2017 Open Championship preview: Favourites, dark horses and a couple of long shots

Here is a quick guide to the favourites and dark horses at this week’s 146th Open at Royal Birkdale.

A field of 156 players will contest this week’s Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in north-west England and if recent history is anything to go by, we may have another first-time major winner on our hands.

You have to go back to The Open in 2015 when Zach Johnson edged out Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a playoff to find a major winner who had previously raised a major trophy. The last seven men’s major golf championship winners have all been first-time champions and golf experts have fans think the first-time winner trend may continue this week with a few previous winners a little out of form.

THE FAVOURITES

Dustin Johnson $15
Yes, he is number one in the world and yes he looks as formidable as anyone on the golf course but like a lot of golfers who win a major, they soon after start to play in less golf tournaments. Johnson hasn’t played a golf tournament since the US Open at Erin Hills where he missed the cut. In his previous start at the Memorial Tournament he also missed the cut meaning that Johnson hasn’t played four days of tournament golf in nearly two months.

We’re sure he’s hitting the ball well and all that but on a course that is a little more difficult to overcome with a driver, there are doubts over DJ.

Jordan Spieth $15
During the Tiger Woods era of golf we’d been so accustomed to one player dominating the game that we all assumed that when Jordan Spieth won consecutive majors in 2015, he would go on to win many more, very quickly. It hasn’t worked that way because, well, golf doesn’t usually work that way. The depth of professional golf now means that the difference between being in contention to being on the couch on Sunday is tiny.

Having said that, Spieth is looking very comfortable again and appears to have a putting stroke that can win again – as proven by victory at the Travelers Championship last month. Spieth has the perfect golfing brain to tackle Royal Birkdale and we’d surprised if he doesn’t raise the Claret Jug in the next few years. Perhaps this week.

Rickie Fowler $17
With recent major wins to Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler must now be close to the top of the list of ‘best players never to have won a major’. Two runners-up placings at the majors in 2014 proved Fowler was one of the best golfers going around and not just that guy that dresses in orange. An 11th place finish at The Masters and a top-5 at the US Open has Fowler primed for a shot at The Ope this week. His preparation looks good including a top-10 finish at last week’s Scottish Open. Maybe he’ll be off that list by the time he leaves Royal Birkdale.

Jon Rahm $17
Climbing the ranks of professional golf with a bullet is Spaniard Jon Rahm. Built like a bull, Rahm is now seventh in the world just a year after turning professional and arrives at Royal Birkdale high on confidence after winning the Irish Open by four strokes two weeks ago.

We think this Rahm’s favouritism might be a little high for someone who is playing in just his fifth major, who missed the cut at the US Open and whose best major finish is a tie for 23rd at this same event last year as an amateur. But we get why people like his chances, it just may be a little premature.

Sergio Garcia $19
Green jacket wearing Garcia now has an enormous monkey off his back. The gorilla took off into the pines trees at Augusta and it’s easy to understand why Garcia might win The Open this week. After all, Garcia has incredible form at this event. The 37-year-old has 10 top-10 placings at The Open including four in the last six years.

We wonder if the desire to win another major is as strong as it was before he won The Masters but a second place finish at the BMW International Open shows he still has the form. The Open is probably the major tournament Garcia was always most likely to win. Perhaps now the shackles are off he’ll romp to victory.

DARK HORSES

Justin Rose $21
Rose is a near favourite but generally just out of the top-5 with the bookies. Which is crazy. Rose rose to fame as an amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1996 when he holed a shot from the rough on the final hole to finish in a tie for fourth place. Good memories around Royal Birkdale makes Justin Rose a great chance to become a multiple major winner this week.

Marc Leishman $41
Like Rose, Leishman seems to be on everybody’s list of ‘dark horses’ to win every major these days. And rightly so, Leishman nearly won The Open in 2015 only to be scuppered out of the playoff because of a divot on the first playoff hole.

We probably would have liked to have seen Leishman play the Irish or Scottish Open’s in preparation for this week but a recent addition to the family has kept him on the other side of the Atlantic. If Leishman can catch a break this year with the weather and the divots, we still like his chances though. Perhaps more than the 10 other Aussies at Royal Birkdale this week.

Tommy Fleetwood $23
Two things stand out like a sore thumb when it comes to Tommy Fleetwood’s chances this week.

His form is as good as anyone’s in the field – 4th (US Open), T6, 1st (Open de France) and T10 (Irish Open) – and he is a local. Fleetwood grew up in Southport, the home of Royal Birkdale and he may know the course, and the conditions better than anyone. His major record isn’t great but we think he may have just turned the corner with that fourth place finish at Erin Hills.

LONG SHOTS

Ryan Fox $151
You’d be crazy not to throw something on this guy this week. While it’s just Ryan Fox’s second major the strongly built Kiwi is in fantastic form with three top-10s in his last three starts including a fourth place at the Irish and Scottish Open’s.

Soren Kjeldsen $151
We always have this guy in our list of dark horses to win a major because he always seems to get up for the majors and very few other people consider him a threat. Kjeldsen faded on the final day of The Masters, didn’t play the US Open but finished top-10 at the 2015 Open Championship. A top-10 at the Scottish Open and a ball-strikers golf course means we this Kjeldsen is our best sneaky bet for the week.

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