Who wins the 2021 Open? Who's the best bet? Who has the best championship and Royal St George's form? Before striking your bets read Matt Cooper's guide to the leading players chasing the Claret Jug...
"Harrington has to be considered because his links form is strong (since the return from lockdown: T9th at Renaissance, T14th at Fairmont and T18th last week back at Renaissance). He was also tied fourth at Kiawah Island in May. There's a little twinkle in his eye at the moment. The Ryder Cup captain couldn't win, could he?!"
Jon Rahm (Spain)
World No. 2 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 59-44-MC-11
The hottest golfer on the planet, the sport's freshest major champion and now he's laid to rest a linksland myth of sorts with tied seventh in the Scottish Open. Because prior to last week he was brilliant by the Irish seaside (with victories at Portstewart and Lahinch, fourth at Ballyliffin, T11th at Royal Portrush), but awful when he crossed the Irish Sea (T59th at Royal Troon, T44th at Royal Birkdale, missed cuts at Carnoustie and in the Dunhill Links). There was never really anything in it. On the other hand, he did say he liked the quirkiness of Irish designs and they are many who would apply that term to Royal St. George's.
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
World No. 11 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 42-47-3-25-60-MC-1-5-4-2-MC
His missed cut at last week's Scottish Open maintains a pretty ordinary record on linksland beyond Royal Liverpool and St Andrews. He's got a win and six other top 10s at those two courses yet in 18 efforts elsewhere just four top 10s. That's got to be a bit of a worry, as has the fear that, when the wind rises, his chances of contending fall. The better news is that, although he still hasn't won a major since 2014, last month's US Open was the first time since then that he's headed into the final round within two shots of a lead.
Brooks Koepka (USA)
World No. 8 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-67-10-6-39-4
If the 31-year-old's recent form is anything to go by he'll either contend or have the weekend off. In fact, his last 14 starts are almost comically contrasting, including seven top eight finishes and six missed cuts. The good results include tied second in the PGA Championship and tied fourth in the US Open, reiterating his proven ability to thrive when it gets tough. Moreover, his last 21 starts in the majors have landed 14 top 10s, 11 of them top fives and four wins. He even says: "I thrive on the bigger stage, the big moment, a tough golf course. I'm locked in from the first tee shot. I love it."
Dustin Johnson (USA)
World No. 1 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-14-2-9-32-12-49-9-54-MC-51
The two-time Major champion landed four wins in 10 starts either side of New Year, but has followed that with a best of T10th (at the links-like Congaree) in his last 10. What of his links record? Well, deep into the final round in 2011 he actually seemed the most likely winner on this week's course. Whereupon he clobbered his ball out of bounds, finished tied second and it remains his only top eight Open finish. However, he did insist that year: "Since the first time I came to play linksland, I've really enjoyed it. I think I even won the college event over here. I just really enjoy playing this sort of golf."
Xander Schauffele (USA)
World No. 5 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 20-2-41
Newly married and a neat T10th at last week's Scottish Open. Interesting, too, that he added that linksland prep to his pre-Open routine for the first time as he seeks to finally land a first major win. He's a machine in the big ones, with nine top 10s in just 17 starts, but he's stopped winning regular events, too, with 10 top three finishes since his last victory (even when finishing last year's Tour Championship as low scorer the format stopped him winning). "I don't know if it's the European blood in me but I do enjoy it here," he said of the links last week. "I like thinking my way round the property differently to home."
Jordan Spieth (USA)
World No. 23 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 44-36-4-30-1-9-20
There's more to the Texan's Open record than his unforgettable truck park exploits at Royal Birkdale: finishing one shot out of the play-off in 2015, for example, and co-leading after 54 holes on defence at Carnoustie in 2018. He thrives when big undulations fire his short game creativity so he should be delighted when he makes acquaintance with the greens at Royal St George's. He's now recorded 10 top 20 finishes in his last 12 strokeplay starts, including his last time out at Torrey Pines which came in spite of poor course form and a bad start.
