Ben Coley's player-by-player profiles for The Open Championship
Ben Coley's player-by-player profiles for The Open Championship

The Open: Player-by-player guide to the field at Royal St George's

Ben Coley provides an exhaustive guide to the entire field for the Open Championship, which takes place at Royal St George's.

  • Field correct as of 0700 BST on 12/07/21; updates to follow as necessary
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Nine-time winner on the Sunshine Tour who earned his place through one of the Qualifying Series events, back in early 2020. This will be his second Open and a repeat of his 2009 missed cut is the overwhelming favourite, but above all else it's just nice to start one of these with someone other than Ben An. #WelcomeJaco

AN, Byeong Hun

Hello, old friend. You know the drill by now: iffy putter who hasn't kicked on from winning the BMW PGA like an absolute machine, etc. There is one bit of relatively new information, which is that he's been working with Sean Foley for a while and, for the time being, his long-game appears to have suffered. Might get there but looking a little lost and unlikely to match some decent Open efforts where he was on the periphery of the top 20.

ANCER, Abraham

Accurate, reliable and capable on the biggest stage, with plenty of good efforts in majors now and a best of T8 at this year's PGA. Victories have come under difficult conditions, first on the Korn Ferry Tour and then in the Australian Open, and you'd think he'd be capable of leaving behind an Open record which reads MC-MC. First of them came when not half the player he is now and can excuse being caught out by Portrush, where 72-72 to miss on the number was fine. Definitely one to watch despite ongoing frustrations.

Click the image for 11 places on each-way outright bets with Sky Bet

Sky Bet are paying 11 places on each-way bets prior to tee-off in the Open Championship


Qualified for this way back in January 2020 thanks to a ballsy putt on the final green in South Africa. Had to wait a long time for his second Open appearance (MC at Carnoustie, although was injured) but has made the most of things in the interim, winning in Germany and showing brief promise on his first go at the US Open. Strong play throughout the last 12 months has seen his ranking climb from 1,398 at the time of qualification to within touching distance of the top 100 and will attract some each-way support despite a lack of links form. Having bared his arse when things were going badly, who knows what will happen if this goes well.


Built on good performances in the Amateur Championship and St Andrews Links Trophy to finish second in the lowest-scoring Final Qualifier, at St Annes Old Links. Might be a runner in the top amateur market given how well he appears to be playing.

BERGER, Daniel

Two-time winner since last June who managed a sneaky top-10 finish at Torrey Pines. Showed enough when 27th at Birkdale to offer encouragement and the fact he once lost a play-off to Padraig Harrington at a windy Honda Classic is another small positive for a player who prefers tough conditions, and won by the coast at Pebble Beach earlier this year. Unlikely to attract a great deal of attention but that's nothing new and granted a bit of luck with the weather, looks the type to hang tough all week.


Hard not to start every such profile with a reminder that as a kid, he swallowed rat poison out of a Coke bottle which, aside from nearly killing him, resulted in anxiety issues and a stutter he still battles to this day. Cruelly disqualified from the 2014 Amateur Championship for using beta blockers to combat these and has subsequently performed miracles to become an established European Tour winner who has started to threaten on the PGA Tour too. Good golf in all three majors this year and a return to Europe might eke out further improvement from an accurate type whose irons can be as electric as his short-game. Chance.

BLAND, Richard

Triumph for perseverance having finally won his first European Tour title at the 478th attempt. Yes, he was fortunate that Guido Migliozzi three-putted twice at the death, but having rolled up his sleeves to climb back from the Challenge Tour while in his 40s, he deserved that and the lamb dinner which was served up by his mum to celebrate. Went from there to the dizzying heights of leading the US Open before predictable weekend lull but could hang around a bit longer here, having finished 22nd on his second Open start at Birkdale. Certainly one of the form players on the circuit and when last the Open came here, it was won by a 40-something who had won recently. Dare to dream.


A decade since he won the PGA Championship and helped usher in the anchoring ban. That shock win came in a rookie year which saw him defy strong winds to win in Texas, which may help explain why he's managed more top-20 finishes in this than in the Masters and US Open combined, and given that he's been back in good form and putting much better in 2021, arrives as a late qualifier with some kind of chance.

BRING, Christoffer (a)

"I'm extremely happy, it's great. It's pretty surreal right now, I can't really believe it. It's pretty cool." That's what this 22-year-old Dane said when he beat the best amateur in Europe to succeed Matthias Schmid as European Amateur champion last month.


