Went over early to play in the Scottish Open and was impressive, finishing T9 at 18 under, but that was on a gentle, windless “links” track. His record in the Open is downright concerning, as he has missed the cut each of the past two years and was T53 in his only start before that. He hits one of the highest balls on Tour and has not proven himself particularly adept in breezy conditions—after struggling down the stretch at windy Riviera, he admitted that putting in the wind is one of his weaknesses.
23. Tony Finau
Age: 29 | World ranking: 17 | Best British Open finish: T9, 2018
With five runner-up finishes over the past three years, great showings in huge events, a Ryder Cup appearance, an electric game and an effervescent smile, he’s become a household name and fan favorite. But he still only has one victory on the PGA Tour, and it came way back in 2016 at the Puerto Rico Open. It wouldn’t be the least bit surprising if that second win came at a massive event like the Open Championship, where he has a surprisingly solid record—his three finishes: T18-T27-T9. The form of recent has not been terrific, however, as he missed three cuts in a row before a T23 in his last start at the 3M Open. He’s also had a bit of an issue on Sundays; his 71.07 final-round average is 142nd on Tour, while he ranks no worse than 41st in scoring on the other three days.
22. Ian Poulter
Age: 43 | World ranking: 39 | Best British Open finish: 2, 2008
His runner-up finish to Padraig Harrington at Birkdale in 2008 was his best-ever finish in a major, though he’s been close at a few others. Another one of those guys whose window to win that precious first Big One is closing. He’d desperately love to do it at The Open, where his recent record is mixed: three missed cuts in his last four starts, including last year at Carnoustie, but a T14 in ’17, T3 in ’13 and T9 in ’12. Playing his way into links form as he got four rounds at both the Irish Open (T41) and Scottish Open (T14). Loves a good challenge and will want conditions to be as difficult as possible.
21. Tommy Fleetwood
Age: 28 | World ranking: 20 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2018
British Jesus seemed destined for a world-beating 2019 after a breakout campaign last year, but it just hasn’t happened. While he’s yet to miss a cut in his 15 worldwide starts, he has just three top-10 finishes, and only one since March. A big reason why? Weekend performance. Fleetwood is fifth on Tour in round one scoring and fourth in round two; he’s 158th in round three and 187th in the final round. Started his British Open resume with three straight missed cuts but did post a solid T12 at Carnoustie a year ago.
20. Webb Simpson
Age: 33 | World ranking: 19 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2018
An extremely well-rounded player, Simpson is having another good season on the heels of his resurgent 2018. He ranks in the top 25 in strokes gained approaching the green, around the green, putting, tee-to-gree and overall. Comfortably made the cut in the first three majors of the year and very rarely shoots himself out of a tournament. Will be teeing it up for the first time in competition since shooting 66 in the final round of the U.S. Open.
19. Paul Casey
Age: 41 | World ranking: 15 | Best British Open finish: T3, 2010
Still a world-class player, but he’s running out of time to win that elusive first major championship. How sweet it would be for the Brit to do so at the Open Championship. Casey is having another very solid year, with a victory and two runner-up finishes, and his most recent outing was a T5 at the Travelers Championship. The majors have been a bit of a dud, though, as he shockingly missed the cut at the Masters then went T29 at Bethpage and T21 at the U.S. Open. One of the best pure ball strikers out there, Casey ranks seventh in strokes gained off the tee and 16th in strokes gained approaching the green.
18. Matt Fitzpatrick
Age: 24 | World ranking: 30 | Best British Open finish: T44, 2017
One of the best young players in the world who, until this year, had played most of his golf on the European Tour. The Brit has five wins on that circuit and lost a playoff in the BMW International Open last month. His solo second at Bay Hill proves he can absolutely contend in world-class fields, as do his T12 at Pebble Beach and T21 at Augusta despite an opening-round 78. Of the four majors, he’s actually played the worst at the British Open. But he’s a lower-ball hitter, and that’s a good thing for these championships. He will figure it out sooner or later. His pre-tournament start at the Scottish Open checked all the boxes, finishing at 17-under despite not putting his best.
