Ben Coley provides an exhaustive guide to the entire field for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
AN, Byeong Hun
Continues to hang around the world's top 50 without being at all capable on the greens. If and when he figures it out, watch him go, and it's just possible that he'll find comfort back in Europe having made his elite-level breakthrough at Wentworth. Caught the eye a little bit at Hoylake in 2014 when still plying his trade on the Challenge Tour and undoubtedly has the long-game control to play well.
Failed to make an impact on his Open debut last July, but ended the year winning the Australian Open to earn a second go. Has since gone on to finish 16th in the PGA Championship and looks to be getting there in terms of achieving a PGA Tour breakthrough. That win at The Lakes suggests summertime links conditions will suit and he's entitled to step up on Carnoustie and make it through to the weekend having played quite well at Lahinch in the Irish Open.
Wins in Scotland and Perth (Australia) suggest this wristy Thai should be a factor in the oldest major of them all, but so far that hasn't been the case. He's got a top 25 in each of the other three, but 75th place at Carnoustie was the first time he's made an Open cut in five attempts. In-and-out this year and hard to fancy after largely poor golf in Scotland last week.
Proper golfer, this kid, and while he's been as inconsistent as most European Tour rookies are there are signs that he might do what he did on the Challenge Tour and win late in the campaign. That he managed to finish second at Valderrama having played the weekend alongside Sergio Garcia speaks volumes of his quality and confidence, while a subsequent 15th in the Irish Open provides some tangible links form. Suddenly the top Spaniard oligopoly is threatened somewhat.
Made his first win a big one in the Asia-Pacific Diamond Cup but that's one of just two top-five finishes on the Japan Tour over the course of a decade or so.
One of a handful of Southport players in the field and has always been comfortable by the coast. Says his dream four-ball is in fact a five-ball with Alec, Daniel, William and Stephen. Sessions.
Youngster from Mexico who won the Open de Argentina on the same day Ancer triumphed in Australia, a performance which also earned him an Open spot. Benitez was just 19 at the time, the youngest winner in PGA Latinoamerica Tour history, so it was some effort to win in such dominant fashion. He's since struggled a little and comes with a health warning after a first-round defeat at the Bupa Match Play. Make sure your bookmaker includes him in top lefty betting, though, where even a pair of 77s could keep him competitive.
Italian-Swiss who once featured in a Guardian article about the realities of being a touring professional who isn't winning everything. Kept his head above water over the last few years without looking quite ready to win, though it was something close to a career-best in Scotland which saw him qualify for this. Could go close again later in the year but next to no chance here.
One of the most remarkable tales in golf which I can't do justice to here. In brief, he swallowed rat poison and nearly died aged two. That resulted in a stutter which in turn brought about anxiety and has impacted his life since. Despite all this he was a fine amateur golfer, only to then be banned for nine months for use of beta blockers in 2014 - which he was taking to battle anxiety. That suspension, by the way, came in the Amateur Championship here at Portrush, for those who believe in (dark) fairytales. Since then he's climbed the ladder as a professional, culminating in a breakthrough win at Valderrama and arrives here for his major debut as the sort of accurate, in-form player with a good short-game who could of course go well.
Big-hitting Danish youngster who has flourished over the last two years, winning the Portugal Masters in 2017 and the Dunhill Links last October. The latter tells us he can be a force under low-scoring links conditions, but how will he cope with a real grind? That's hard to say - his one Open appearance was a missed cut way back in 2011 - but whatever the case, there are questions around his current form after a run of missed cuts.
He's gone oh so quiet since winning in China and nearly winning at Walton Heath last year, but remains a violently happy sort who possibly maybe has more to give. Wife is named Isabel, son is named Hunter, but when he's on the course it's all 'Army of Me'. By now it should be clear that I'm listing Bjork songs rather than highlighting a solid game which showed signs of life in Scotland. Move along.
Working on a conspiracy theory in which he killed Neil in Dead Poet's, because he does have the look of a twitchy, in-the-shadows Welton Academy extra who can be full of the joys of spring on Thursday and plummeting down a leaderboard on Friday. Surprisingly solid Open record doesn't remove the fact that he hits it too high and misses too many short putts to be on the shortlist for something as pure as Portrush.
CABRERA BELLO, Rafa
Went missing on the back-nine of the Irish Open having at one stage led by three, as his altogether more ruthless compatriot Jon Rahm went ahead and won. That's Cabrera Bello's career in microcosm, with his standout win in the Scottish Open handed to him on a plate, yet there's no denying his talent. Made six Open cuts in seven attempts, was runner-up here in the 2012 Irish Open, has improved immeasurably on and around the greens, and is expected to play well.
Another solid Spanish contender who hasn't won as often as he perhaps should have. In fairness to Campillo, he took his opportunity in the Trophee Hassan II very nicely and there's a chance that breakthrough opens the floodgates - although I doubt it somewhat. After a couple of unsurprising missed cuts soon after that Morocco win, he was back on-song with 15th in Spain and seventh in the Irish Open (MC in Scotland), while he's got competitive experience of Portrush having been 44th in 2012. Yet to make a major cut but has only had three tries.
The most solid all-rounder in world golf and, at 27, still with his best days ahead. Victory at the Memorial Tournament in June came courtesy of the coolest final-round 64 you'll see under the gun and the fact that 21st place in the US Open afterwards can be called disappointing tells you what's now expected of him. Made his long-awaited Open debut last year and finished 12th, has improved since, and only needs a decent week with the putter to be a massive contender. Not sure everyone gets how good he is yet, but they soon will.
Reliable operator at a very high level, almost two decades on from his European Tour breakthrough. Warmed up for this with fifth place in the Travelers, where he almost always contends, and has played well in both majors since a surprise Masters disaster. Whenever he's made the cut this year he's finished in or around the places but the concern here is a modest Open record, with a best of third at St Andrews in 2010, and I'd have liked him to tune up in Ireland or Scotland. Weak in a finish, despite eating spinach.
Thirteen top-15 finishes in 15 starts this year shows that this Thai is nothing if not consistent, and he's climbed 300 places in the world as a result. Has come close to qualifying for this a couple of times and will make his long-awaited Open debut at Portrush.
Two-tone-headed 2009 champion, whose popularity meant he was able to get out of Turnberry alive after beating Tom Watson in a play-off. Without a win since though did enjoy a renaissance in 2018, hitting the frame at a massive price in the PGA Championship. Poor in 2019, though, with injury niggles and a loss of form leaving him without a top-20 since he finished exactly 20th in the second week of January.
Winner of the 2011 Open Championship in Kent and will no doubt be desperate to perform here on home soil. Not much to shout about this year, however, although has managed a couple of Champions Tour top-fives. More likely to be found with a pint than a tee peg in hand come Sunday and looks too short in the top senior market.