Please do not pair him with Billy Horschel, friends at the R&A, for the third member of the group might do a crime by the back-nine, because they are both very chatty. Charmingly so in Burmester's case, but still... chatty. This big-hitter took advantage of favourable conditions to thrash his way to an overdue second European Tour win in Tenerife and this suits far less, though his prodigious driving and hot putter give him a good chance to play all four rounds on his Open debut. Nice man.


Open debut for a modern golfer who broke through with an impressive win at the Valspar. No problem with tough conditions but little in the way of links form and has that question to answer. Given limited impact in majors (and withdrawal with back injury at US PGA), may need to get involved here if he's to throw his hat into the ring for a Ryder Cup place and for now expectations are fairly low, even if his ceiling is very high.


Likeable Canary Islander whose career probably peaked in that 2016-2017 spell which saw him play well as a Ryder Cup rookie, and win a Rolex Series title in Scotland. Fourth at Birkdale the pick of eight Open appearances and he's without a top-20 finish anywhere since taking fourth in Abu Dhabi in January. Still searching for a way back and having declined the opportunity to represent Spain in the Olympics recently, his focus instead on the FedEx Cup and keeping his PGA Tour card, he's not where he needs to be. Throw in a poor short-game and there's not a lot to be positive about except for the fact he could pass for some kind of Greek god.


Two-time winner on the European Tour and both at tricky courses where breeze plays a part. Note that his success in Qatar wasn't at Doha GC and may therefore be less useful a form guide, while his play this year had been dire until he featured in the final group in Germany. The sort of steady, calm, buttoned-up, sponsor-less, chip-and-run Spaniard who is conveniently ignored when commentators talk about how they're all batsh*t mental flop-shotters.

CANTLAY, Patrick

Two-time winner this season to double his PGA Tour tally and boasts both the game and demeanour of a potential major champion. Main issue would be that aside from the 2019 Masters and a back-nine burst which soon came to a halt, he's not really been involved on Sunday and while that could've been said of Jon Rahm, where Cantlay is concerned it remains a bit of a negative. Otherwise plenty to like as he's playing well, is good around the greens, and has made both Open cuts including when 12th at Carnoustie.


Just two top-10s in 17 Open appearances, one of them coming at driver-heavy St Andrews, probably tells you that this US-based Englishman as what you might call an American game. It's helped him to three top-seven finishes in the six majors we've had since last summer but he was 54th here in 2011 and there's a bit of a concern that windy conditions on a British seaside links are not actually ideal. Nevertheless is playing some of the best golf of his career and has become ultra reliable at this level, seldom looking as capable of winning one of these as he is now.

Paul Casey
Paul Casey


Three-time European Tour winner, all since last summer and in generally difficult conditions. Would definitely have been a live one with this in mind, but four missed cuts in his last five starts, the exception when T41 in Ireland, suggests he'll do well to get the full 72 holes in on his first crack at this.

CELIA, Ricardo

Of all the strange and wonderful entry requirements, 'winner of the 2019 Open de Argentina' is surely the pick. Also a winner of the Ecuador Open, so our man Ricardo is 12 away from the South American Slam and we wish him well in that quest.

CINK, Stewart

Villain of the 2009 Open where he took away an old man's walking stick with a smile. Otherwise very much likeable and in a normal year, would've qualified on merit given his elevated world ranking following two wins this season. Both came in much weaker company but has made the cut in all three majors so far in 2021 and stranger things really have happened. And nearly happened. B*stard.

CLARKE, Darren

Famous winner here in 2011 and that's not his last notable Open effort, with top-30 finishes in 2013, 2014 and 2016. Also lit up Portrush on the morning of the 2019 Open and enjoying a solid year on the Champions Tour, so don't dismiss him in three-balls.

Darren Clarke - Final Round in full | The Open at Royal St George's 2011


Classic swinger from Canada who was a persistent threat in the spring, and then led after round one of the PGA. Improved putting combined with his reliable long-game explains surge and it's possible to overlook disappointing June, and even a slow start to the Scottish Open. Still feels a bit like he missed his chance to strike with those four top-10s in March and April and nothing in the way of links form as yet.

CROFT, Daniel

One of many fine adverts for the dreaming the dream as a PGA professional from Merseyside who had done little to suggest he was about to qualify for the Open. But that is precisely what he managed, realising his dream not too far from home.