17. Rickie Fowler
Age: 30 | World ranking: 14 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2014
Every time a major rolls around, the “Will This Be The One For Rickie?” talk resurfaces. It’s as certain as tomorrow’s sunrise. Now 30, Fowler is still in pursuit of his first major but does not come in playing his best golf. His last five starts are MC-T14-T43-T46-MC, though he did shoot 4 under for the first two days at the Scottish Open last week. (Unfortunately for him, the cut was 5 under). With all that said, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising for Rickie to contend at Portrush—he’s a crafty player, and he relishes the opportunity to flash his creative side in links golf. He has just one missed cut in nine Open appearances and two top 5s, including finishing joint second to Rory McIlroy in 2014, and he’s a past champion of the Scottish Open. You get the sense Fowler’s major, when (if) it does indeed come, will arrive when he’s flying under the radar. This week certainly qualifies.
16. Gary Woodland
Age: 35 | World ranking: 12 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2016
This has surely been the busiest month of his life as he deals with the newfound fame that comes with being a major champion. Related: he missed the cut in his only start since, at the Rocket Mortgage. He loves to flight the ball down—he owns one of the nastiest stingers ever, this side of Tiger Woods—and has made the cut in each of the seven British Opens he’s played in. Few will pick him to replicate his Pebble Beach success, so he’s perhaps a bit undervalued on the markets. But he’s had two weeks off to rest and recharge, and he doesn’t come off as the guy to win one major then disappear.
15. Louis Oosthuizen
Age: 36 World ranking: 22 Best British Open finish: WON, 2010
Won the ’10 Open at St. Andrews by seven(!) shots and lost a three-way playoff to Zach Johnson when the Open returned to St. Andrews in 2015, so he’s clearly comfortable playing traditional links golf. Always seems to rise to the top of major leaderboards—he’s finished second or better in all four—and is as good as anyone when he’s up for it. Can’t shake the feeling that he’ll win another major or two before his time is done, and in true Louis fashion, it will be hard to predict when. Perhaps this week is the one.
14. Matt Wallace
Age: 29 | World ranking: 24 | Best British Open finish: CUT in only appearance
Fiercely intense Brit continues to see his profile rise and will almost assuredly factor on future Ryder Cup teams. Has had major success this year with a T3 at Bethpage Black and a T12 at Pebble Beach. He’s the type to enjoy being paired with Tiger Woods in the first two rounds, which goes a long way toward explaining the type of gritty competitor he is. Beautiful swing produces consistent, tight draws that cut through the wind well. May not be well-known by American audiences but he is a world-class player capable of winning a major right now.
13. Patrick Cantlay
Age: 27 | World ranking: 10 | Best British Open finish: T12, 2018
He’s blossomed into one of the very best players in the world, and he entered the U.S. Open as one of the favorites. That’s how good of a year he has had: T9 at the Masters (where he held the solo lead on the Sunday back nine before two late bogeys), T3 at the RBC Heritage, T3 at the PGA and a win at the Memorial. He disappointed a bit at Pebble Beach, making the cut on the number en route to a T21, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t win this week. The UCLA grad ranks in the top 30 in all key strokes gained statistics and is a hugely impressive second in strokes gained overall. He also possesses the flatter, penetrating ball flight that cuts through the British winds.
12. Marc Leishman
Age: 35 | World ranking: 24 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2015
It would be a surprise if he doesn’t win at least one major before he’s finished, and he tends to play the British Open the best of the four. He lost a playoff to Zach Johnson in 2015 and has two other finishes of sixth or better, including two years ago at Birkdale. Last start came almost a month ago at the Travelers, where he finished T21. His lower, left-to-right ball flight is always an asset when the winds pick up.
