AS THE British Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951, Golfweek gives us their picks to win the fabled Claret Jug at Royal Portrush.
There are 15 British Open champions in the field this week: Francesco Molinari, Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Darren Clarke, Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods, David Duval, Paul Lawrie, Tom Lehman.
Among story lines: Woods returns for the first time since he tied-for-21st finish at Pebble Beach and the U.S. Open, and a “lighter” Michelson looks to get his game into gear.
World No. 1 Brooks Koepka will be hoping to add another major championship to his haul. He has won three in the past 14 months.
The 148th Open Championship begins on Thursday with the first tee time at 1:35 a.m. ET.
Winner: Dustin Johnson
He has won twice this year, is the No. 2 player in the world and has been runner-up in two majors, yet some people are wondering what’s wrong with Dustin Johnson, especially after a dull effort in the U.S. Open and a missed cut in his last two starts. Well, nothing is wrong with DJ. He’s the third betting favorite for a reason. He’s one of the best drivers of the golf ball, a must club to have working this week. Superb iron player. Will relish the not-so-fast greens. He wins his second major.
Long shot: Bernd Wiesberger
Stay with the hot hand. Bernd Wiesberger won last week’s Scottish Open in a playoff. The big Aussie has six titles on the European Tour, but his best finish in 20 majors is a tie for 16th. He beats that this week.
Winner: Patrick Cantlay
Tons of storylines this week with Rory’s home game, Tiger’s return and Brooks’ major tear, but we’re going in a slightly less-scintillating direction. Good golf is good golf, and we’ve seen it from Cantlay for pretty much a year straight now.
He finished T-12 last year in his British Open debut, he won the Memorial last month and his stats are very, very strong – second in Strokes Gained total, fourth in Strokes Gained tee-to-green and 25th in Strokes Gained putting.
He was 153rd with the putter last season and made that his No. 1 focus this off season. This week could be the biggest payoff yet.
Long shot: Lee Westwood
Here’s your Cinderella story. Experience has proven much more valuable than youth at this tournament over the past decade, and the 46-year-old has been playing well all summer.
With 18 top-10 finishes in majors and no trophies to show for it, Westwood has at least a chance to get into contention and add that definitive victory to a solid resume.