Five players not named Koepka or McIlroy or Woods that could make a run at the Open Championship this weekend.
The best golfers in the world have congregated at Royal Portrush for the final major of the year, the 148th playing of the British Open. It’s the first time Northern Ireland has hosted golf’s oldest tournament since 1951, when it was also held at Portrush.
As usual, the Open’s course setup is very different than its major counterparts. The fairways are firm and lined by fescue on both sides, and egregiously deep pot bunkers guard the greens. It’s a unique test that will test players’ creativity and imaginations.
Northern Ireland’s own Rory McIlroy enters this week as the Vegas favorite, and for good reason. He won the 2014 Open, he enters playing fantastic golf and he shot the still-standing course record of 61 at Portrush…as a 16-year-old. Then there’s Brooks Koepka, golf’s top dog who always kicks it into another gear for the majors. Oh, and Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose and so many other superstars of today’s game.
However, there’s also a number of guys flying under the radar that could challenge for the Claret Jug. Here are five who could be on the first page of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.
Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 16
Scott comes in riding three straight top 10s, including a seventh-place finish at the U.S Open and an eighth at the Masters. The sweet-swinging Aussie is seventh on Tour in scoring average (69.55) and is second in scrambling from the rough. That could come in handy if the wind kicks up and he’s forced to play out of the fescue. He’s had significant success in past Opens, and there’s no reason he can’t do the same this time around.
Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open (by seven!) at St. Andrews and lost a playoff to Zach Johnson there when the Open returned in 2015, so he obviously feels comfortable playing links golf. While he’s known for his beautiful swing and precise ball striking, the South African is also fifth on tour in strokes gained around the green and in the top 20 in sand saves. He’s well-rounded, he’s playing well and he seems to always rise to the top the biggest events.
Wallace has proven himself a winner on the European Tour, where he has four victories since the beginning of 2017. He’s also had major success on this side of the pond, finishing T3 at Bethpage Black and T12 at the U.S. Open. A fiery competitor, he will relish the opportunity to play alongside Tiger Woods in the first two rounds. Even if he doesn’t win, expect the Englishmen to be a factor deep into the weekend.
He’s one of the funniest guys on Tour, and he’s got the game to back it up. Kisner won the WGC-Dell Match Play in March for the biggest title of his career and had made five cuts in a row before missing it last week in Scotland. He ranks 13th in driving accuracy and has gone 132 holes without a three putt. A lower-ball hitter, he should fare well in the Northern Irish wind, and he finished T2 last year at Carnoustie. He’s flying under the radar this week, but this is a course that sets up well for him.
He's a proven winner, having done so 19 times over the course of his career, including the 2017 Masters. Garcia missed a 12-foot putt to win the 2007 British Open and has a remarkable 10 top-10 finishes in his 22 starts in this event. He still possesses the penetrating ball flight that cuts through the wind and he’s a creative player who enjoys playing different shots. Don’t be surprised if he adds a second major championship to his trophy mantle this weekend.