Weekend Preview: The Open ChampionshipJuly 20, 2018
We are two days into the Open Championship and it already seems like we are in for the most exciting major of 2017. Co-leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner are just one shot clear of a group of players including reigning ROTY Xander Schauffele and European Tour star Tommy Fleetwood. Furthermore, superstars Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler are well within striking distance heading into the weekend and Tiger Woods isn’t out of it yet either.
I think the biggest storyline of the week has been the course has been the course itself. Carnoustie, dubbed “car-nasty” by many has seemingly been rather tame for the first two rounds of the tournament. While the fairways and greens are incredibly firm and the closing three holes are playing as the second, third and fourth toughest holes on the course (respectively), scores have been relatively low. The lead is at six under with 28 players under par and the cut at +3, whereas by the end of the second round of the US Open, Dustin Johnson was the only player under par, and the cut was made five strokes lower, at +8.
The relative tameness of the course has largely been in part to very calm weather for the first two days. Rain softened the course today and the wind has been down as well, but expect the winds to pick up and dry out the course for the weekend. Also, while the course has been playing relatively easy, it hasn’t been easy for the best players in the world. World no’s. 1 and 2 Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas both missed the cut, with no. 3 Justin Rose making the cut on the number. World no. 5 Jon Rahm also missed the cut, as well as notables like Bubba Watson, Sergio Garcia and Daniel Berger. Going forward, expect scoring to be slightly higher as the course dries out, but low numbers will still be out there.
With that being said, who stands the best chance to bring home the Claret Jug this weekend? The course certainly fits the eye of Kevin Kisner, and the firmness of the course makes things much easier for a short hitter like Zach Johnson, but I think both players will forfeit the lead over the weekend. That being said, the person with the best chance of winning at Carnoustie would be Tommy Fleetwood. Being a European Tour player, he is more adapted to links golf, and has more experience playing when the wind picks up. On top of that, when conditions got tough at Shinnecock, Fleetwood made the biggest move and played some of his best golf on the weekend.
Another player to watch for is Matt Kuchar, fresh off of a second place finish at this event last year. He sits just two back, and has shown that he is another player that can make a move over the weekend. While Jordan Spieth ultimately won the battle of Birkdale, Kuchar played very solid golf coming down the stretch. Conditions were tough over the weekend in 2017, so if he plays like he did last year, he should have no problems with Car-nasty over the weekend.
A final player to keep an eye on over the weekend is Rickie Fowler. Long overdue for an elusive first major, Fowler is just three back headed into the weekend. He has also had success in windy links conditions, winning the 2015 Scottish Open in rainy conditions with a birdie on the 72nd hole. He also took home runner-up honors at the 2014 Open Championship, an event that Rory McIlroy ultimately won. Fowler has been in contention more and more ever since 2014, and his game is primed for a major championship victory. Should Fowler be able to keep his head and keep the putts rolling in over the weekend, don’t count him out to hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday.
Written By Paul Choma