Popular member of golf's Twitterati and called upon his following for advice on where to play between touching down at Heathrow and teeing off at Sandwich. Sure to relish the journey and comes here as a PGA Tour winner following an emotional, brilliant success in the Dominican Republic, where a breeze couldn't stop him. Will be a bigger price than his world ranking perhaps suggests he ought to be, for all he's nevertheless an unlikely winner. We've had a few of those from the US, though.

DAY, Jason

NetJets ambassador who still plays a bit but is a long way short of the golfer who reached world number one in 2015, soon after he'd nearly won an Open at St Andrews. Consistently poor iron play long been an issue, now exacerbated by putting woes, and you wonder if a return to former coach and mentor Col Swatton might be necessary at some stage. Could be the last we see of him in the Open given PGA exemption runs out, which means no bid for St Andrews redemption unless something changes soon. Better signs at Travelers and Rocket Mortgage Classic not really enough even if his GIR count was up, and he also hits it to the moon, which is a negative.


Neat and tidy Sunshine/European Tour pro who has played to that description all year. If he does win on the latter circuit it'll probably be in Africa, where he's likely a little more comfortable, but no surprise he eased through at West Lancs given his class edge. Still likely to bomb.


Hulk Hogan who is still desperately searching for Hulkamaniacs, although seems to be a growing view that he's coming off best in this nonsense spat with Brooks Koepka. On the course remains less reliable than his peers at the top of the sport, but equally devastating when things are where he wants them. Looked like he'd win the US Open again when hitting the front at Torrey Pines only to come home in an ambulance, presumably one with a wider door and impressive suspension, but doubt he'll dwell on that for long. Best to ignore the line that his game is without nuance or thought because the opposite is true and he's tended to find answers throughout his young career, which he'll need to do here for all that he's a different player to the one whose Open record reads MC-51-MC. Also: CRINGE.

Bryson DeChambeau rips a drive towards the sixth green (Pic: PGA Tour)
Bryson DeChambeau rips a drive towards the sixth green at Bay Hill (Pic: PGA Tour)

DETRY, Thomas

Sweet-swinging, smooth-talking Belgian who lost a play-off for the Scottish Open on Sunday and in doing so qualified for the Open. It's his first attempt at it and links for is a little lacking, while the fact he's yet to win on the European Tour suggests it's fanciful to expect him to be lifting the Claret Jug. Stacks of ability though and is a World Cup winner in Australia who, at 28, has a bright future.

DUVAL, David

Winner in 2001 who climbed the mountain and then realised it wasn't all he thought it might be. Back then he was rewarded for a remarkable stretch of golf at the highest level, during which he recorded 10 top-10 finishes in 15 majors before the wheels came off. Has still played in this every year since 2008 but a repeat of his opening 91 at Portrush might have him thinking twice and focusing on an excellent career as a pundit.

ELS, Ernie

Sweet-swinging doyen who won this twice, in 2002 and 2012. Possibly not been quite as effective as expected on the Champions Tour but in good enough nick lately and showed when 32nd at Portrush that a return to links golf can make him competitive for all that this venue was probably never his favourite.


Source of personal frustration having been a champion of his renaissance only to overlook his obvious claims in both Hawaii and at the Travelers, where he became a two-time winner in 2021. That victory was on the back of a staying-on top-three in the US Open and he's overcome some nagging back problems to find form at just the right time, which means he's back on the Ryder Cup radar. Seems the type to embrace the challenge of an Open and his putter can always get him out of trouble, so providing that driver remains dialled in he looks an each-way candidate having made his last 13 cuts in majors.


Veteran European Tour winner who has found a bit of improvement since returning home to Spain after years trying to establish himself on the PGA Tour. Out of sorts since some promising results in the spring but class counts for a heck of a lot when you're fighting for Open spots and he showed his at St Annes Old Links. Once upon a time was known for his ability in the wind but he's far too wild these days, a comment which also applies to his social media accounts through which he definitely did once compare Greta Thunberg to Hitler. And Stalin. Normal behaviour.


