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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Can Rickie Fowler end his wait? Five contenders for the 2018 British Open

Ahead of the Open Championship at Carnoustie in Scotland, Jon Turner picks five players who he expects to contend for the Claret Jug

Rickie Fowler is aiming to win his first major title at the British Open. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
Rickie Fowler is aiming to win his first major title at the British Open. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

Rickie Fowler

Could this finally be the time Fowler ends his wait for a major title? It's surely a matter of when, not if, for the talented American after coming close on so many occasions.

Fowler, 29, excels on links courses and has good pedigree at the Open, with a tied-fifth in 2011 and tied-second in 2014. He prepared for Carnoustie in impressive style, finishing tied-sixth at the Scottish Open after shooting four rounds in the 60s.

Fowler's low ball-flight and scrambling ability will be key attributes, and while his prowess off the tee does not compare with the game's sluggers, the forgiving rough at Carnoustie will ensure wayward drives are not unduly punished.

Fowler, who finished second at the Masters in April, said he is "feeling very confident" of his chances at Carnoustie, and there will be plenty of neutrals hoping he can convert that confidence into a win.

Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy has plans to be aggressive at Carnoustie this week. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
Rory McIlroy has plans to be aggressive at Carnoustie this week. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

McIlroy's past three British Open campaigns, in ascending order, read: champion, tied-fifth, tied-fourth. McIlroy is a links golf natural, and while his game is not at its spellbinding best, it's in a good enough place to contend this week.

The world No 8 spoke recently of his intentions to take more risks, and with the parched Carnoustie fairways tempting the big hitters to drive at some of the par-4 greens, McIlroy - one of the finest drivers in the game - will see this as an opportunity.

Putting has often been the Northern Irishman's Achilles heel, but the slower green speeds at Carnoustie will be punished less than on the glass tops Stateside. At the Open, creativity, shot-making and risk-taking are rewarded and there are few golfers better equipped than a dialled-in McIlroy to tame Carnoustie.

Results this season have been mixed, with one title and a tied-fifth at the US Masters, plus two runner-up finishes on the European Tour tempered by four missed cuts, including at last month's US Open.

If McIlroy, 29, is able to get his strategy just right and keep his putter at least lukewarm, he has a great chance of winning his fifth major.

Justin Rose

Justin Rose has been the most consistent golfer in the world this season. Harry How / Getty Images
Justin Rose has been the most consistent golfer in the world this season. Harry How / Getty Images

There isn't a more consistent golfer on the planet right now than world No 3 Rose: two titles have been complimented by six top-10 finishes and no missed cuts.

At a tournament like the Open and on a course such as Carnoustie, ball control is paramount, and Rose is the finest tee-to-green player in the world at present.

For a tournament that should suit his game perfectly, Rose's record at the Open is surprisingly modest, with only one top-10 following his remarkable fourth-place finish in 1998 as a 17-year-old amateur.

However, as Patrick Reed proved at the Masters, past form can count for little, and Rose is giving himself every chance to prove that to be the case. The 37-year-old Englishman has been based in the UK since finishing 10th at the US Open, preparing his game for the specifics of Carnoustie.

This could be the year - on the 20th anniversary of his Royal Birkdale heroics - when Rose adds to his solitary major title.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson is the favourite heading into the British Open. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
Dustin Johnson is the favourite heading into the British Open. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

Johnson is rightly considered the favourite and not just because he is the world No 1. The American is in fine form, having finished third at the US Open. In the two tournaments before that, Johnson finished tied-eighth and then won the St Jude Classic.

Incredibly, he is yet to finish outside the top-20 in a stoke play tournament this season.

Johnson's distance off the tee and piercing low ball flight is well-suited to the windswept conditions of the Open, particularly with the dried-out fairways that await the players at Carnoustie.

Johnson has a pretty good record at the Open, with a tied-second in 2011 and two more top-10 finishes, so he has proved he can adapt to what is required on a links course.

It is a mystery that Johnson, 34, has only one major to his name, but he has the tools and the form to change that this week.

Tommy Fleetwood

Tommy Fleetwood finished second at the US Open last month. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images
Tommy Fleetwood finished second at the US Open last month. Stuart Franklin / Getty Images

Fleetwood's final round 63 at the US Open last month was one of the most astounding rounds in golf history. It was only good enough to finish second but the signs are there that Fleetwood is a major champion in waiting.

The Englishman's brief Open record is rather poor - three missed cuts and a tied-27th - but this is the first time he will contest the tournament at Carnoustie, where he just so happens to hold the course record (63).

Fleetwood has been a star on the European Tour for the past two seasons, culminating in his Race to Dubai triumph in 2017, and while he is yet to get in the PGA Tour winners circle, he has proved he can contend on both circuits.

Like Rose, Fleetwood is a fine tee-to-green player and is a bigger driver than he is perhaps given credit for - attributes that will come in nicely at Carnoustie.

Few players ride momentum better than Fleetwood, and if he can get himself on a hot streak, he could be the man to end America's stranglehold on the majors.