Justin Thomas (USA)
World No. 3 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 53-MC-MC-11
The Kentucky-man said ahead of last week's Scottish Open: "I've got a lot of great memories of links golf, unfortunately I haven't really had any good results." That's a little harsh on himself. His last three efforts have been tied ninth at the 2019 Scottish Open, T11th a week later in the Open at Royal Portrush and tied eighth last week back at The Renaissance Club. Before that he'd not made a top 50 in four links starts and in three of those effort hadn't broken 77 on Friday. Won THE PLAYERS Championship in superb style earlier this season.
Bryson DeChambeau (USA)
World No. 6 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-51-MC
At first glance his Open record is poor with two failures to make the cut and T51st in the exception. At second glance it's worse because he's started all three in appalling fashion: a 76 at Royal Birkdale (T133rd), a 75 at Carnoustie (T110th), a 74 at Royal Portrush (T94th), and in his eight circuits he's broken 73 just twice. He's also got just one top 10 in his last nine starts and split with his long-term caddie Tim Tucker. Even worse, from his US Open win to finishing third at THE PLAYERS he ranked top 10 for SG Tee to Green five times in eight, but has not ranked top 20 in his last seven measured starts.
Louis Oosthuizen (South Africa)
World No. 13 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-MC-1-54-19-36-2-MC-MC-28-20
The bridesmaid of post-lockdown majors, finishing third at last September's US Open at Winged Foot, tied second at Kiawah Island in May's PGA Championship, and second at Torrey Pines in last month's US Open. He's now one second place at Augusta and this championship away from completing a double Grand Slam of runner-up finishes. It's a rum way of saying he's very good, very unlucky, and also maybe lacks the killer touch. First and second at St Andrews, in 11 other Open starts he has a best of T19th. Said of the course in 2011: "Your course management has got to be really good around here."
Viktor Hovland (Norway)
World No. 14 | Open record (most recent result on the right): debut
It seems a little absurd, but this two-time PGA Tour and one-time European Tour winner, ranked top 10 in the world, with a second in a World Golf Championship event, is making his championship debut this week. If there is an element of mystery to his affinity for the turf and the test, we know he likes playing by the sea and in wind. Victories at El Camaleon and in Puerto Rico, plus second at Torrey Pines testify to that. Why so little fear of a strong breeze? "I live in Oklahoma. It blows like every single day. Moving the ball down is not an issue." Hunting a first major championship top 10 finish.
Collin Morikawa (USA)
World No. 4 | Open record (most recent result on the right): debut
The 2020 PGA Championship winner made his linksland debut at The Renaissance Club last week. "It's a learning curve," he admitted. "But it's a learning curve that I enjoy and I love being creative. It kind of fits my game." He started well with 70-67 to make the cut, but went 71-73 at the weekend. The stats from his last five starts on the PGA Tour tell quite a tale: top seven for Approach and top five for Tee to Green every time, but never top 20 Around the Green and four times outside the top 50 for Putting. The bad news is that the short game tends to matter at the Open.
Tyrrell Hatton (England)
World No. 10 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-MC-MC-MC-5-MC-51-6
The Englishman had his early difficulties with linksland golf at pro level, even missing his first four cuts at the Open. But since January 2016 he's made 17 starts by the seaside, landing ten top 20s, seven of them top 10s, two of those wins in the Dunhill Links Championship. Most relevant for this week, among that top 10 count are two of them in the Open: tied fifth at Royal Troon and tied sixth at Royal Portrush. A winner at the start of the year in Abu Dhabi, his best PGA Tour results was tied second at the links-like Congaree last month and he closed with a 65 last week.
Patrick Cantlay (USA)
World No. 7 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 12-41
The 29-year-old's form absolutely disappeared in smoke during the spring. He went from regularly contending to missing four cuts in a row. But recording T23rd at the PGA Championship re-invigorated him, he won the Memorial when Jon Rahm was withdrawn, added T15th at the US Open, and was T13th last time out at the Travelers Championship. Little to go on with his Open form. He was T12th at Carnoustie on debut in 2018, T41st at Royal Portrush a year later, and is yet to break 70. He's hit a lot of greens in those eight laps, but found little around and on the greens.
