The Open Championship Preview

Golf’s third major of the year brings us back to its birthplace, as the Old Course at St. Andrews will once again serve as host to the 2015 Open Championship. The 144th Open Championship begins early Thursday morning, and, per usual, we can expect to see Scotland’s gusting winds, cooler temperatures, and likely heavier Friday rainfall wreck havoc on the scoreboard. Aside from the variable weather, the Old Course is characterized as a links style golf course with wide fairways, sloping greens, and over 112 bunkers for golfers to work around. It favors those who can hit booming right-to-left drawing drives that stay out of trouble and stick wedges in closely to the pin as 3 putts are not out of the question this week. With these skills in mind, here are the players I expect to have the most success at this week’s Open Championship.

The Favorites

Jordan Spieth: As arguably the best golfer in the world right now, it is impossible to overlook the 21 year-old from contention this week. Not only has Spieth emerged victorious at both the Masters and U.S Open, but he has not let go of the accelerator in any PGA tournament this year. The world’s #2 golfer has a remarkable seven top 3 finishes in his last 10 starts, including a playoff win at last week’s John Deere Classic. Statistically speaking, the Old Course does not suit Spieth nearly as well as a course like Augusta or TPC Deer Run, but with Spieth’s hot putter, skillful wedge play, and adaptability, he should still be considered a heavy favorite this week. With the chance to both capture the 3rd leg of a seasonal golf Grand Slam and take over the #1 spot in the official world golf rankings, I look for nothing but excellence from Spieth this week. The only things to watch out for about Spieth are both his lack of experience at St. Andrews and the fast time change that he will have to acclimate to after playing at the John Deere Classic instead of the Scottish Open last week.

Henrik Stenson: Currently with the #7 ranking in the world, Stenson is my pick to lift the Clarret Jug come Sunday. Stenson has had great career success in the Open Championship with four top 15 finishes, including a 3rd place finish the last time the Old Course hosted it in the 2010, and a 34th place finish in 2005. To go along with Stenson’s great history in this major, he also comes into the tournament with great recent form. Stenson has made 9 of his last 9 cuts on the PGA Tour, and finished in 2nd place at the BMW International Open just three weeks ago. With Stenson’s precision and strong ball striking, he is definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Dustin Johnson: After a devastating 3-putt on the 18th hole at Chambers Bay crushed Johnson’s chances for his maiden major victory at the U.S Open, he looks to rebound at this weeks Open Championship with a strong finish. The Old Course’s open fairways and rolling hills lineup perfectly for the longest hitter on tour’s game. But, the sloping greens present a great challenge for DJ. It remains to be seen how Johnson’s recent let down at the U.S. Open has mentally affected both his game and his confidence. If Johnson strikes the ball anything close to how he did at the U.S. Open, putting will not be an issue.

Rickie Fowler: With a win at the Scottish Open this past week against a tough field, Fowler looks to add to his recent success with a win at this week’s Open Championship. Aside from a poor showing at the U.S. Open, Fowler has had a quality year. He made a miraculous run to win the Players Championship, had a solid 12th place finish at the Masters, and seems to have his game back in shape. Adding on to Fowler’s resume is a 14th place showing at St. Andrews in 2010, as well as a second place showing in last years Open. With everything seeming to be back in check for Fowler, I expect a solid showing.

Guys to look out for

Hideki Matsuyama: There is not an aspect of Matsuyama’s game that is bad. Aside from Jordan Spieth, Matsuyama is quietly having one of the best years on tour. In his last 10 PGA tour starts, Matsuyama has finished in the top 25 in 9 times, while also amassing four top 5 finishes in this stretch. He has also proved that he can shine on the big stage, finishing 5th in the Masters and 18th in the U.S Open this year, while adding a 6th place finish in the 2013 Open Championship. This could be the week where Matsuyama becomes a household name.

Tommy Fleetwood: Playing nearly all of his golf on the European Tour, not many people have heard of 2- year old Tommy Fleetwood yet, but, after this weekend, they will. As the 47th ranked golfer in the world, Fleetwood has steadily risen up the Official World Golf Rankings with five top 11 finishes in his last nine events, including a tie for 27th at the U.S Open. He excels with his driver and has proven that he can play with the best of them, all that’s left to do is show the rest of the world.

What to Watch For

Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth will be playing together for the first two rounds of the tournament. Johnson’s play in this pairing is definitely something to watch closely, but I ultimately believe that they will feed off of each other’s success and post low scores.

Coming off of a solid finish at the Greenbrier Classic, Tiger Woods looks to take his 3rd victory at St. Andrews. He will tee it up with 2010 Open Champion (also at St. Andrews) Louis Oosthuizen along with good friend Jason Day. Tigers comfort level should be just fine in this grouping and I expect all three guys to make the cut and contend.

Fan favorite Sergio Garcia looks to capture his first major, and with two top 15 finishes at St. Andrews, this could be his best chance.

Phil Mickelson’s past two attempts at St. Andrews have not been great, but with a solid showing last week, you never know what magic Lefty may produce.


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