Forever the bridesmaid with as many as 10 top-10 finishes in 21 majors, plus that one PGA Tour win back in 2016. Clearly hasn't done enough to change the narrative but has also been unfortunate, such as when mugged by Xander Schauffele in China, by Webb Simpson in Phoenix, and when a final-round 64 wasn't quite enough to beat Max Homa, who then found luck was on his side in their play-off. Anyway, more recently he's looked a little off, missing the cut at his beloved Torrey Pines and again hitting it badly at the Travelers. He's found it when he's had to before, but you'd surely want to have seen more so far this summer.


Six-time European Tour winner who ended a frustrating run of seconds with victory in Dubai late last year. Generally solid since, his driving having improved to go with quality iron play and one of the best putting strokes in the sport, and has the experience of Billy Foster by his side. Every reason to believe he can therefore step up on a run of solid major performances and improve on a share of 20th at Portrush, perhaps contending at this level for the first time.


Second to Shane Lowry at Portrush where he really felt like he would apply more pressure in the final round. That's one of three close calls in majors and was the culmination of a progressive Open run, which isn't a surprise given his Dunhill Links form and golfing education at places like Birkdale and Hillside. Quiet so far this year, largely because he's not driving it as well as he needs to be, and much will therefore depend on the restorative impact of a return home. Likely to play well, but is he playing well enough? Strong start in Scotland might yet turn heads.


Brilliant story this as a low-ranked EuroPro Tour player, struggling at that level, who qualified while being followed around as part of a YouTube series. You can watch one of those episodes below and the follow-up is sure to be unmissable as we learn just how he managed to get the job done by the skin of his teeth. What a rush.

Sam Forgan - The Road to The Open | Episode 2

FOWLER, Rickie

First Open top-five came here in 2011 and has made nine of 10 cuts in an event which seems to afford him the freedom to play the game as he likes to, that is to say with artistry and flair. Gets in here based on sixth place at Portrush, his third Open top-10 finish, and if anything the delay has given him time to find his game. Still has improvements to make to get back to where he was but has always been capable of producing in majors, as we saw with a top-10 finish on a sympathetic invite at Kiawah Island, which in itself might be as good a form guide as we have. Each-way player if limiting the ruinous drives which will have backers worried on every tee box.

FOX, Ryan

Proper links-lover from New Zealand who has made three cuts in four Opens and was close to placing in 2019. Throw in efforts in Irish Open (fourth and second, latterly in a play-off he was unlucky not to win) and Scottish Open (fourth and sixth) and this power-packed son of a rugby union star will appeal to a few despite a quiet fortnight in the run-up. Could even go as far as rewarding such faith with anything like a decent putting week and should beat a promising compatriot to top Kiwi honours.


Louis de Jager out, Dylan Frittelli in. Both South African. Frittelli better. But his form is 56-MC-MC-MC-46-MC-MC-MC and de Jager, who came through a 36-hole qualifier, really deserved a go only to test positive for The Bug, as it is known in my house.

GALLEGOS, Abel (a)

Winner of the 2019 LatinAmerica Amateur Championship at El Camaleon, which all but ensures he'll go off a well-backed 33/1 shot whenever he plays in the Mayakoba Classic. Only recent form of note was a missed cut in the (November) Masters where he shot 79-81 and for now, Argentinian golf still searches for a successor to Angel Cabrera, recently extradited from Brazil to his home country on various nasty charges and now beginning a two-year jail sentence. Honestly.

GARCIA, Sergio

Bagged his first top-20 finish in a major since winning the Masters when 19th at Torrey Pines last month, ending an awful sequence of results in the sport's most important events. Signs there, as well as beforehand at Colonial and to some degree in Germany too, that his game is in good shape and certainly has added power and extra efficiency off the tee. Always looked a potential Open winner and not yet out of time, with this course (T10-T9) more suitable than many. Concerns over his confidence and whether putting would hold up under pressure but don't be surprised if he is in the mix at some stage and therefore faced with those questions.


Former US Open winner who pops up from time to time, but seldom looks like winning again and is surely a spent force at this level. It's no doubt a source of immense frustration that he seems to have worked out how to putt a bit better, until the precise moment his long-game clicks. Main positives are that 12th here in 2011 is his standout Open result and he was the halfway leader back then, and he did end a 10-year drought in the John Deere Classic on Sunday.

GOOCH, Talor

Quietly establishing himself as one of the better PGA Tour maidens for whom victory at some stage soon would not come as a surprise. Unless of course it's here, on his Open debut, even if his Oklahoma roots will help with any wind. No relation to Graham, and these days his surname is actually best known as a colloquial term for the area between the anus and genitals, usually on a man.