Tommy Fleetwood (England)
World No. 35 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-MC-MC-27-12-2
The amiable Englishman might have been born to play links golf and in his early years on the European Tour good weeks at the Dunhill Links were something of a given. But in the last four years he's moved up a few gears. He's been second and fifth in the Dunhill Links, T23rd at Lahinch, eighth at Hillside, second (in a play-off) and T26th at The Renaissance Club, then T12th at Carnoustie and second at Royal Portrush. That latter result hit him hard. He looked bereft afterwards, he believed he would put up a stronger fight, but the sore memories might well prompt another good performance.
Shane Lowry (Ireland)
World No. 44 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 37-32-9-MC-MC-MC-MC-1
Back in May the defending champion chuckled, when asked about his Royal St George's memories: "I played the Amateur Championship there in 2006 and shot 81 in my one round there. I haven't been back since." But he was also fresh from landing a top five in the PGA Championship and added: "I love the majors and I feel like I'm playing them really well in recent years. I know what happens and how to deal with it." Curiously, he missed four cuts in a row at the Open ahead of his triumph. Beware that defending is difficult. He'll have a lot of off-course distractions.
Patrick Reed (USA)
World No. 9 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-21-12-MC-28-10
The American has not finished outside the top 20 in a major since the US Open of 2019. That's seven starts and began with T10th at Royal Portrush, his Open best, and he owns five top 30s from his last five championship starts. Statistically, he's been most impressive on and around the Open greens, which is maybe no surprise given his undoubted skills in that part of his game. It may also be a big advantage this week. But, with the exception of the Old Course (when everyone hits a lot of greens) his long game has tended to be the weak link. A winner earlier this season at Torrey Pines.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (England)
World No. 20 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 44-MC-44-MC-20
For some reason, the Englishman appears to have a problem with the four tournaments that define a golfer's career. He finished tied seventh in his first as a professional (the 2016 Masters) but, since then, he hasn't landed another top 10 in 21 starts. In this championship there is little to cheer except to say that, at Royal Portrush in his fifth appearance, he finally landed a top 40, eventually recording T20th. He did break another poor trend last week, however. His play-off defeat in the Scottish Open was just a third top 10 in 23 starts on the linksland. He also had a recce at Royal St George's last year, shot 67, and is reported to have loved it.
Lee Westwood (England)
World No. 29 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 96-MC-10-64-18-64-47-MC-MC-4-MC-31-35-67-3-2-MC-45-3-MC-49-22-27-61-4
It remains one of the great Claret Jug mysteries: why is Lee Westwood so poor when the Open is hosted in England? Ten starts there have reaped not one top 25 finish. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, on the other hand, he has eight in 14 appearances, five of them top four. Against that, he did win an amateur event at Royal St. George's in 1992 and says: "Strategically it's a good golf course. It's not always driver off every tee, which is quite nice." Has nice memories of the last Open, he was tied fourth at Royal Portrush, and started well last week at The Renaissance Club before drifting outside the top 20.
Paul Casey (England)
World No. 21 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-MC-20-MC-71-27-7-47-3-54-MC-47-74-MC-11-51-57
The Englishman threatened to win last year's PGA Championship and has spun off that effort to play brilliantly throughout 2021. He started with a win in Dubai and has piled on the top 10s (eight for the year). That tally includes tied fourth in the PGA Championship and tied seventh at the US Open. He'll represent Team GB at the Olympics and said: "The older I get, the better things seem to get. The Open, I'm obviously mega excited about that. I've got a great opportunity to have a summer which could define my career." Warning: opened with an 85 at Sandwich in 2003 and carded a 78 in 2011.