Surprise contender at Birkdale in 2017, when it emerged that this former US Amateur finalist is good friends with Jordan Spieth. Who isn't, at this point? He'd come through Final Qualifying to make it there and has repeated the trick a couple of years on, so in theory is a viable outsider having also shown some good coastal form in the Netherlands and Sicily. Trouble is, he's without a top 10 in almost two years and has been extremely disappointing in 2019.
Became the first Monday qualifier to win on the PGA Tour since 2010 when capturing the Texas Open on the eve of the Masters, before acquitting himself well at Augusta. Shade disappointing since but second-round 64 at the 3M Open showed what he can do when the putter clicks - he led the field in greens hit there and is an outstanding ball-striker. Level-headed sort who can cope with this test but could've done with a links prep somewhere.
Cancer survivor who has transformed what looked to be a failing career in the years since his treatment. It all dates back to borrowing $200 for a lesson from his girlfriend, who is now his wife, and from there he's slowly climbed the ranks. This year he's almost completed the journey to the top, finishing second at Quail Hollow, and while doing so he's become a folk hero type owing to a bucket hat, his willingness to call out cheating and the social networking skills of his caddie, Geno Bonnalie, or 'Ginelli' to his mates. Ask your dad.
Former world number one who started the season with a bang which has faded into a whimper since fifth place in the Masters. He's still produced good, solid golf, but a best of eighth place since then isn't enough for a player of his standing. However, hope springs eternal and with Steve Williams on the bag there could be a big summer ahead, particularly with his approach play - a noted weakness - having shown definite signs of improvement. Should he putt as he can then watch him go, and while his Open record doesn't scream winner he came close at St Andrews and has made all eight cuts so far. Interesting enough at his current price.
Four wins in eight starts from August to January marked him down as a major winner in waiting, but a mid-season slump put an end to that talk for a while. He's played so-so golf at a couple of them regardless, but it's his form over the last few weeks which makes him a player again here. Eighth place at the Travelers was followed by a runner-up finish in the 3M Open, where his closing eagle might've stolen it had he not been up against The Wolff. Yet to crack the top 10 in a major and hasn't played well in the Open, but it's coming. Maybe next year, though.
The sort of part-time ex-champion who will be getting text messages from the alternates asking him if he's quite sure he really wants to play when there's a nice, warm commentary booth waiting for him.
Form figures of MC-MC-MC-MC-WD-MC-MC prior to withdrawing before the start of the Scottish Open with back problems. Will be keen to play but not to the extent he'd do so without feeling fit enough and looks a strong candidate to step aside unless he finds a miracle cure on a massage table. It has been known.
A regular major contender since making his debut in the 2015 US Open, with five top-10 finishes from just 14 attempts. You'd think his record in this one might not be so good but it's actually second only to the Masters, with 18th in 2016 followed by 27th in 2017 and ninth in 2018. Played poorly throughout June but four rounds in the sixties when hitting it well at the 3M Open hints at a return to form in the nick of time.
Just two missed cuts this year, both in events he'd expect to play well in, and has largely been in excellent nick. That includes when runner-up in Germany at the end of June, albeit he ought to have won, and when playing well throughout the US Open where he finished 12th. Yet to better 44th place as an amateur in the Open, which is a worry given that he's fared better in all three of the others, but with Billy Foster's assistance looks up to changing that. Particularly dangerous if this is a test of accuracy and quality approach play.
Perhaps the most reliable player in golf, having last missed a cut in July 2018 when defending his Open de France title. The trouble is he's not looked like winning all that often since he last managed to some 18 months ago and his reward for being so relentlessly consistent and making so few errors has been a string of post-round interviews in which he looks increasingly miffed at having to reflect on what might have been had a couple of putts dropped. The good news is he's perfect for this challenge, being so strong off the tee and without big misses in the bag. The last two Opens have carried certain pressures - a home game and then Carnoustie, where he owns the course record - and he could just slip under the radar a little more here having fared well in both. Massive chance to be bang in the mix.
Step back from the nearly-man tag for a second and you'll see a record of outstanding consistency in majors, with 10 top-10 finishes, six further top-20s and a run of 13 cuts made dating back to the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. Only at Muirfield has he failed to make the weekend in an Open and he's had chances to win it. Big concern away from his ability to close the door has to be an up-and-down run of form since defying tough weather to win in Phoenix. Better second round in Scotland, though, and hard to discount fully despite tinkering with his grip.
Big-hitter who loves links golf and has finished first and fourth in two starts in Northern Ireland. That will put him on the radar of many and understandably so, but he's on a run of seven missed cuts since getting married. No comment.
Another pal of Birkdale champion Jordan Spieth and qualified with a tearaway win in the John Deere, the same event Spieth broke through in. Don't let the rubbish sunglasses and shooting sleeves let you believe he can't play but two missed cuts out of two in the Open thus far means improvement will be required to compete.
Two-time Japan Tour winner, but the last of those was in 2013. A year earlier he'd made his one and only Open start, making the cut, and that will again be the aim having qualified with a runner-up finish in Singapore.
Back in the world's top 50 after a run of strong performances since a Ryder Cup thumping as captain. Runner-up finish at Sawgrass saw him force McIlroy to pull out all the stops and at 49, Furyk is playing some of his best golf in years. Given that he boasts a fine Open record and was 28th at a soft Pebble Beach last month, he should be on the radar in sub-markets or even to land a place.
Ended a run of seven major missed cuts in a row with a tie for 52nd at Pebble Beach but still alarmingly poor at the biggest events. From 2001 to 2017 he didn't go a single year without a top-15 finish - only in 2012 did he fail to manage a top-10 - but on very recent evidence he's hard to fancy. That said if Garcia is to turn it around then it will surely be in the Open, where he has 10 top-10 finishes (13 in the rest combined) and has long been capable of underlining his links prowess. Needs everything to drop right after a so-so Valderrama effort by his standards but it was at least encouraging to see him hit the ball so well there.
Ten years on from his US Open heroics at Bethpage, Glover remains best known for his tee-to-green capabilities and when he's on, it's true that there aren't many better. This season, however, he's at a lofty 45th in the PGA Tour's putting charts and at some stage you'd think this will make for a serious chance to win. Here in the Open he's largely been out with the washing, but he does have a couple of fast starts to his name and led at halfway in 2011. Might go quite well.
Wins at Fancourt Links, St Andrews (in the Dunhill Links), Doha and Harbour Town underline one of the world's best links profiles when on-song. It's been a lean 18 months since victory in the Nedbank Challenge, however, and his major form has suffered: five top-six finishes in two years have been followed by a best of 24th in his subsequent eight appearances. This year he's gone T58-MC-MC and hopes are pinned on a return to the coast working the oracle (though it didn't at Pebble Beach). Better in Scotland but still appears some way below his best which explains his price.