11. Francesco Molinari
Age: 36 | World ranking: 7 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2018
Defending champion re-established himself as a world-class player at Carnoustie and has only further cemented himself since. Was the star of the Ryder Cup, won Arnie’s tournament at Bay Hill and was in firm control of the Masters until the 12th hole on Sunday. He hasn’t played particularly well in his five starts since Augusta, though, with his only finish better than T48 coming at the U.S. Open. As we saw last year, when he played the weekend bogey-free and was unflappable alongside Tiger on Sunday, he’s a fairway-green machine who wears out the center of the clubface. If he can summon another ruthlessly consistent ball striking week, and the conditions get tough, he could absolutely outlast the field once again.
10. Justin Rose
Age: 38 | World ranking: 4 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2018
Always a threat to win the biggest events. His T3 at the U.S. Open was peculiar only for the way it happened—he didn’t have his normally pinpoint ball striking, so he did his damage with the short game and putting. If he can combine that scoring ability and regain his tee-to-green performance of 2018, he could win multiple majors over the next couple years. Last year at Carnoustie, he made the cut on the number then finished tied for second thanks to a 64-69 weekend. Hasn’t played since the U.S. Open, which is a bit curious, but perhaps that’s given him a chance to sort out his swing, which eventually hamstrung him Sunday at Pebble Beach. At 38, he’s in the tail end of his peak and a player of his caliber should finish his career with more than just his single major championship.
9. Adam Scott
Age: 38 | World ranking: 16 | Best British Open finish: 2, 2012
Scott would have his name etched into the Claret Jug if it weren’t for a historic collapse in 2012, when he bogeyed the final four holes to blow a four-shot lead and lose by a single stroke to Ernie Els. Since then, his game forsook him—particularly in late 2017, early 2018—but has since returned in a big way, as he’s been a factor in each of the first three majors of the year. He’s still swinging the club as beautifully as ever, and he seems to have found inner equanimity and perspective. All this to say: I’m bullish on his chances this week, should he continue to putt the ball as well as he has this year (23rd in strokes gained), optics aside.
8. Tiger Woods
Age: 43 | World ranking: 5 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2000, 2005, 2006
It was at this event last year that his comeback reached its second, major-contending gear. At his heart, Woods is a feel-first player who loves golf courses that ask questions. He’s still better than anyone at varying shapes and trajectories, particularly with the irons, and he shines on second-shot golf courses. This is one of those. His decision to sit out every event between Pebble and this week will be scrutinized, but he knows what he needs to do in order to be mentally and physically fresh. (It should be noted, though, that in his pre-tourney press conference, he said his ball striking is not quite where he wants it to be). Unlike Bethpage, the fairways will be generous, and his elite approach play means he’ll almost certainly be near the lead in greens in regulation. Whether he contends will likely come down to how he putts. And not to be a buzzkill, but the forecast is less than ideal for a guy who needs warmth to lubricate his muscles—highs in the mid 60s, and it will feel colder.
7. Henrik Stenson
Age: 43 | World ranking: 37 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2016
Despite what his world ranking might suggest, there sure as hell are not 36 better golfers on Earth than Henrik Stenson right now. He’s been on the national-open-only diet recently, and he’s been eating well: T8 at the Canadian, T9 at the U.S. and T4 at the Scottish. His penetrating ball flight is tailor made for links golf—he has four finishes of third or better in this event—and no one in the 150-plus year history of The Open has shot a lower 72-hole score than his 20-under 264 at Troon in 2016. Seems almost too good to be true at 30-1.
6. Xander Schauffele
Age: 25 | World ranking: 11 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2018
He’s something of a store-brand version of Brooks Koepka at the majors; while he hasn’t won one yet, he’s finished sixth or better in five of the 10 he’s played in during is young career. That includes last year at Carnoustie, where he was in the mix deep into the business end of the tournament. Hasn’t played since finishing in a tie for third at the U.S. Open and thus feels a bit out of sight, out of mind, but he’s an elite player who thrives on tough layouts. Surely a threat to hoist the Claret Jug.
