It’s a special time of the year as the Open Championship is upon us. And there is no better place on earth to host the oldest major than at St. Andrews, the “Home of Golf”.
The world’s oldest golf course, St.Andrews will continue to test the bet golfers in the world with its deadly bunkers, hilliness, and different green slopes. It’s also a hot spot for the long hitters to overpower it.
I’m going to make a quick prediction with who will win this year’s British open. We talk about “power”.
Louis Oosthuizen, who was the last player to win the Open at St. Andrews back in 2010 (A year before fellow South African Charl Schwartzel would win the Masters), and finished runner up with Dustin Johnson at this year’s U.S. Open is considered a powerful driver, and prevailed.
Don’t be surprised to see Louis come in with a great shot at winning. He’s not always on top of the leaderboard but can be a very dangerous player.
He’s in the top 50 in driving distance and greens in regulation. A winning combination.
He’s also not bad in scrambling (recovery), ranking 72nd in the world out of the 800+ players on the PGA Tour. However, problems that could ruin his chances at a St. Andrews repeat are his putting and driving accuracy.
He’s well into the 100s in these categories. He should still be competitive as he seems to remember the course and his solid recovery skills could make up for any errant drives.
Jordan Spieth has obviously been a major topic going into the Open as he goes for the third leg of the rare “grand slam” of golf. Jordan has proven time and time again that putting is critical to winning the big tournaments.
He’s actually a better driver than you might think however, as he ranks in top 100 in driving distance. His putter and recovery ability is why he’s the no.2 player in the world though.
Jordan is in the top 10 in both putting and scrambling. Two things that will play a key role coming out of St. Andrews’ bunkers and putting on its greens.
The pressure shouldn’t be a problem for him to try to get that third straight major. It’s all about how St. Andrews plays and unpredictable Scottish weather.
There are two more golfers I’d like to bring up before making my choice and pick a couple of honorable mentions. Both play very similar styles of golf and one has a major and the other doesn’t (Yet?..).
Let’s start off with two-time Masters champion, Bubba Watson.
Bubba in my mind seems like a golfer who could win three, four or maybe even five Masters tournaments but no other major. A Jimmy Demaret like career which, for ol’ Jimbo included three Masters title and no other major and earned his way into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Bubba, for the most part, seems like he’s on that path. A guy who can play well at Augusta, but can be very quiet in the other three majors.
His best finish in one of the other three majors was a runner up finish in the infamous 2010 PGA Championship at Pete Dye’s Whistling Straits, which involved a Dustin Johnson penalty in which he grounded his club in one of Whistling’s many, camouflaged bunkers (Although there we’re signs posted everywhere saying not to ground the club in any sand). Bubba would ultimately lose in a playoff to Martin Kaymer who would eventually go on to win a Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass and a U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 (Destroying everything in his path).
But I think Bubba has a good shot to turn the tide, and put himself in good position at this year’s Open at St. Andrews. We tend to criticize Bubba for his roller coaster of motions (You listening Universal Studios? New ride for you called “Bubba’s eMotion”) but can’t argue that he’s one of the most exciting players in the game today.
What’s makes his playing style so fun to watch? His combination of power off the tee and amazing scrambling ability.
Like Jordan, Bubba is a terrific recovery player. In fact, he ranks fifth in scrambling.
Time and time again, Bubba makes our jaws drop with incredible recovery shots and will work well for him at St. Andrews. He’s not an accurate driver at all but makes up for it so well with his recovery game.
All he really needs to do is keep his emotions in check (Sound familiar?). If he tune the “Bubbameter” down to zero, then he could have a strong weekend.
The other gentleman I was talking about is the aforementioned Dustin Johnson who, as you should know by now had famously three putter at this year’s U.S. Open at Chambers Bay, to end up losing to Jordan Spieth. After yet another heartbreaking loss in a major, what is DJ thinking right now?
Does he want revenge? Or will that three putt haunt him?
The longest hitter on the planet right now, DJ has the raw talent to win a major. Many of us have been asking though; when will it happen?
He’s had his share of heartbrakes in majors but I think it’s fair to say that the loss at Chambers Bay was the toughest. He was in fire with the driver but couldn’t get it done with the putter.
To be real with you, I definitely think DJ will come into St. Andrews off the a smoking hot start. I think he’ll go crazy at this thing but do I think he’ll win? I’ll get to that shortly.
He and Bubba are almost a mirror of each other. Both hit the ball a mile, aren’t super accurate, and are both solid scramblers (Bubba’s fifth rank in scrambling still beat’s DJ’s 42nd ranking which is still very solid in his own right). Other than DJ’s number one rank in driving distance, and his solid 42nd rank in scrambling, it seems that he doesn’t have any other strength…except he’s on of the game elite scorers.