Won his first PGA Tour event as a cardholder but nothing since, despite being an elite ball-striker who makes the game look easy at times. Chief reason he's known as frustrating is what he does on and around the greens and that's an issue at a seaside layout where targets are small, and he was some way down the field here in 2012. Definitely up to making the grade in majors, though, so give him time.
In-form steady-eddy who improved on a modest Open debut with four good rounds at Carnoustie. Top-30 at Bethpage was pound-for-pound an excellent effort given his lack of punch from the tee and he's bagged a couple of contending top-10 finishes since, including when qualifying for this in Canada. Easy to see him making the weekend to enhance his Presidents Cup claims.
Stormed through to win the Qatar Open in March, an event which has unearthed more than its share of Open champions or at least contenders. Clearly comfortable in the wind and backed up that success with 12th in the Masters and 10th on an exposed course in the Byron Nelson. Not so good in three starts since but two were in stateside majors and he may well get back on track with his accuracy off the tee and sharp short-game both likely assets.
Dual Open champion whose ability to come to life on a links remains intact, as we saw with bright starts in both Ireland and Scotland. Seeing it through is another matter but he was seventh here in 2012, and his best effort in 2019 came at the exposed Trinity Forest in the Byron Nelson. Link-up with coach George Gankas would scream mid-life crisis but for this being Padraig Harrington, who will try anything in pursuit of excellence. Wonderful sportsman.
Two-time Dunhill links winner who can clearly play this game. Not so sure about tougher conditions, though, and it's been a disappointing year given how well he held his own at the Ryder Cup. Needs to find comfort on the greens again and when he does will prove competitive, but for now the case is based almost exclusively around a couple of low-scoring weeks alongside that man from 50 Shades. Unlike Mr Dornan, Hatton is hard to fancy.
Brive-born 32-year-old who has six Challenge Tour wins but is still awaiting a European Tour breakthrough. Has never been closer than on Sunday, when he somehow missed a tiddler for the title in Scotland before three-putting the following play-off hole to hand the title to Bernd Wiesberger. Will be hard to recover from that quickly on his first pro start in this (MC as an amateur in 2008) and seems harsh that they made him pose below.
Earned a reputation as a fast-starting, reliable major option largely thanks to his remarkable consistency at Augusta. Has got better at this and seeks third top-20 finish in succession in the Open, where he was sixth after round one in 2017 and 13th through 54 holes last year. Out of sorts though and long odds-on the run of relative success in this event comes to an end.
Tenth Open appearance for the slow-as-a-boat Kentuckian, who may find himself on the end of a zinger or two come Friday evening. Whether he's around for Saturday is open to doubt, as despite two good Open efforts - notably third at Troon - he's never really looked a links golfer. Showed some form at last in Michigan but largely poor since Genesis Open win in February.
All-the-way winner of the Japan Tour Championship in June to effectively seal his Open debut. Did well enough in the US Open last month when missing the cut by two and could scrape through to the weekend.
Personal favourite of mine, as is his lookalike Christian Bale. Very much the type of character to embrace playing in Northern Ireland and impressed at Royal County Down in the 2007 Walker Cup, sharing the spoils after two tense battles with Rory McIlroy and pairing with Rickie Fowler for two foursomes wins. Not so good in the Open and undeniably better suited to point-and-shoot golf, but does arrive here having played well for months.
HOWELL III, Charles
Comfortable hitting every shot you need to tackle an Open Championship but despite that, his record is a miserable one. In fact in 48 majors regardless of the location his best finish is a share of 10th way back in 2003. One year later he made the cut in all four majors for a second time and having done so without contending in the first three of 2019, he'll look to achieve the same feat for the one and only time since. Swell.
In tune with his game right now having been second in the Korea Open and played well in the KPGA Championship a week later. In fact, he's generally held his form throughout 2019, though I can find no evidence whatsoever that he's played golf outside of Asia despite the fact he's now 44.
Won the Japan Open to qualify for Carnoustie and repeated the feat with victory in the Mizuno Open to earn a place at Portrush. This will be his eighth crack at the Open and he's yet to better 38th place at Royal St George's.
Hard-working winner of the Web.com Tour Money List in 2018. Made a big impression as a PGA Tour rookie, too, starting with fourth place in the very first event of the season. Five more top-10 finishes confirm that he's likely to be winning soon and he's held his form well since finishing seventh in Canada. Yet to get competitive at the very highest level but has no weaknesses and it's a matter of time.
Written about him quite a lot this year when you consider that I'm yet to see him hit a shot. Five top-10 finishes in his last seven starts but the exceptions were the majors and he's yet to demonstrate a genuine level of comfort outside of Asia. May yet get there, however, and is well inside the world's top 100.
Earned his Open debut with his Japan Tour breakthrough, which came courtesy of a two-shot win in the prestigious Japan Open Golf Championship. At 24, he's got potential and following a rough patch he's back on track now, with a run of solid performances which culminated in sixth place in the Hana Bank Invitational.
The latest to benefit under the tutelage of Pete Cowen, this Thai prodigy is now fulfilling his long-held potential. Already this year, he's won the Singapore Open and the Korea Open, both quality events, and all told it's five wins in his last 75 starts. All have been in Asia, but 14th place in the US PGA, where he was (a distant) second through 54 holes, suggests it's a matter of time before he becomes globally recognised. As well as Cowen's influence, puts his improvement down to some Temple time in 2016 and more recently has heeded the advice of Aphibarnrat, who told him: "Eat a lot, play a lot of money games, and don’t take golf too seriously." Amen.
Qualified with fourth place in Korea and says his experience of playing Hoylake in 2014 will help. It'd better as he shot 78-79 there and this accurate type is up against it.
JIMENEZ, Miguel Angel
Same age as Brad Pitt and every bit as gorgeous. Finished an excellent 18th on his last Open start in 2016 but has been at his most dangerous on day one, leading in 2009, sitting second in 2006, and fourth as recently as 2013. Indeed he was the halfway leader at Muirfield on his way to 13th and after a back-to-form sixth in the Senior US Open, he looks good for top senior, if not perhaps top señor.
World number one who, outside of majors, is the most prolific and reliable operator in the sport - and it isn't all that close. Johnson now has 21 titles over 12 years and this is the fourth year in succession in which he's bagged more than two, something he had wrapped up by the end of February. Second in the Masters and the PGA Championship, latterly threatening to cut down Brooks Koepka, and only blemish is a recent missed cut in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. No tournament links prep but spent the weekend at Portrush where he played with local boy Graeme McDowell as he looks for that elusive second major. No reason it can't come in the Open with top-10 finishes in 2011, 2012 and 2016.