Branden Grace (South Africa)
World No. 62 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 43-77-64-36-20-72-6-MC-51
The 33-year-old will be a popular pick this week and for good reasons. He has a house at Fancourt Links in South Africa, he's a past winner of the Dunhill Links, he's 8-for-9 at making the cut at the Open, he carded the first-ever major 62 at Royal Birkdale in 2017 (when tied sixth), he's a winner this year (at the blustery Puerto Rico Open), he contended in the PGA Championship in May at Kiawah Island, he was tied seventh in last month's US Open at Torrey Pines, and he hits a low, penetrating ball flight. Perhaps the real question is: is it all just too neat?
Tony Finau (USA)
World No. 17 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 18-27-9-3
The big man's Open record is strong. He's made four appearances, never finished outside the top 30, was tied ninth at Carnoustie in 2018, and tied third at Royal Portrush in 2019. Dig deeper and it remains strong. Three times he's been in the top four after 18 holes, every single time he has been top 20 on Saturday night, he putted brilliantly at Royal Troon in 2016, scrambled well at both Royal Birkdale and Royal Portrush, and ranked top three for hitting the greens in his last two starts. The downers? He's never broken 70 on Sunday and his form: he's missed his last two cuts.
Garrick Higgo (South Africa)
World No. 40 | Open record (most recent result on the right): debut
The 21-year-old is not just abundantly talented, but he also seems to have that neat knack of making everything appear wonderfully simple: he hits it long, knocks it close, and always gives the hole a scare. A two-time winner in Europe this year, he then added a maiden PGA Tour victory at the links-like Congaree, and finished T26th at The Renaissance Club at last year's Scottish Open. He also has Gary Player to call upon for links advice. He did, however, miss the cut last week, a third in four starts and maybe the astonishing early summer achievements have caught up with him.
Marc Leishman (Australia)
World No. 33 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 60-MC-MC-5-2-53-660-MC
It's pure feast or famine for the Aussie when he heads to the Open. He's teed it up nine times at the championship and six times he has failed to make the top 50 (including three missed cuts). But when he gets involved, he really makes the most of the opportunity. He was tied fifth at Royal Liverpool in 2014, suffered play-off defeat at St Andrews in 2015, and was tied sixth at Royal Birkdale in 2017. Form-wise, he was tied fifth at the Masters in April, won the New Orleans pairs event with Cameron Smith in May, and was tied third in his last outing two weeks ago at the Travelers Championship.
Justin Rose (England)
World No. 47 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 4-MC-30-22-MC-12-70-13-MC-44-MC-MC-23-6-22-54-2-20
Who would have thought that it would take Rose 20 years to land a second Open top five finish after he thrilled the galleries with his tied fourth at Royal Birkdale in 1998? It's an astounding truth and in many ways paradoxically say much about Rose in microcosm; about his quality, resilience, longevity, and that sometimes he maybe gets in his own way. He's also played the majors really well over the last 12 months, ticking off three top 10s in his last five starts. No Scottish Open for him last week. Instead, he spent two days "grinding" at Royal St. Georges's and concluded: "Love what I see."
Daniel Berger (USA)
World No. 16 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-27-MC
This week marks a fourth Open appearance for the American who carded 73-76 on debut in 2015 and 73-73 at Carnoustie in 2018 to miss the cut both times. In-between he went sub-70 twice at Royal Birkdale on his way to T27th, but a second round 76 means his Friday average is a rather daunting 75.00. He's played some great golf by the ocean this year, notably a win at Pebble Beach, tied seventh at Waialae, and another tied seventh in the US Open at Torrey Pines last month. Warmed up at the Deere Classic last week, making the cut but little impression.
Christiaan Bezuidenhout (South Africa)
World No. 45 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC
Back in 2011 Luke Donald referenced the severity of the greens and Martin Kaymer added that the key shot for the week would be six to eight foot par saves because the putting surfaces made it difficult to get the ball close either chipping or lag putting. Those requirements might be right up this short game wizard's street. He ranks top five for SG Around the Green and Putting this year on the PGA Tour. Even more intriguingly, he ranks first for putting between four and eight feet. Missed the cut on his Open debut in 2019.