He ranks an incredible third in the world in scoring average, in huge part thanks to his microwave style of play, very similar to that of Jordan Spieth who I call the “Texas Microwave”. DJ has also been very consistent this year, compiling an impressive seven top-10 finishes and a win.
This leaves us with Rickie Fowler, or “Mr. Over Rated” as some might of called him but Rickie has had a real nice season so far winning twice. Both of these wins include a historic performance at the Players Championship, which included three deadeye shots (On Sunday in regulation play and two more in the playoffs against Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kissner) at one of the toughest and most famous holes in the world in TPC Sawgrass’ 17th.
The other win was at the Scottish Open at Gullane which is one of the legendary courses in the world. He beat the always dangerous Matt Kuchar for the title.
Rickie has proven his clutch ability this year and with his two wins this season, he is quickly starting to become one of golf’s shutdown closers. Sure, he has three career wins and not 10, but he’s had his share of top five finishes and in nearly all of those, he makes you sweat (The one time where YOU might be the worst water hazard on the course).
The thing is about Rickie is that he doesn’t have a “signature” skill per se. His best skill is power off the tee as he is 46th in driving distance and is also fairly accurate as well, ranking 89th in driving accuracy.
Other than those two things, he’s 100+ in every other major category. I think his great sense of course management and ability to be clutch has helped him a lot.
He just won the Scottish Open which was at a links course so it wouldn’t be too much of a shock if he plays well at St. Andrews. As we know, St. Andrews is probably the most unique layout in the world but it also can play fairly short which Rickie can use to his advantage if he combines power with strong course management from the fairways to the slopes of the greens.
So who do I think will win this year’s Open Championship?
It’s a very tough choice but I think I’ll go with……Rickie Fowler.
Because as mentioned, Rickie figures out ways to play well without any main strength in his game. He wins with good course management and his clutch ability when he’s in the hunt.
He’s also fresh off of a Scottish Open victory and didn’t need to travel far at all to get to St. Andrews. He’s fresh off of a links course experience as well which he’ll take to the Old Course and use to his advantage.
Now, it would be awesome to see Jordan get his third straight major to get the third leg of the grand slam but I think he’ll fall just short to Rickie. Jordan would finish runner up or at least in the top five because he’s way too good.
Louis Oosthuizen will finish in the top 15 at least, in my opinion. I’m sure it’s very easy to remember the course you last won your only major which was only five years ago.
As for Bubba and DJ, like I mentioned before, I think DJ will get off to a hot start and I think it’s anyone’s guess from there. Bubba I think will play well early and have some great highlights but will ultimately make the cut barely.
Some other players to look out for:
Jimmy Walker – He’s the best putter on the planet (numero uno in strokes gained) yet has been fairly quiet in majors. He’s a rare all-around player. Only weakness is his scrambling ability.
Matt Kuchar – who almost won the Scottish Open has a deadly combination of putting, recovery and overall kindness and charm. Don’t be surprised to see Kuch climb the leaderboard this week.
Tiger Woods – Had a solid showing at the Greenbrier but that’s not the point to be honest. He has great familiarity with St. Andrews and he’s one of the two or three greatest course managers of all-time. He’ll do well if he heats the putter up.
Adam Scott – The future hall of famer was oh so close at the Open in 2012 before losing to Ernie Els. He also had a very strong showing at this year’s U.S. Open, finishing tied for fourth, his best U.S. Open finish ever. He’s very powerful off the tee and is a greens in regulation machine.
Tom Gillis – Ahh, good ol’ Tom Gillis. You’re probably like who the f#*& is Tom Gillis? Well, unless you don’t watch golf, Tom was the man who almost won the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run before losing to Jordan Spieth in two playoffs. What helped Tom play so well all week? His deadeye accuracy off the tee and from the fairway. He’s also top 50 in both scrambling and putting. Not bad.
Jason Day – He’s one of the friendliest guys on Tour but is also one of the toughest. Obviously, his gutsy play to finish the 18th hole at Chambers Bay after suffering from vertigo stands out. But he’s by far one of the most dangerous players on the planet. An all-around monster with only a weakness of driving the ball with accuracy. Only thing blocking his monstrous status is a major but he’s so freaking close.
Tom Watson – How about a true swan song for us all Tom?
So there you have it! I chose Rickie Fowler to win the British Open at St. Andrews this year!
Who is YOUR pick(s) to raise the Claret Jug this year? Would love to hear them!
Feel free to follow me on Twitter @ChiGolfRadio! I’ll be tweeting and retweeting a lot about the British Open and the legendary St. Andrews Old Course! I’ll also retweet retweets since that’s a thing apparently!
Colin GP Mieczkowski
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