Fell out of the top 100 for the first time in 15 years at the start of the month, which highlights a steady decline in his scoring capabilities over the last season or two. You don't win two majors without fight, though, and he says he's motivated by both his own results and seeing youngsters like Matthew Wolff coming through. Some good signs lately and as well as winning this, he's actually bagged seven top-20 finishes in his last eight appearances which is sensational by anyone's measure. Charming twitter profile picture, nauseating twitter background picture.
Popular late entrant after a stunning final round in Scotland was just enough to earn his Open return. Went 8-27 in the event across 2016 and 2017 and while he's not been in that sort of form lately, there have been underlying factors off the course. Looks to be back on track with a baby on the way and it's lovely to see, as everyone who has come across him will tell you he's the same guy you see on TV. Winning the battle.
KANAYA, Takumi (a)
Highly regarded youngster from Japan who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur last year. That earned him a start here but also in the Masters, where a third-round 68 helped him finish an excellent 58th after he'd started the tournament birdie-birdie and then made a clutch putt to make the weekend. Already has a runner-up finish on the Japan Tour to his name and no doubt the future is bright.
Shock Byron Nelson winner who rode the wave to finish an excellent seventh in the following week's PGA Championship. Poor since but plays well in the wind and has been inside the top 20 at halfway in both previous Open starts.
Big-hitter who was excellent on his Open debut at Birkdale, sticking around all week to finish 11th. Couple of injury issues since but top-three finishes in three of his last four starts in Asia now back in good health. One highly-regarded and last win came in six-under so he knows how to grind. Sleeper.
KIM, Si Woo
Completely out of sorts since three top-fives in early spring, missing nine cuts in 10 since the Masters. Doesn't look like injury is to blame - he's had his share but hasn't been withdrawing - and certainly he isn't the ball-striker who dotted up in the 2017 PLAYERS Championship. That did come on the back of a poor run of form but the malaise is much more serious this time.
Surprised a few when contending at Carnoustie, largely because he had been in poor form at the time. Yet he's shown for a while now that he's got a big-time game for all that it's an old-fashioned one - first by contending for the 2017 US PGA, then with second behind Francesco Molinari, and again when 12th at Bellerive. Very good by the coast, typically, has won a World Golf Championship this year and wisely warmed up in the Scottish Open albeit without much success. Needs the putter hot.
Two-time winner as a European Tour rookie, including in remarkable fashion by the coast in Oman. Did well to make the weekend in the PGA Championship after a slow start but probably not up to this yet.
Southern slugger who has always been well thought of and showed why when winning twice in four starts from November 2017 to January 2018. One top-10 finish in 43 subsequent starts, though, and is totally reliant on the putter. He'll find all sorts of trouble here and is one to oppose with confidence in three-balls.
KNIPES, Curtis (a)
Focused youngster who had already turned heads both on the amateur circuit and the MENA Tour before coming through the strongest final qualifying section. Shared medalist honours with Callum Shinkwin there and has as much potential, while he's also got some positive course experience having made the last 16 of the Boys Amateur at Portrush last year. Interesting top amateur option away from the favourite but may be playing for second.
Rock-solid pro who won the Irish Open last summer to demonstrate that his game works nicely by the sea - not that we needed such proof. Failed to qualify for the US Open this year but only just missed the cut at the PGA on a course far too long for him in truth. Better since granted more suitable conditions but 10 missed cuts in 16 majors paint a sorry picture and he's been particularly disappointing in this one.
If Dustin Johnson is the undisputed king of regular events, then good friend Koepka is the majors equivalent. Since missing the cut at Lytham in 2013, he's played in 21 of them, making all 21 cuts, winning four and bagging seven further top-10 finishes, while his form over the last year's worth is 1-2-1-2. When does it end? Well, soon would be the answer - this is a historic sequence already - although couldn't be sure it'll be at Portrush given that his caddie is a course member and that he already arrives on that first tee feeling close to invincible. That said, finishes of 57th and 65th since the US Open are a slight worry. For all that they'll tell you he only cares about majors, his form immediately prior to all four wins has been better than what he's shown of late. Otherwise, finding flaws is very difficult and victory would surprise nobody.
Went almost a year without missing a cut before shocking display on the greens ended that sequence last month. Bounced back to a degree with 29th in Michigan but this seems a particularly unlikely place to make his top-level breakthrough.
Soft-spoken Finn who flies the flag following the retirement of namesake Ilonen. Won the China Open to make it two titles in less than a year having gone more than a decade of professional golf without one before that. Turns 39 just after his Open debut and is the sort of solid tee-to-green operator who could plot his way to 50th without bothering anyone.
Unlucky 2017 runner-up who is playing some of the best golf of his career right now with two wins this season, albeit losing friends along the way. Reckons a chat with his grandma has set him right and in fairness hasn't appeared to be at all affected by his rise to the internet's latest bad guy. Sits third in greens, fifth in scoring, second in bogey avoidance and well above average in just about every category bar power on the PGA Tour but it's those wins which make him a real candidate to become the latest 40-something to win this. Cracked links golf over the last decade and Scottish warm-up furthers the case.
Winner of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie and is now getting comfortable as a professional. Second crack at the European Tour has been much more rewarding than the first and this Frenchman is a mega talent who is ready to burst through soon. Made the cut as an amateur in 2015, as he did in the Masters the following spring, and every chance to do the same in his first major start as a professional after career-best form in Scotland last week.
Has gone through hell to make it on the PGA Tour, with his parents and girlfriend having been killed in a plane crash on their way home from watching him in an amateur tournament. It's been some grind and the hard work paid off when he followed a promising US Open 28th with victory in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Scoring was low there and he'll likely find life tough as he adjusts to his enhanced status.
Celebrates the 20-year anniversary of his Carnoustie triumph with his 26th Open appearance. That remarkable play-off win in 1999 remains one of just two top-20 finishes in this championship, though 26th at Muirfield in 2013 was some effort after an opening 81. Keep an eye on him with the Senior Open in mind - he has some good rounds to his name at Royal Lytham & St Anne's.
A decade older than Lawrie but performing better lately, including when making the weekend on the PGA Tour at a course he'd helped redesign. Won this at Lytham so another who is worth watching with a view to the Senior Open.
Won the CIMB Classic in his first event of the current PGA Tour season, and backed it up with three top-fives in his next five starts to suggest a big year was in store. Hasn't worked out that way but did finish fifth in the Memorial, play well in the US Open and offer more flashes at the Travelers, to the extent that he's now on the radar. Three top-six finishes in his last five Open starts and should've won it in 2015.