GRACE, Branden

The only player in history to card a round of 62 at a men's major and bound to be popular here, after leading the field from tee-to-green when seventh at Torrey Pines. Also in the mix at the US PGA, it's been a comeback year for the likeable South African and he's a proper links and coastal specialist, who has long had the game to win an Open. Market reflects a lot of this but the last Open went to a player with a very similar profile at a very similar price and if you're going to land an obvious winner, why not at about 66/1? It worked in 2019.


In here because a few others didn't fancy it (understandably in some cases), and he's been on the decline since seventh place in the Farmers got him up to 50th in the world. Still relatively new to this level of competition and while he does have a nice, all-round game, it will be a surprise if it's enough to get him a name check on telly.

GRILLO, Emiliano

Tempestuous sort whose swing is smoother than Seal singing while stroking a seal, but whose temper flare-ups are quietly impressive in their own right. Perhaps the frustration stems from the fact he's not kicked on since winning on his first start as a PGA Tour cardholder, largely because he can be a terrible putter. Very capable nonetheless and started out on the European Tour, gaining some links experience in the process, but lucky to scrape in and not at his best right now.


One of three who are in this field having made the Presidents Cup side in 2019. Not up to much since although has managed a couple of top-10 finishes on short courses when the putter has gone berserk. Canadian, and therefore probably very decent, and has made two of three Open cuts albeit when in better shape generally.

HAMMER, Cole (a)

Long touted as one of the standout American amateurs and has returned from a lull to play some excellent golf lately. Yet to translate it to professional tours and missed the cut in the US Open both this year and last.


Quick-swinging South African who employs the broom handle putter, generally to good effect. Became a two-time European Tour winner with victory in Kenya earlier this season and previous Qatar Masters win carries some significance given how many past champions in Doha have won or nearly won the Open, including here at Sandwich. Impressed on the big stage in the 2019 Masters and was fifth at halfway in this a few months later. For all of these reasons he might appeal to fantasy players and those chasing places.


Among the most consistent golfers you'll find at the moment and has finished close to the places in two of this year's three majors. Short-game is a major asset which you'd think would help him survive a fiery Open test, but his only notable effort in this came under softer conditions at Hoylake. Despite being winless since 2017 he's probably in the form of his life and will expect to do better.


In a career of defiance it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's refused to accept the dip in form which most Ryder Cup captains suffer as the event draws near. Instead, threatened to steal the PGA Championship, finishing fourth despite a quiet week on the greens, while there were some good performances last year and early this on the European Tour. No sign of a third Claret Jug lately and will need to end run of missed cuts in the event, but has plenty of experience at Sandwich and played well in 2003.

HATTON, Tyrrell

Two-time Dunhill Links winner who boasts two top-sixes in eight Open starts. The other six have been decidedly poor, but the first four came when he was nowhere near the player he is today, one good enough to beat anyone. Showed as much when downing Rory McIlroy in Abu Dhabi and has the precision and touch to become an Open champion, with this so much more suitable than a US Open at Torrey Pines was ever going to be. Prior to that had flushed his way to second in South Carolina and if the putter warms up he can have a big say in this granted a little luck.

HEBERT, Benjamin

Six-time Challenge Tour winner who is yet to complete the transition to European Tour, although he did lose three play-offs in 2019. One of those came in the Scottish Open, after which he was 41st at Portrush on what was his second Open appearance. Was a much better player two years ago and solid approach work won't be enough.

HENLEY, Russell

Bagged the full Open experience when shooting 69 to lie eighth after round one at Carnoustie, then 80 to miss the cut. Also 10th at halfway at Birkdale and not far off at St Andrews in 2015, and since then has developed into one of the most deadly iron players on the PGA Tour. If and when his previously exceptional putter comes back to the party he'll be some force and lots to be said for the recent experience of leading through 18, 36 and 54 holes of the US Open. Possibly lacks a little belief despite having the confidence to stand up on stage and play country music to actual people.


Promising Aussie who has been based in Chicago while trying to make a go of things on the PGA Tour, where he's largely been competitive lately. Not a massive surprise that he made an impressive winning return to Europe in the Irish Open, adding to a previous victory in Dubai, and while this is a very different test, it's one he's qualified for. Yet to make an impact in a handful of major starts but did make the weekend on his sole try in an Open, which was a Carnoustie-style baptism of fire, and all parts were good at Mount Juliet. Two top-10s in Scotland, one in the Dunhill Links and the other at the Renaissance when it played tricky, further suggest he can go well here in England and could upstage a few of his compatriots.

