Expert pick provided by Jarod Kieler
Follow on Twitter: @Jkieler1010
I am running out of superlatives to describe Jordan Spieth. This past week at the John Deere Classic, Spieth defeated Tom Gillis in a playoff for his fourth victory of the year. Spieth’s four victories prior to the Open Championship are the most since Tiger Woods in 2000. This week, Spieth will take aim at the third leg of the grand slam and his march towards a possible Spieth Slam. The Open Championship is being held at the home of golf, St. Andrews (Old Course) for the 29th time. One of the biggest story lines this week will be the absence of world number one, Rory McIlroy, who ruptured a tendon in his ankle playing soccer last week. While it’s disappointing that McIlroy will not be playing, past winners at St. Andrews include John Daly, Tiger Woods, and most recently Louis Oosthuizen. On the 150th anniversary of the Open Championship, Oosthuizen defeated runner-up Lee Westwood by seven shots.
Outside of the Masters, this is my favorite tournament of the year. One suggestion I have when making your picks is to wait as long as possible to decide. The weather can always be a factor in Scotland and if you know that one of the groupings (morning or afternoon) are going to get hit the hardest, I would suggest avoiding those players. The last time the Open Championship was held at St. Andrews, McIlroy tied a major record by shooting 63 in the first round. However, he followed it up with an 80 in the second round, due to horrible playing conditions in the afternoon.
On to my picks:
1) Jordan Spieth (6) – There is not much left to say about Jordan Spieth that hasn’t already been said. Spieth has claimed each of the season’s first two majors and will be looking to become the second person ever to win the first three (Ben Hogan in 1953). Spieth’s best finish at the Open Championship came last year when he shared 36th.
2) Henrik Stenson (4) – I keep riding Stenson in the majors as sooner or later, I think he has to win one. Stenson has three top-3 finishes at the Open Championship, including St. Andrews in 2010. Stenson led the U.S. Open after the first round, but the greens got the best of him and he dropped into a tie for 27th. In his most recent start, Stenson finished solo 2nd at the BMW International Open.
1) Louis Oosthuizen (5) – I am taking Sweet Lou solely based on his performance St. Andrews n 2010. Oosthuizen dominated the field, winning his first major by seven shots over Lee Westwood. After an improbable second place finish at the U.S. Open that saw him birdie six of the last seven holes, Oosthuizen missed the cut at the Travelers Championship and tied for 73rd at the Greenbrier Classic.
2) Brooks Koepka (6) – Koepka’s game has slowly been trending in the right direction after a rib injury derailed part of his season. Koepka has finished inside the top-25 in four of his past five events, including a share of 3rd at the St. Jude Classic. Although his best career finish at the Open Championship is T67, Koepka has five career wins on European soil.
1) Paul Casey (5) – In his last eight starts on the PGA Tour, Casey has four top-10 finishes. Three weeks ago at the Travelers Championship, Casey finished runner-up to Bubba Watson. Casey has two career top-10 finishes at the Open Championship, including T3 the last time it was held at St. Andrews in 2010.
2) Branden Grace (3) – Grace has vaulted up to 29th in the world golf rankings after winning three times on the European Tour since December. Grace more than held his own at the U.S. Open, tying for 4th with Adam Scott and Cameron Smith. Grace has never missed a cut at the Open Championship and he also won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, also held at St. Andrews (Old Course) in 2012.
Other Golfers Considered:
Dustin Johnson (Tier A): I initially had DJ as my number two pick this week, but I worry how he will bounce back from the final hole at the U.S. Open. It does not help that he will be playing with Jordan Spieth, who he lost out in at Chambers Bay.
Francesco Molinari (Tier B): Molinari’s game has been trending in the right direction of late. In his past seven worldwide starts, Molinari has four top-10 finishes. Most recently, Molinari shared 6th at the Alstom Open de France. Molinari has finished inside the top-15 in each of his last two trips to the Open Championship.
Tommy Fleetwood (Tier C): Fleetwood has top-30 finishes in each of his past three starts. Last week at the Scottish Open, Fleetwood shared 10th with six others. Although Fleetwood miss the cut in his only Open Championship appearance, he has had success at St. Andrews. Fleetwood tied for 5th at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in 2013 and shared 2nd last year.