Played a dozen events this year and has one top-five and nothing else of any note. It's been an alarming fall down the rankings with a place in the world's top 200 now under threat and his Open record is abysmal. Looks likely to shoot some big numbers despite being a quality operator at his best.
Came to prominence in this tournament eight years ago, sharing the lead after round one and holding his own to beat Peter Uihlein to the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur. Won soon after before going AWOL, and his resurgence in 2018 was one of the interesting sub-plots of the season. Not so good lately despite hitting a lot of greens which suggests his short-game confidence remains fragile. Ninth on last visit to Northern Ireland.
Popular youngster who flew home for third at Birkdale two years ago and went on to take down Rory McIlroy in the 2018 Dubai Desert Classic. Has been a permanent member of the world's top 60 since then and very nearly landed another big scalp in Turkey late last year when letting Justin Rose off the hook. Consistent this year including when 15th at the Irish Open and dynamite short-game combined with good coastal form points towards a solid display. Leads the European Tour in birdie average and was fifth last year.
Las Vegas man who was definitely inspired by his travelling companion, Kurt Kitayama, when winning in South Africa late last year. Has produced some of the best golf of his career since, notably 10th in the WGC-Mexico, but he'll do well to better a share of 58th at the more forgiving St Andrews on his Open debut having missed the cut at Birkdale.
Smash artist who struggles badly on the greens which is essentially why he's still winless on the PGA Tour - although he was very unfortunate in last year's Honda Classic. Sixth in the US PGA actually came courtesy of an atypically hot putter but four missed cuts since and it's been a quiet year.
Silver Medal winner at Carnoustie having come through qualifying at the Renaissance, which hosted last week's Scottish Open. Turned pro after that and has struggled at a low level, although did shoot an opening 62 on the EuroPro Tour lately. Earns respect having qualified for the second year running and can clearly play links golf, but will need to get by on that instinct to survive.
Frustrating sort capable of some big numbers, but has been at his most consistent under links-like conditions so far. That dates back to losing the final of the Amateur Championship here at Portrush, and he was first at halfway in the Irish Open at Lahinch. Has to be seriously considered for the first-round lead given his profile.
LORENZO VERA, Mike
Dynamite putter who came closest to breaking his European Tour duck when a play-off loser by the coast in Sicily last year and has since been runner-up in Spain and Qatar. The wait goes on, but he's arguably never been better having also been 16th in the PGA Championship and made every weekend since the end of January. Clearly unlikely to get it done on this stage but is an excellent links exponent.
Right back to his best this year having started it with victory in Abu Dhabi and contended a couple of times since in the USA. Clearly at home under links conditions for all that he struggled here in 2012, and his magic hands should be a big asset with everyone expected to miss their share of greens. Only a poor first-round cost him a shot at the US Open and providing he can avoid such a fate here, no reason he can't be among the key contenders from the UK and Ireland. Big each-way player whose love of a challenge is demonstrated by his consistently excellent par-three stats.
Improving left-hander from Scotland who got a taste of the big-time when grouped (note: grouped, not paired) with Rory and Rickie last week. Runner-up finishes in Denmark and at Hillside were impressive and mark him out as one to watch as he closes in on the world's top 100 and, perhaps, a European Tour win.
So much better than his world ranking, which sees him outside the top 20 having been as high as second in 2017. That came after he'd spurned a good chance to win the PGA Championship, one week after the sort of WGC romp he's capable of producing when the putter clicks. It's been good lately, hence a string of excellent performances, and a bigger concern is the pressure he carries on his timid shoulders. That said, since a low-key seasonal debut in Hawaii his worst finish is 33rd and seems sure to go well, whether winning or not.
Born and raised in Portrush, not that you'd know it to listen to him. This year was all about qualifying for the Open, anyway, and to have done so as he did in Canada was one of the non-winning performances of the season. Had earlier returned to winning form in the Dominican Republic and with his 40th birthday looming, it's clear there's life in the old dog yet. Disappointing in the Irish Open but knows this place like the back of his hand, with a low round of 63 at the course, and can rise to the challenge.
All eyes on Rory as he looks to win his second Claret Jug and first on home soil. He's not quite as local as McDowell but that's a minor detail - he's still desperate to win this, putting it above a Green Jacket on his list of ambitions, and his four majors were instrumental in getting the Open to Northern Ireland. Most of 2019 has been positive: he was ruthless and cocksure at Sawgrass, then demonstrated that extra gear he carries in Canada, and these were important victories after a fallow period by his own standards. The next task is to end the major drought and while some will understandably argue that he's weighed down by pressure here, generational talents have and always will rise above such concerns. McIlroy is capable and his Open form is second to none, victory in 2014 followed by three top-fives in as many starts. Shot 61 here as a 16-year-old and is the man to beat after wisely warming up in Scotland.
Decent young Aussie who was third in the Australian Open back in November, but has been struggling on the European Tour since. Makes his Open debut and likely to be done by Friday night.
Big Dolphin by nickname and is easy to underestimate, despite having won as a child in Thailand and since established a lucrative professional career. Two more wins this season plus an important top-five in Singapore to qualify for this, his second Open start. Couple of top-10s to prepare and could stick around for the full 72.
Bagged another win in February to ignite talk of the grand slam at Pebble Beach, but was never a factor there and has been downright awful on several occasions lately. Won this in 2013 and has twice been runner-up this decade, so he knows what to do but it has to be a negative that he hasn't played the Scottish Open - he did so prior to all three of those standout performances. Main role may be to entertain with new-found social media talents although three-figure prices have to be worth a second glance.
Good winner of the Honda Classic, the event Todd Hamilton won (different course) before causing an almighty Open upset in 2004. Mitchell is a different type of player and he's struggled since despite consistently blasting the ball miles off the tee. Approach play woeful in the 3M Open which raises something of a red flag.
Won this a year ago with a bogey-free weekend at Carnoustie. Played alongside Tiger Woods in the final round and looked like being left behind, but as others kept making mistakes he kept ticking off pars until he was in front. Went from that to a dominant, record-breaking Ryder Cup performance and Arnold Palmer win this spring maintained his new, high standards. Then the wheels came off at the 12th hole during the final round of the Masters, and he's been below form since albeit still bagging a US Open top-20. This will have been his focus for a while and there were some real signs of encouragement in the Travelers. This title has been defended eight times since the second World War - the Masters has been defended just three times in the same period.
Came good at the right time to qualify with fifth place in Singapore but while he's been playing solidly enough in Korea lately, there's not much in the profile which screams success here. Did win on his home tour at around this time last year but this, clearly, is an altogether different task.