5. Rory McIlroy
Age: 30 | World ranking: 3 | Best British Open finish: WIN, 2014
The oddsmakers’ favorite, for good reason. He’s a past winner of this event. He’s finished in the top five the last four times he’s played the Open, including a joint second at Carnoustie. He’s finished outside the top 10 just three times in 14 starts this year. And he has quite the history at Royal Portrush, setting the still-standing course record of 61 as a 16-year-old in 2005. He will have to deal with added attention and expectation this week, with every media member itching to write the story on McIlroy winning his first major in five years on his home soil. He’s fully capable of doing so, but he’ll simply need to play better than he has in the majors so far this year if he’s to have a chance down the stretch. Finished T34 last week at the Scottish Open but did shoot four rounds in the 60s, and he seemed quite pleased with his performance in what was essentially a dress rehearsal for Portrush.
4. Dustin Johnson
Age: 35 | World ranking: 2 | Best British Open finish: T2, 2011
Of his all his near-major misses, the one at the 2011 British Open gets the least attention. He was in the thick of contention until hitting his second shot out of bounds on the 14th hole on Sunday. But that was the only time he had a chance to win this tournament, and he’s struggled in Opens of recent vintage, missing the cut a year ago at Carnoustie and finishing T54 the year before at Birkdale. DJ showed real guts in challenging Brooks Koepka at Bethpage and seemed ripe to challenge at Pebble Beach but was never a factor. He’s one of the oddsmakers favorites because he’s one of the oddsmakers favorites at any tournament he plays, not because he’s playing particularly well—his only start since the U.S. Open was a missed cut at the Rocket Mortgage, and that came against a well-below-average field.
3. Matt Kuchar
Age: 41 | World ranking: 13 | Best British Open finish: 2, 2017
It’s been a dichotomous year for Kooch. On one hand, he’s been tabloid gold, producing one controversy after another—the El Tucan caddie stiffing, the riff with Sergio Garcia, the time he begged for an absurd drop. On the other, he’s playing some of the best golf of his career and is once again one of the most consistent players anywhere. Kuchar has two wins on the wraparound year, two runner-up finishes and eight other top-10 finishes. His preferred flatter, boring ball flight has fared extremely well in links conditions, as he would have won the 2017 Open if Jordan Spieth didn’t catch fire (he also finished T9 at Carnoustie last year). At 41, he knows he’s running out of time to win a major championship. This week is as good a chance as ever for him to remove himself from the Best Player to Never Win a Major conversation, in which he is a central figure.
2. Jon Rahm
Age: 24 | World ranking: 8 | Best British Open finish: T44, 2017
Hard to believe he’s only been a professional for three years, given all he’s accomplished, and no one on the planet is playing better than he is. Rahm hung tough and stole a T3 at Pebble Beach, then flew over to Europe and finished joint second in Spain, then fired a final-round 62 to win the Irish Open at Lahinch, a true links course. He has multiple major championships in his future and will fancy his chances against anyone to pick up his first one this week. If I were a cliché-prone golf writer, this is when I would mention that he will need to keep his fiery emotions in check this week, but I will not put you through that.
1. Brooks Koepka
Age: 29 | World ranking: 1 | Best British Open finish: T6, 2017
Golf’s top dog spent the first few years of his professional career playing the Challenge Tour and then the European Tour, so the British Open is always a “homecoming” of sorts. He arrives to Portrush on a preposterous run of major championship play—his last four major finishes are 2-WIN-T2-WIN. Conversely, he has been curiously poor in regular PGA Tour events—his last four finishes in non-majors are 65-T57-T50-4. If Koepka has taught us anything, it’s to basically disregard his non-major showings. No one flips the switch for four weeks of the year like he does, so he’s absolutely a threat to win his fifth major championship this week. Was never a factor last year at Carnoustie, where he finished T39, but posted top 10s in his previous two Open starts before that. Pebble Beach neutralized his advantage off the tee and he still beat everyone in the field save for one guy. Portrush will also take driver out of his hands quite often; will he be able to plot his way into contention by Sunday afternoon?