After a year's more of a build-up than originally anticipated,
With so much to talk about, the bunkered team joined a Teams call to discuss everything we expect to see happen at Royal St George's this week.
Picks to win? First round leader? Outside bet? You’re about to get all this and much, much more.
BR - Bryce Ritchie; MM - Michael McEwan; DC - David Cunninghame; RC - Ryan Crombie; CA - Cameron Adam
Who's your pick to win?
RC - Louis Oosthuizen will get the job done. He’s having a mightily impressive season results-wise and his performance at the majors, two T2 finishes, will give him added confidence going into the final one.
BR - Jordan Spieth. I may well have been influenced by having just watched his Chronicles of a Champion Golfer episode on Sky Sports, but I have a feeling he’s the man this week. He’ll make mistakes, but he’ll handle that better than most and will last the fight.
DC - I swear it’s getting harder and harder to pick major winners these days. You could easily make a good case for about 20 players, perhaps even more than that. Gun to my head, I’m going with Jordan Spieth. I’d love to see him lift the Claret Jug again.
CA - Justin Thomas. He enjoys the links style golf and worked his way into form at the Scottish Open. He’s the kind of player who will embrace the weather and quirky bounces synonymous with links golf. If the putter is on, he’s the man to beat.
MM - The romantic in me believes this could be Lee Westwood’s time. Who better than the reigning European No.1 to end England’s 29-year wait for an Open champion and, in the process, bag his way overdue first major? And on home soil no less. His old pal Darren Clarke bagged his maiden major at the same course a decade ago at the age of 42. It feels almost written in the stars for 45-year-old Westwood to do likewise this year. You could say it’s coming home…
Who’s your outsider?
BR - Abraham Ancer is a good shout at 60/1.
CA - Christiaan Bezuidenhout at 66/1 is superb value.
RC - Garrick Higgo. This guy has a knack of winning. Seven professional wins at just 22 years old tells you that. While he hasn’t been anywhere near contending at the two majors he has played, he has the ability to challenge. Worth a punt.
DC - Bob Mac is 66/1 at the bookies. Stick a tenner on that right now.
MM - Christiaan Bezuidenhout. He has such a cool demeanour, is almost pathologically patient and three wins in two years on the European Tour shows that he’s not afraid to contend.
Who’s your first round leader?
MM - Danny Willett. The former Masters champion has been playing some excellent golf this past year without necessarily getting the results he deserves. He has history with RSG, too, having won the English Amateur there in 2012. Also, keep an eye out for reigning Amateur champion Joe Long. The Bristolian is currently 12th on the World Amateur Golf Ranking and will fancy his chances of emulating fellow Englishman Tom Lewis, who, as an am, co-led after day one at Royal St George’s in 2011.
CA - Jon Rahm will be up there again, I just don’t think he has the steam to pick up two majors in one season.
DC - Louis Oosthuizen. He’s coming off the back of two runner-up finishes at the PGA and US Open, and I fully expect him to come out of the blocks strongly.
RC - Paul Casey. He’s playing back on home turf in England and performances overall this season have been impressive. Casey has only ever been cut from the Open Championship twice in his career, a stat which will be staying the same this year.
BR - Honest answer is I have absolutely no idea!
What do you think the winning score will be?
RC - 11-under.
BR - Sandwich is not especially ‘easy playing’, but it’s not been utterly bone dry either so I’m expecting a surprisingly low-scoring Open, with Jordan Spieth finishing on 8 or 9-under.
MM - Without knowing what Mother Nature intends to do, it’s almost impossible to predict. If it’s wet and windy, I’ll be amazed if anybody goes lower than six-under. Flat calm and dry, I can see it being ten or 11-under. Worth bearing in mind, though, that Greg Norman (13-under in 1993) is the only player to go deeper than five-under in an Open at St George’s…
DC - As ever with the Open, it all depends on the forecast. If the wind doesn’t blow then I expect some low scoring at St Georges and around 12-under to be the winning tally.
CA - Darren Clarke won at Royal St Georges in 2011 with a score of 5-under. I reckon it will be a couple better if the weather behaves, so 7-under.
What’s your favourite Open memory?
CA - Henrik Stenson’s 63 at Troon in 2016. I still reckon it's the greatest round of golf ever played.
DC - Attending the 2009 Open at Turnberry. Watching Tom Watson play on that final day was such a joy. The excitement and anticipation of what he was about to achieve was palpable from the entire crowd. It was a special atmosphere. Unfortunately, we all know how the story ends, but I prefer to just think back to everything before that second shot into 18.
RC - Irishman Shane Lowry winning it in Ireland, surrounded by a throng of Irish fans was pretty hard to beat. It might just be the last Open, but it was one of the best stories.
BR - Standing on the left side of the fairway at 18 at Troon in ‘89 and getting upset watching Greg Norman stick it in the fairway bunker. Typical.
MM - The sight of Paul Lawrie’s ball flying off the face of his 4-iron and rolling up to within a few feet of the flag on the final hole of the play-off at Carnoustie in 1999. If that had been hit by Tiger Woods, people would wax lyrical over it on a daily basis. A phenomenal shot that gives me goosebumps every time I see it.
What would be the first thing you’d drink out of the Claret Jug?
RC - A Jug of draught Tennents. A Scottish trophy deserves a Scottish drink.
MM - Well, it’s called the Claret Jug for a reason, right? So, it would have to be a bottle of Château Lafite 1787, one of the most expensive red wines money can buy. With over $2million in prize money in my back pocket, I’d be able to afford it, too.
BR - Ice cold Super Bock. Of course.
CA - Singleton 12-year single malt.
DC - The Claret Jug is one of the most iconic and exquisite trophies in the world of sport. It deserves nothing but the best. Tennents it is, then!
Your favourite course on the Open rota?
BR - I’d play Carnoustie before every other venue and it’s not even the prettiest.
MM - Nothing beat St Andrews. Nothing. It’s perhaps not the ‘best’ or ‘most challenging’ course on the rota but a St Andrews Open is unlike any other Open.
DC - Tricky one this. I have played St Andrews, Troon, Portrush and Turnberry, so I’ll go by own personal experiences. All four were a joy to play, and for different reasons. The Old Course for that feeling you get of the history and aura of the place. Portrush boasts some truly breathtaking holes and is a stern test of your game. Turnberry was special before the recent changes, but now it’s just mega. Those few holes at the lighthouse are as spectacular as you’ll find in the world of golf. My favourite, however, is Troon. It’s the one I’ve played the most and it never fails to disappoint. From 1 to 18 there isn’t a weak hole on the course in my book, and it offers such great variety. It’s awesome.
CA - Royal Portrush. I’ve never played it but it looked phenomenal on TV.
RC - Carnoustie, below. There’s just an air of magic around the place.
And your least favourite?
RC - Royal Lytham & St Annes. Hardly any scenery to speak of. Just doesn’t have the same major championship feeling as many of the other courses currently on the rota.
CA - Royal St George's.
MM - Sorry, St George’s. You just don’t do it for me. No real views to speak of, no real stand-out holes, a fairly unremarkable list of past champions and it’s in the arse-end of nowhere.
DC - St George's, unfortunately. It just hasn’t grabbed me when watching on TV in the past. I could make a good stab at describing every hole on every course on the rota, even the ones I haven’t played. I can’t say the same for St Georges. Hopefully this week we have a great Open and my feelings on the matter will change.
BR - I’m not a huge fan of Royal Lytham. Sorry.