Chilean with a massive future having been pro for little more than a year since signing off his amateur career at the Masters. As you'd expect, hits it a long way and relies on his ball-striking, but small improvements with putter in hand helped him bag back-to-back top-five finishes in June. Played well every week since missing the cut in the PGA, in fact, but he'll have to adapt here and is probably best left alone for now.
Likeable Swede who has improved with age, winning seven European Tour titles from June 2015 to July 2018 and playing his part in the Ryder Cup for Europe. Not so good of late and is one of those who has suffered for playing on the PGA Tour, with the hope being that a return to the UK and Ireland helps. His Open record is solid with four top-20 finishes in eight and he's an excellent links/wind player. Fancied to build on a welcome step forward in Germany and crop up in contention at some stage.
Playing in his third consecutive Open Championship and looking to keep up his run of making the weekend. At Birkdale two years ago he blitzed round in 65 on day three (albeit conditions were very scoreable on the day Branden Grace carded the first ever major 62) and he carded rounds of 68 and 69 at Carnoustie. Improving form in Japan lately.
Put a lot into making the 2018 Ryder Cup side captained by mentor Thomas Bjorn, and it took its toll as he toiled throughout the spring and early summer months. However, might just have found his game in time having followed 10th in Germany with 15th in Ireland, and having been 18th here in 2012, since won the Dunhill Links and also finished ninth and 12th in this event previously, he's suddenly become a serious dark horse. Can spray it a little off the tee but magic thereafter at his best.
2010 Champion Golfer of the Year who almost landed a St Andrews double in 2015. Famously has been runner-up in all four majors and has contended to a point in all three this year, sticking around better for seventh at Pebble Beach. Back to his infuriating self since but we know he can turn it on at the drop of a hat. Went from Lahinch to Ballybunion to continue his Open prep and is a must for the shortlist.
Straight-hitting Spaniard who has improved steadily without looking like a potential member of the world's elite. Both European Tour wins have come in match play formats on European parkland courses, and hadn't shown much in the way of links form until the Scottish Open. Doesn't make many mistakes.
Texan drawer of the ball who got back to winning ways at last courtesy of a partnership with Jon Rahm at the Zurich Classic. Open record is interesting: he's yet to miss a cut in four starts and has finished precisely 30th in three of them. Not the first from his part of the US to showcase a level of comfort in the wind.
Talented youngster who will nevertheless have to earn his dollars the hard way given that he's about six stone and doesn't hit the ball far. When conditions allow for it he's dangerous - see victory at the Heritage, third at Colonial and a near-miss at the Wyndham - and possible this major proves the most suitable having missed cuts at Bethpage and Pebble Beach where the emphasis was on power.
Out of form on the Challenge Tour and has a long way to go before he's entitled to a second or third sentence in one of these.
PARK, Sang Hyun
Seven-time winner over the last four years but all in Asia, and it's telling that his two missed cuts in 2019 came when dipping his toe into European Tour waters. Shot 76-73 to miss the cut at Carnoustie and while his preparation has been better this time, including a good start in Ireland, he's unlikely to reach the weekend.
Slow-burning Italian who once dueled with Tommy Fleetwood on the Challenge Tour. Had to wait longer for his breakthrough at this level, which came in the Czech Republic, but has since doubled up in Germany when taking the scalp of Matt Fitzpatrick. Said it'd been coming and backed it up with an excellent charge in Scotland, but is reluctant to hit driver and has a little more improving to do.
Gentleman scholar whose on-course achievements are easily underestimated as a result of his off-course persona. Wins in Qatar and England last year confirm his love for a wind-based challenge and he's threatened on links courses in England, Ireland and Scotland. Skipped the US Open to improve his chances of success here and has enjoyed a nice warm-up, contending in the Irish Open and then bagging four quiet but decent rounds in the Scottish. Charged through the field when nursing a hangover at Carnoustie and it's conceivable that the heavy drinking comes a day later this time.
Absolute lunatic who actually has an excellent sense of humour and perspective, as we've seen thanks to his involvement in the Belgian Knockout. Little while since he landed a significant blow of his own but retains the ability to do so at any time, as we saw in August when he suddenly looked like he might even win the PGA Championship. More miss than hit again since but he's better at links golf than many would give him credit for, with wins in the KLM Open and Made In Denmark sparking that idea and three cuts made in three in the Open underlining it. Better in Scotland and it's time he started climbing the rankings.
Ex-Walker Cup player who has been five years a professional now, the highlight coming with a Challenge Tour win two summers ago. First Open appearance since missing the cut as an amateur in 2013.
Bit of an in-and-out record in this over the decade which has passed since he was second to Padraig Harrington, but has added two more top-10 finishes including a nice Sunday move at Muirfield. Started 2019 with four top-10 finishes in succession but putter has been an issue since and he remains without another since April having missed out on one in Scotland. Will need to build on that share of 14th.
Big improver since winning an opposite event at around this time last year, adding four more top-five finishes and making the cut in both majors he's played so far in 2019. Barely put a foot wrong over the closing 54 holes of the Scottish Open, too, and is one who could really make a name for himself here.
The case is easy to make. He's won the Irish Open twice, both on links courses, and now has seven titles (eight if you count the Zurich Classic) since turning professional three years ago. He's playing as well as anyone in the world, with form figures of 3-2-1, and there isn't really a weakness in his game providing his irons are firing. He clearly doesn't lack for self-belief, and seems like he's nearly sure to win majors at some stage having been third in the US Open, fourth in the US PGA, and fourth and ninth in the Masters. The case against is that he's been at his best on low-scoring courses where he can blast away merrily from the tee box. When forced to scale back, he's not quite so happy and there's always a risk he gets frustrated. Perhaps this is why his Open record reads 59-44-MC and it's rare for someone to win a Claret Jug when that's their record coming in. Then again, he's a rare talent.
Showed what confidence and perspective can do for a player when he went from contending for the US Open to winning on a more suitable course a week later. It had been a long time coming for a player who is almost always in the fairway, but like Kevin Na he could quite easily go in again over the next year or so. MC-MC in this, but his wider major record was very poor before the 2018 US PGA yet he's now looking for his third straight top-15 finish. Big price for those looking to pinch eighth or ninth place without worrying about the winner.
Takes a break from filming Back to the Future IV to tee it up here thanks to second place in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. 2017 US Amateur champion with a very bright future.
Fended off Rory McIlroy in ballsy fashion to win the Masters last year and then went close in the US Open, finishing fourth. Not much of note since but has turned a corner of late, following 32nd in the US Open with 30th, fifth and 23rd in three subsequent starts. Iron play has been behind the upturn to suggest swing changes have bedded in nicely but hasn't really been a factor in this and is of more interest for some FedEx Cup event or other.