Scottie Scheffler (USA)
World No. 19 | Open record (most recent result on the right): debut
It was perhaps no surprise that the 25-year-old carded a brilliant 8-under-par 63 in his second round of competitive links golf last week at the Scottish Open. It seems every stage he stands on, he's quickly at ease. He was Rookie of the Year on the Korn Ferry Tour, then repeated that on the PGA Tour, he's not finished outside the top 20 in the five majors post-lockdown (three of them top 10s), and he's recorded fifth and second in the World Golf Championship this season, too. About the only thing he hasn't done yet is add a top tier win to the pair he landed on the second tier in 2019.
Cameron Smith (Australia)
World No. 28 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-78-20
The Aussie is trending in the right direction at the Open, but he still needs to up his game a little. He missed the cut on debut at Royal Birkdale in 2017, was T77th at Carnoustie in 2018 and then T20th at Royal Portrush. That latter performance witnessed his first (and only) sub-70 lap. It was good, too - a second round 66 - but five of his 10 Open laps have needed at least 73 blows. Ended 2020 and started 2021 in great form, lost it a little after winning in New Orleans alongside Marc Leishman, but tied third heading into the last lap on his last start before finishing T30th after a 74.
Robert MacIntyre (Scotland)
World No. 53 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 6
The young Scotsman hasn't had much opportunity to showcase his linksland skills in his fledgling career, but when the few chances have come he's been quietly impressive: he was tied second at Hillside in the British Masters, tied sixth on his Open debut at Royal Portrush, carding two 66s in his first Dunhill Links, adding T14th at The Renaissance Club last October and then T18th last week. Says of playing the PGA Tour this year: "It's not been easy but it's a learning experience. I feel like I'm competing now. I'm learning how to compete against the best."
Rickie Fowler (USA)
World No. 100 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 14-5-31-MC-2-30-46-22-28-6
The popular American has just one missed cut in 10 championship starts and eight of those finishes were T31st or better (three top 10s), which emphasises that Fowler is very much a fan of the British and Irish seaside. "It's fun out there," he said back in 2011 when right in the mix ahead of finishing tied fifth. "It makes you visualize shots and hit different shots. You're not going to get around there with one shot."
Webb Simpson (USA)
World No. 15 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 16-64-MC-40-39-37-12-30
The American made his Open debut at Royal St George's back in 2011 and carded an opening 66 to lie tied third on the Thursday evening before drifting back through the field to finish T16th. He said after that effort: "I haven't played a whole lot of links golf, but I love using my imagination and touch around the greens. It's fun and a totally different style than we play back home." He's used that fondness to make the weekend seven times out of eight in total, but is yet to record a top 10. Question marks about a neck injury are a worry and have prompted missed cuts in his last two starts.
Joaquin Niemann (Chile)
World No. 26 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC
The Chilean's Open logbook is a little thin. He carded a first round 76 on debut in 2019 and a Friday 71 couldn't save his weekend. The stats show that he didn't hit many greens in regulation and failed to save par less than half the time he missed them. He's more mature two years on and he's very consistent: in his last 23 appearances he's played four rounds of golf 22 times. Most recently, he was seen going bogey-free through 72 holes of the Travelers Championship - then dropping a shot in the first extra hole to miss out on a second PGA Tour title.
Sergio Garcia (Spain)
World No. 51 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-29-MC-36-9-8-10-MC-5-5-2-51-38-14-9-MC-21-2-6-5-37-MC-67
The Spaniard has always seemed a good fit for links golf and rather surprisingly claimed, at Sandwich in 2003: "In Spain, where I play, it's sort of a links course, the wind blows quite a bit. So you get used to that wind." He fell away when in contention that year, but added tied ninth in 2011, one of 10 top 10s in 23 championship starts including two runner-up finishes. His T19th in last month's US Open was a first top 20 in the majors since he won the Masters in 2017.
