So the Open Championship snuck up on me this year. It’s a week earlier due to the Olympics which seems to be the dominant headline in golf lately. Unfortunately, it’s not for who is playing but for who is not playing in Brazil… but more on that another time.
This year we head across the pond to Royal Troon hosting it’s ninth Open Championship. Like all venues in the rotation, Troon has it’s quirks and traditional challenges that the Open championship presents, the postage stamp green of the par-3 8th is a crowd favorite, and the fact that the par 71 course only has one par-5 on the back nine makes it extremely important to grab birdies when you can. Of course weather will always play a part in Open Championships and your side of the draw on Thursday/Friday could be the difference in playing on Saturday or catching an early flight to JFK and then a ride over to Balsturol for some early PGA Championship practice, which is only two short weeks away (again, thanks Olympics).
So as we head into the Open Championship who do we look to raise the Claret Jug around brunch time on Sunday morning here in the States? Of course Dustin Johnson leads the field of contenders after his US Open performance. In all honesty I like DJ’s chances if he is going to continue to putt like he did at the US Open. His driving performance at Oakmont was one for the ages and if he is going to be accurate like that at Troon he is tough to beat. DJ should be on the top of your favorites but let’s take a look at four other choices.
Louis Oosthuizen– The guy seems to be made for Open Championships. He has won at the birthplace of golf with his 2010 victory at St.Andrews and last year almost did it again at the same place with his tie for second. Over the past three tournaments Oosthuizen has two top 25 finishes (including T23 at US Open) and a third place finish. Oosthuizen knows how to win an Open Championship and his grind it out style of play is perfect for this major. Like I mentioned earlier, the draw versus the weather could be the difference and I feel Louis wins this battle consistently with that grinder kind of style. If his putter can get, hot watch out, it could be the reason Louis is once again hoisting the Claret Jug.
Shane Lowry – Going into the back nine on Sunday at the US Open we were beginning to think that Shane was going to be taking our national championship. Then some really poor putting struck, and that was compounded by some wayward drives and DJ’s hot back nine and Shane fell off the rails. Shane has made three of the last four cuts and finished in ninth place in 2014. If he can bring the momentum from his first three rounds at Oakmont to Troon I feel he has a really good shot of winning which may make the walk up 18 a bit rowdy as the Irishman gives the crown something to cheer about.
Sergio Garcia – Yeah I can’t believe I typed this name either. Those who know me know I’m not a huge fan of the Spaniard but I have to give the guy credit. He continues to put himself in the mix of late and maybe now is his chance to grab that elusive major. Sergio has nine top 10 finishes at the Open Championship, that is almost half of all his top 10 finishes at majors (20). It seems that will always come down to one or two putts for Sergio. If he can get those few to fall then his putter stays consistent and we may have him hoisting the jug, if he misses a few five footers on Thursday and Friday then it’s more than likely “try again at the PGA, Sergio”. We will see but don’t be surprised if he is the mix Saturday and Sunday.
Lee Westwood – If you are a betting person Lee is your man. At 40-1 odds he is my longest shot. Lee, like Sergio, is trying to win his first major and what better place than Troon? He is from England, which is not part of the European Union anymore but still a part of the United Kingdom (for now Scotland is) and this could be a great way for Lee to drum up some excitement in the UK. Lee had a great showing at the US Open until his 80 on Sunday. He did finish second at the Masters this year which keeps him in the conversation with the likes of Sergio of trying to get that no-major monkey off his back.
So who raises Claret Jug? I gave you four to look at it but my winner is going to be Dustin Johnson. I feel that winning the US Open will put DJ on a little streak going forward. The pressure is off of him now to win that first one and winning the hardest one first helps greatly. I just think DJ’s length off the tee and current ability to drain clutch putts will be the difference maker. Could be a great summer with back to back Open tourney wins. Set your alarm clocks for early if you want to catch this live and fingers crossed the weather doesn’t become the major story. You never know at the Open Championship.