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Bryce Ritchie • Editor
Sergio Garcia – 18/1
Garcia is teeing up in his 21st Open Championship this week. In exactly half of those appearances, he’s been inside the top ten. In his last three, he’s been fifth, sixth and second respectively. The Masters champ has no problem adapting to links golf and loves the test more than most. But the big plus this week is that Royal Birkdale’s greens are pretty fair, which he’ll like, while he’s still the best player in the world tee-to-green.
Thomas Pieters – 50/1
Despite having money on Andy Sullivan at 100/1, my dark horse is actually the Belgian at 50/1. This is only his second Open (last year he was 30th) and in his Masters debut this year, he was tied fourth. That’s not standard practice. He has serious pedigree. His bottle has been put to the test on the biggest stages in the Ryder Cup and at Augusta and he’s kept his head held high. If you could package the perfect golfer, in my mind, Pieters would be it. So now I’ve just talked myself into putting money on him, too.
Michael McEwan • Digital Editor
Rickie Fowler – 14/1
Young Fowler is one of those rare things: an American who understands how to play links golf. A creative shot-maker, he comes to Royal Birkdale off the back of a top ten finish at last week’s Scottish Open and with two top five finishes in seven Open appearances (including being runner-up to Rory McIlroy at Hoylake in 2014). Now that he finally appears to have struck the golf-celebrity balance, I think we’re about to see something truly special from Rickie over the next few years… potentially as early as this week. Besides, the marshalls here are all wearing orange. If that’s not portentous, I don’t know what is.
Andy Sullivan – 80/1
Not since Tony Jacklin in 1969 has an Englishman won the Open in England. Time for that to change and, for me, nobody stands a better chance of doing that than Nuneaton man Sulli. I played with him in last week’s Scottish Open pro-am and was hugely impressed. Tee to green, he was sensational. If memory serves, he missed only one fairway the whole day. Crucially, he has admitted that he feels he has turned a corner with his game after losing his way following his Ryder Cup debut last year. If he can convert even half of the birdie opportunities he’ll inevitably give himself, he’ll be right in the mix.
Martin Inglis • Online Writer
Justin Rose – 18/1
This is only the sixth time since the Masters that Rose has teed it up and the Englishman will be keen to avenge his agonising play-off loss to Sergio Garcia at Augusta. Got tuned into links golf perfectly at the Irish Open two weeks ago with a T4 finish at Portstewart while he has good vibes heading back Royal Birkdale with it being the place where he burst onto the scene as an amateur some 19 years ago. If Rose is to have any chance though, he must improve his accuracy off the tee.
Matt Kuchar – 55/1
Kuch has become one of the game’s most consistent performers in recent years and hasn’t finished any worse than T16 in his last five starts. Like Rose, got dialled into links golf but at the Scottish Open – where he finished T4. Fits the age profile of recent Open winners and would also continue the first-time major winner trend. The drawback? His Open record isn’t great – just one top ten in 2012 – and hasn’t had too much experience of contending on Sunday.
David Cunninghame • Staff Writer
Jordan Spieth – 12/1
Most bookies have Spieth as the favourite at Royal Birkdale this week and it’s hard to disagree with that. The American will be oozing with confidence as the last time he teed it up was when he won in dramatic fashion at the Travelers Championship, with that closing birdie in the play-off showing us once again what an unbelievable competitor, fighter and winner Spieth is. He’s said the Open is the ‘easiest’ major to win, and he’ll prove that this week.
Ian Poulter – 70/1
The 41-year old is unfortunately running out of time to win his first major but is a man rejuvenated in recent months after his PGA Tour card reprieve and runner-up finish at the Players. It continued at last week’s Scottish Open, where he went out in the final group on Sunday but finished in T7. His performance did show us, however, that he’s in form and let’s not forget, he finished in a tie for second place the last time the Open was held at Royal Birkdale in 2008.
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