Will Zalatoris (USA)
World No. 30 | Open record (most recent result on the right): debut
Journalists expecting to find that the youngster had no links experience were in for a surprise ahead of last week's Scottish Open. It turned out he'd spent a vacation at Turnberry as a teenager and had fond memories of the trip (if not the sightseeing in London that started it). Of links golf he said: "It's actually similar to how we play in the wintertime back home. Texas is very dry, we get a lot of wind, fog, gets a little firm. Got to keep it on the ground, keep it underneath the wind. I've kind of grown up on it." Precociously landed three major championship top 10s this season and finished top 30 last week.
Harris English (USA)
World No. 12 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 54-15-MC-68-46
His victory in the first week of the year, at the Tournament of Champions, was reward for 15 months of excellent golf, but it also broke the spell and he lost form. The hangover cleared in May, whereupon he recorded third at the US Open (a major championship best and only his second top 10) and a second victory for the year after an epic play-off at the Travelers Championship. Hasn't played the Open since 2016 and has one top 40 (T16th) in five starts, but has made four cuts and contended at links-like Congaree last month.
Adam Scott (Australia)
World No. 43 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-47-MC-MC42-34-8-27-16-MC-27-25-2-3-5-10-43-22-17-MC
Scott's recent golf at the Open is a tale of two halves. In the four tournaments 2012 to 2015, which started with his agonising near-miss at Royal Lytham, he never finished outside the top 10. Since then, he hasn't landed one (in those first four events he ended a round inside the top 15 14 times out of 16; in the next four once in 16). Sandwich form? He missed the cut in 2003 and was in the top 25 all week without contending in 2011, sounding a little wary when saying: "Around this kind of course it's going to be tough to get the ball close. You're not going to have that many opportunities."
Alex Noren (Sweden)
World No. 86 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 19-MC-MC-9-WD-46-6-17-11
The 38-year-old has struggled to turn the ability to win 10 European Tour titles into major championship-challenging form, but the two top 10s he has achieved (in 29 starts) have come in this championship and also both in England, when tied ninth at Royal Lytham and tied sixth at Royal Birkdale. A winner on the linksland at Castle Stuart in the 2016 Scottish Open and surprisingly opted not to play that event, but remain in the States last week where he missed the cut.
Abraham Ancer (Mexico)
World No. 22 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-MC
There's not a lot for the Mexican to build on in terms of his Open record, given that he missed the cut on debut at Carnoustie in 2018 and also had the weekend off at Royal Portrush. Since then he's upped his major game, playing in the last group out at last year's Masters and returning a first top 10 at Kiawah Island in May. Has superb form with 10 top 30s in his last 12 starts, and four top 10s in his last six.
Jason Day (Australia)
World No. 68 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 60-30-32-58-4-22-27-17-MC
A magnificent performer in the American majors (grabbing 15 of them in 33 starts), he's struggled by the British and Irish seaside, landing just the one in nine starts. It's also perhaps telling that it came on the Old Course at St Andrews - the layout that often gives those who struggle elsewhere a break. He arrives fresh from back-to-back top 15 finishes, but always beware the bad back, especially after a trans-Atlantic flight.
Martin Kaymer (Germany)
World No. 83 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 80-34-7-12-MC-32-70-12-36-37-MC
It is now seven years since he last won (at the 2014 US Open) and in that time he has finished top three nine times, the most recent of them on home turf in June at the BMW International Open. His Open record is solid enough, with nine cuts made in 11 starts, but he has just the one top 10. That it came at St Andrews (T7th in 2010) is telling: he's far happier putting from off greens or from long distance than chipping.
Corey Conners (Canada)
World No. 38 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC
The Canadian claimed his first win on the PGA Tour in 2019, at the Texas Open, but it has been over the last 18 months that he has really started to display his touch of class, making 19 of his last 21 cuts and landing three top 20s in his last four major championship appearances. It might be a slight concern that when last seen he was closing the Memorial with 74-77 before carding 75-73 at the US Open.
Phil Mickelson (USA)
World No. 32 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 73-MC-40-41-24-79-MC-11-30-66-59-3-60-22-MC-19-48-2-MC-1-23-20-2-MC-24-MC
An intriguing return to the scene of his Open breakthrough for May's PGA Championship winner. It was here that he gushed, after chasing Darren Clarke home in 2011: "Oh, man, that was some of the most fun I've had competitively. It was really exciting." Two years later he won the Claret Jug and three years after that he broke all sorts of scoring records in finishing second.