Part-time coach, full-time stunner who - not for the first time - found form switched to links turf in the Irish Open. Fourth place there earned him an eighth Open start with seventh at St Andrews in 2010 the highlight. No doubt he'd be well-suited by a real test of ball-striking and could go well if getting it.
Under the radar a little despite being one of the best, most consistent performers in golf and finishing third in the US Open last month. Primarily that's because he hasn't played since - a negative in my book - but he could soon be back in the spotlight if building on a staying-on second at Carnoustie last year. That was in fact his best Open performance since fourth place as an amateur some 20 years earlier and there's no doubt this is the major he's struggled with most. Having been less consistent than usual this year - changes of clubs and caddie no doubt playing their part - and being a high-ball hitter, he's got a little to prove. People see him, they see the awful clothes... (but) they know he's rock n roll through and through.
Former South African turned Olympian who has been one of the quiet success stories of 2019. Doesn't live by 'The Rules', and if there's one person who has influenced him in that way of thinking, someone who is a maverick, someone who does 'that' to the system... then it's Daniela Hantuchova.
Stylish Californian whose professional career has basically been without fault. As well as being named rookie of the year on the PGA Tour in 2017, where he won the TOUR Championship, he's bagged five top-six finishes in 10 majors and missed just one cut. One of those came at Carnoustie last year when tied for second and having been third at Pebble Beach last month there's only one negative: he's not been seen since. Pre-tournament trip to Paris made for lovely Instagram shots but will it leave him under-cooked?
SCHMID, Matthias (a)
German amateur who plays at the University of Louisville, where he's enjoyed a good level of success. Back in Europe this summer, he fared well at the Amateur Championship where making the last-16, before winning the European Amateur at Diamond CC, a European Tour venue. Third-round 63 powered that victory and he's gained a reputation as a streaky scorer.
Took him a while to figure it out but has been one of the very best, most reliable links golfers in the world for the last decade or so. Should've won this in 2012 when handing it to Ernie Els, led during the final round in 2013, had his chances in 2014 and also hit the front in 2015. Not quite so good in recent years but this is the best he's played in the run-up since he became Masters champion, with short-game stats very encouraging. Closer look reveals he's still very poor from inside eight feet and that would be the big worry come the back-nine on Sunday.
Former Lytham Trophy winner who is better than he's shown so far. This is the third time in four years he's qualified and he'll need to improve on two poor starts at Troon and Carnoustie if he's to at last make the cut. Better when 10th in Slovakia recently and built on that in France, so signs are positive for the remainder of the Challenge Tour campaign.
Big talent from a sporting family who hasn't quite delivered on his potential. Who knows where he'd be now had he made par on the final hole of the 2017 Scottish Open, rather than bogey before losing a play-off. Perhaps things would've taken off and he remains capable of leaving his current form behind. It's been tough lately with limited European Tour status and he's missed the cut on both previous Open starts, but a top-10 finish in Germany again showed what this excellent ball-striker is capable of. Indeed he's the leader in strokes-gained off-the-tee this season and second for greens hit. Will figure it out eventually.
One of the stars of 2018 courtesy of two European Tour wins (the first in late-2017) and a big effort in the WGC-Mexico among the highlights. Been a very different story in 2019, though, with his only top-20 finish coming at a low level back home in India. Best on a fiddly but scoreable course and did at least make the cut at Carnoustie.
Outperformed all bar one of his team-mates at the Ryder Cup and has been outperforming many expectations for a long time now, most notably when winning the 2012 US Open. Top 40 in his last 10 majors and can extend that sequence having made six cuts in seven in this one, particularly given that he's played well all year.
Still looks like he should be causing some lighthouse-shaped mischief in Round The Twist and might have to consider a career outside of golf if he keeps playing as he has for much of the last six months. Clearly that's over the top but he has been disappointing since sixth place in Mexico, for all that there were better signs in Michigan last time. Presidents Cup place in peril and needs to get his act together.
Popular hark back to the good old days who has won more than his fair share of tournaments, and has at various times looked capable of winning this one. Left behind off the tee but makes his money thereafter and a return to his old coach has worked the oracle this year, with fifth at the PLAYERS and fourth in Canada tying him in with the favourite. Again fifth last time and always a danger on a short-ish course which allows his short-game to sing. Massive price on the exchanges and shortlist material.
2017 winner courtesy of a bit of luck and several spells, and looked like defending his title when entering the final round as favourite last year. Game has unravelled since and run of top-10 finishes at the end of May and into early June probably masked the fact he's still some way short of the player he was. No doubt he'll get back there but had won previous start when taking this title; this time he arrives having been 65th in the US Open and then missed the cut in the Travelers.
Quiet type who has battled putting problems for a long time now and needs to be on top of his game elsewhere to compete. Good signs in that regard lately, with greens-in-regulation rankings of 7-6-5 over his last three starts, and he even putted quite well in the last of them. Been a pro for a decade now though and yet to bag a major top-20. This will be his 20th attempt.
One of the most memorable winners of the century as he bettered Phil Mickelson in a stunning Troon duel. Made both cuts since - hasn't missed one in the Open since 2007 - and is quite clearly a world-leading links golfer thanks to his elite iron-play and accuracy off the tee. Been a bit of a lean year for the dry-witted Swede having changed caddie more than once but has been creeping back into form and was a massive eye-catcher in Scotland last week, playing beautifully for 71 holes. Would he rather be seen as a funnyman or a great golfer? The answer's always the same: they're not mutually exclusive.
Almost won the Abu Dhabi Championship in January and has only played eight times since, evidence perhaps that his back remains troublesome. Effortlessly brilliant on his day but never really a factor at this level.
Wildly inconsistent but massively talented, as we saw with that final-round 60 to win the Scottish Open last summer. Links comfort levels demonstrated with a definite upturn in form over the last two weeks, with his long-game firing, but stagnated over the weekend in Scotland and lacking in confidence.
Good job he checks his emails.
SUGRUE, James (a)
Irishman who has been playing well on the links circuit this summer, culminating in the big one - victory in the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock. Says Portrush is his second-favourite course behind that one and that has to be an advantage, along with all that experience of playing seaside golf in the UK and Ireland.
Missed the cut here in 2012 but that was before he became a European Tour force to the extent that he earned a Ryder Cup place in 2016. That went quite badly and he's had his issues, but played some of his best golf since when second in the Irish Open. Played well at Troon and quite fancy something similar to his 12th place there, without looking like the winner. One to watch for the remainder of the season at a lower level.
Scottish talent who won the Turkish Airlines Open earlier this year and should be back for a second crack at the European Tour in 2020. Like many from his part of the world, credits the Open for igniting his love of golf and shouldn't disgrace himself.
