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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My "5 to Watch" at the Open

The majors come rapid fire during the summer. This week the men play the Open Championship at St. Andrews. It's always a special one when it's played at the home of golf!

The clubhouse at St. Andrews

Of course, Rory McIlroy would have been just about everybody's favorite if it weren't for that little matter of a mangled ankle. (And no, I don't have a problem with his little "kickabout." He could have done worse damage just tripping down a flight of stairs, but I don't hear anybody arguing that he should avoid all staircases going forward.)

But with so many potentially good choices this week, Rory may have done us all a favor by thinning out the herd, as it were. Here are the players I've finally settled on, after a lot of debate with myself:
  • Needless to say, Jordan Spieth makes the list. Having won the last two majors, as well as the last two events he played, Jordan should be in good form to tackle St. Andrews. And with the course a bit greener than usual, he should have the same advantages that Rory would have had. However, Jordan isn't my favorite. That honor belongs to...
  • Rickie Fowler. I know I picked him at Chambers Bay and that didn't work out, but this is the week after he won the Scottish Open. I have no doubt that his game made the 90-minute drive to St. Andrews intact. And playing with the memory of his late teacher on his mind, he has an extra reason to want to play well.
  • Returning to my favorites list after a long absence is Henrik Stenson. My worry hasn't been Henrik's game, but rather his health. It takes longer than most people realize to recover from a serious illness like he had. But his play during his last couple of events tells me that his stamina and timing are finally back, and I suspect he's psyched to have a chance at St. Andrews.
  • I can't overlook Dustin Johnson. I truly believe DJ found some inner peace during his sabbatical from golf last year, and let's face it -- ALMOST NOBODY putted well at Chambers Bay. This should be a good week for DJ.
  • My flier pick was a real challenge. Matt Kuchar played really well at the Scottish Open last week, so this could be his week. Likewise, Paul Casey is still very much on my radar and he loves St. Andrews. And given his play at the Greenbrier, Tiger Woods may surprise everybody. But my flier pick is Louis Oosthuizen, the last man to win the Open at St. Andrews. He's finally healthy and he may have been the only man to figure out the greens at Chambers Bay. He'll have good memories to draw on.
So there they are, my best guesses at who will win. But having said that, there are at least a couple dozen more players who wouldn't surprise me if they won. St. Andrews is a magical place, after all, and sometimes all a guy needs is a little inspiration...

Don't forget that ESPN is covering the Open this year. Thursday's coverage starts at 4am ET and runs till 3pm ET, at which point I suspect they'll replay a lot of it in prime time. Nobody wants to miss the Open at St. Andrews!

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