Jason Kokrak (USA)
World No. 24 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-32
It took some time for the Canadian-born American to win on the PGA Tour, just a mere decade after he landed a pair of wins on the second tier. But in late May he made it two wins for the season at Colonial in Texas and it was an accomplished performance. Next job is taking the step up to performing on the world stage because in 17 major championship starts he's yet to finish in the top 15.
Ian Poulter (England)
World No. 50 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 64-50-46-25-11-MC-27-2-MC-60-MC-9-3-MC-MC-14-MC-MC
The 45-year-old has been second and third at the Open, but he's also missed the cut in four of his last five appearances. He also has bad memories of Royal St George's: he recovered from a first round 78 in 2003 to finish T46th, but when he repeated that number in the 2011 second round he missed the cut and earlier in the week he'd admitted: "It's not my favourite in rotation." Great vibes however: he closed last week with a barnstorming 8-under-par 63.
Danny Willett (England)
World No. 115 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-15-MC-6-53-76-24-6
Fourteen years ago Willett won the English Amateur Championship at Royal St George's and four years after that said of the same test in his Open debut: "The course is probably worth taking it on this week. Controlled aggression at times." Alas, he missed the cut, but he's done much better since. He contended all week when tied sixth in 2015 and repeated that effort at Royal Portrush.
Lucas Herbert (Australia)
World No. 49 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 51
The Australian is a sneaky good links performer. That was first revealed when tied seventh at the 2018 Dunhill Links, he then threatened to win last year's Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club, and went close again last week after winning the Irish Open a fortnight ago. A slight worry might be that he talked of fatigue ahead of last Sunday's round, citing three tiring weeks on the road. How will he deal with a fourth?
Stewart Cink (USA)
World No. 39 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 66-MC-41-30-59-34-14-MC-MC-6-MC-1-48-30-MC-26-47-20-MC-24-20
The man who broke the golf world's heart in 2009, when foiling Tom Watson's attempt to write the greatest golf story ever, you suspect it impacted on him, too, because it took until last year for him to win again, but he's now done it twice in the season and at the Masters he insisted he can win another major. Intriguingly, although he played poorly for the decade after 2009, he was always solid at the Open. In fact, he's got four top 30s in his last six starts and he's in much better nick now.
Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
World No. 152 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 18-5-MC-29-20-37-5-22-MC-MC-1-1-65-MC-MC-39-54-MC-20-36-MC-MC-MC
The back-to-back winner of the Open in 2007 and 2008, the Irishman has missed the cut in his last three championship starts. Nonetheless, he has to be considered because his links form is strong (since the return from lockdown: T9th at Renaissance, T14th at Fairmont and T18th last week back at Renaissance). He was also tied fourth at Kiawah Island in May. There's a little twinkle in his eye at the moment. The Ryder Cup captain couldn't win, could he?!
Francesco Molinari (Italy)
World No. 141 | Open record (most recent result on the right): MC-13-MC-MC-30-9-15-40-36-MC-1-11
The Italian freely admitted after lifting the Claret Jug at Carnoustie in 2018 that he'd never really liked the course. Was it therefore a case of his exceptional form that year overcoming any long-term linksland awkwardness? Well, he was T11th on defence at Royal Portrush and he's also a play-off loser in the Scottish Open so he's a decent seaside performer. Missed the 54-hole cut last week, but did card 67 in the second round.
Ryan Palmer (USA)
World No. 31 | Open record (most recent result on the right): 30-58-30-30-MC
The Texan likes to finish T30th at an Open. In fact, defying the laws of averages, he's managed to achieve that result three times in five starts. More seriously, he's made the weekend four times in five and last week he showcased himself as a form pick when carding 66-70-67-64 to finish tied fourth in the Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club. The other good news? Texan's tend to know how to flight a ball in the wind.
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