Former (and brief) world number one who looked ready to go ahead and dominate for a while in 2017, having contended in the US Open and won the PGA Championship. Hasn't quite gone to plan since but he's never that far away and his iron play since returning from injury this summer has at times been spectacular. Links golf is something he's yet to fully crack but he's getting there and worked hard both ahead of and during the Scottish Open, where he played other courses along that coastline as well as the Renaissance. Definitely to his advantage that he chose to take in a prep run and he played well, too. Tempting.
THURLOWAY, Thomas (a)
English Amateur champion who came through qualifying at Hollinwell to earn his Open debut and will be staying with friends close to the course. Hasn't enjoyed the success he expected in college golf, where he represents the famed University of Toledo, and shot 75-78 in the Amateur Championship recently.
Another remarkable story having fallen into a fish tank as a one-year-old and fractured his skull, before being diagnosed with a form of cerebral palsy, which he battled with for the first decade of his life. Since overcoming that he's climbed the amateur ranks and then turned professional, and this will be his second Open having qualified last year. Beat only five players then and will likely struggle here, too.
VAN ROOYEN, Erik
Big talent from South Africa who is midway through his second full season on the European Tour and is now among its most regular contenders. Top-10 finish at the US Open represented another step forward and he's built a very solid links profile, such as when leading through 54 holes of the Irish Open and 36 holes of the Scottish Open. Trouble is, he's still to go through and win, largely because of what happens when he misses a green as his short-game is exposed as ordinary. Can forgive the eight he made in Scotland on Sunday, one which cost him an excellent chance, but can't hide the fact he's difficult to trust in the mix right now.
Star-gazing 2016 major winner whose health struggles since have resulted in a loss of form. Shown flashes this year but remains wild off the tee, likes to hit the ball very high, and has never been a factor in this whereas he has in the other three. Scottish Open prep the only real positive along with a good attitude.
Fast-tracked to fame having gone from a dominant Alps Tour season to essentially bypassing the Challenge Tour and now proving much more than your regular European Tour professional. Behaviour has been called into question a couple of times this year but you can't fault his form, with third in the US PGA, 12th in the US Open and a couple of near-misses in amongst those efforts. Frustrated no doubt not to have won in 2019, but there's time yet and his dynamite short-game and enormous self-belief make him a contender.
Another member of the Merseyside mafia having been raised in Birkenhead. Finished an excellent 19th in the 2008 Open Championship played in tough conditions and would've achieved much more in the game but for a decade of injury struggles. Patience finally rewarded in Sweden last year and the sort of links-loving veteran who could surprise a few, particularly as he was third at halfway on his way to 10th here in 2012.
Doesn't want to be here, not really.
Came heartbreakingly close to winning his major when third at Turnberry, three-putting the final green to miss a play-off he may well have won. Spurned a chance in 2013, too, when in front early on during the final round, and more recently played well for top-30 finishes in 2016 and 2017. A long time since he's threatened at this level but did turn back the clock to win the Nedbank late last year, an important, emotional success, and has since played well on a light schedule. If he is to win one, it'll be this and while hope fades, it still remains.
Serious ball-striker who emerged from an injury-inflicted slump to win in Denmark and has backed that up in style in Scotland, thanks in part to a more relaxed approach. Indeed it's easy to argue he's in the sort of form which saw him contend for the PGA Championship five years ago and with a noted links pedigree which includes a play-off loss at Royal County Down, he certainly has the game for this test. Whether the putter holds up is the big question but looks an each-way player and a potential top continental European angle. Bit short now mind you.
Impressed in winning the DP World Tour Championship at the end of last season to emerge from the doldrums, in which he'd been trapped since winning the Masters. Good Open record includes playing in the final group on Saturday of the 2015 renewal and he was always close to the pace at Carnoustie last year, further evidence that he's back on the up. Putter hasn't been as reliable as it was in 2016 but iron play is excellent and could carry him a long way.
The finest thing to come out of Darlington since Cheeky Punt, Wilson won the Hollinwell qualifier and rode that wave to his first EuroPro Tour victory a fortnight prior to his Open debut. Clearly, then, he's in good shape and while this will be a step too far, he's entitled to view it as a free hit with focus very much on earning a Challenge Tour card.
Surprising but popular winner of the Dunhill Links in 2014, six years on from a Ryder Cup appearance which was earned with a series of near-misses. Won twice on the Challenge Tour last year and has played his best golf in years since, with top-10 finishes in Qatar, Denmark and England again demonstrating that it's under these conditions he's most comfortable. Hasn't shown it in this yet but should play well if recovered - said he was exhausted in Scotland and has been a busy year.
Supreme talent who was born in South Africa and raised in the US, where he wasted little time in becoming a PGA Tour winner at last year's Nelson. That came under low-scoring conditions but on an exposed, links-like golf course and he's good enough from tee-to-green to go as far as matching 17th place at Augusta in the spring should his putter behave as it has done over the last couple of starts.
He's not in the field but I still wouldn't rule him out tbh plus he's just so great for SEO right now.
Open love affair began with back-to-back top-five finishes, firstly as an amateur before he very nearly won at Turnberry a decade ago. Things have understandably cooled since but he's confirmed his suitability to coastal golf with a win in Qatar before making his Ryder Cup debut in 2016. Plenty talented, then, but injury prone and hasn't yet played weekend golf in just seven starts this year.
Impressive winner of the US Open who had long looked capable of winning something big under the right conditions. As a quiet type who has never coveted attention, just how he deals with his new status remains to be seen and it was no surprise to see him struggle in the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Good links golfer, though, thanks in part to ownership of one of the finest stingers in the game, and hasn't yet missed an Open cut in seven starts. If you're facing in the right direction, all you have to do is keep on walking.
Lightly-raced since winning the Masters, with just three appearances since, and you wonder whether it's been costly. Woods was very slow from the gates in the PGA, his first competitive rounds since Augusta, and was never really in the conversation at Pebble Beach having played just once in the interim. Indeed he's played one regular PGA Tour event since the PLAYERS in March and for all his links pedigree and experience, I don't understand why he wouldn't take the chance to play the Scottish Open or spend a fortnight with the family in Ireland. Whatever the reasoning he's hard to warm to here owing to the fact we just haven't seen him playing golf and certainly not in contention since that fabulous display at Augusta.
WU, Brandon (a)
World-class amateur who flushed his way to an excellent 35th in the US Open. We've seen in recent weeks that some of those he has competed with - Matthew Wolff, Viktor Hovland and Collin Morikawa - are ready to win professional tournaments and there are high hopes that Wu will follow them when he does make the switch. For now he's keen to play in the Walker Cup and in the meantime qualified for this in style. He's the best amateur here and while links golf is a leveller it'd be surprising if anyone bar Kanaya gets close to him.