HIGGO, Garrick

Rising star is 'destined for greatness' according to Gary Player, who took a break from explaining his own greatness to the young left-hander who won on his first regular PGA Tour start recently. "He phoned me this morning, actually, and he told me he's done it before quite a few times, the way he's won from six behind, seven behind," said Higgo. Of course he bloody did. Anyway, the man of the moment appears to have it all, including a very level head, and does look like he's on his way to the very top. Probably too soon to consider him a factor here but it's clearly an event which has been kind to South Africans in general, and Louis Oosthuizen won it shortly after his European Tour breakthrough.


Cruised through Notts qualifier to the delight of London-based artist Daniel Hillier, who will surely have seen a small spike in traffic given that he absolutely dominates searches of 'Daniel Hillier'. It all helps, and I must say some of his prints are very interesting. As for the golfer, he's young and improving and grew up learning the game not too far away from the sea in Wellington, New Zealand. He was co-medallist in the US Amateur at Pebble Beach which was won by Viktor Hovland and though on a different path, looks promising. Played the US Open at the same course having made it through at Walton Heath so give this kid a 36-hole day and he's evidently deadly. One for another day.

HOFFMAN, Charley

Graduated from looking like an extra from The Hills Have Eyes IV and scoring in an accordingly wild fashion, to level-headed chairman of the Player Advisory Council which in a way sounds like a totally unnecessary body. Anyway, these days Chucky is steady, climbing the rankings in defeat throughout the last few months. His iron play is his strength and while he failed to make the weekend here 10 years ago, more recently he's been on the fringes in the Open, where his nous and ability in the wind does count for something. Suspect he'll at least play all right because he's playing better than all right on the PGA Tour.


Broke Tony Finau's heart at Riviera and won his hometown event via a play-off. Lots of good form elsewhere in the spring and has now won twice, both at difficult, championship courses in the US. That only serves to make his major record (MC-64-MC-MC-MC-MC) more of a concern and it seems ambitious to believe a first Open start will spark improvement on that front, for all that there may at least be slightly less pressure off the tee.


Not much I can say which wouldn't be a pale imitation of The Fried Egg podcast. From a golfing perspective, here we have someone absolutely desperate to play in the Ryder Cup having been unfortunate to miss out in 2014. He might be again, as a WGC winner who will struggle to make the top six and therefore likely needs a pick from Steve Stricker. A big performance here would help but he's missed five cuts in six Opens, the exception coming at St Andrews in 2015, and has gone off the boil. Plus no bugger will want to play with him.


Highly talented youngster with two European Tour wins to his name and a string of excellent performances this year. Gone a bit quiet at the wrong time (WD-MC since T5 in Germany) and for now is best known for what he can do when birdies are the order of the day, so I am going to take a rare break from tipping him.


One of the best players on the Japan Golf Tour and edging closer to the world's top 50 as a result of both that and a very good effort in the US Open at Torrey Pines (T26). All this means he'll represent Japan in the Tokyo Olympics along with Hideki Matsuyama and at 25, clearly has potential.


Europe's most promising youngster now that Jon Rahm has graduated from that category, and a smiling assassin who will be a very popular Ryder Cup addition this September. Remains prone to wild swings in form but is a ball-striking machine when running hot and looks sure to be involved in majors for many years. Fact that it's almost frustrating he's yet to contend in one says much, given he's 23, and interesting to see how he goes with so much good form by the coast over in the US. Failed to advance to the match play section in the 2017 Amateur Championship here after a 75 at Royal St George's, but that's not a serious concern. Indeed much was made of his shocking amateur performance at Riviera, and he was placed there as a professional. He's come a long way very quickly and became the first Norwegian winner on the European Tour with a dominant display in Munich a couple of weeks ago, after which he had Norwegian golf fans completing cross-country expeditions to watch him play a 'quiet' 18. Read that brilliant story below.

HUGHES, Mackenzie

Contended for the US Open, his first major performance of note, and was a bit unfortunate having seen his ball lodge in a tree during the final round. Subsequent effort in Detroit suggests he's playing well again and as a winner by the coast who can make putts from neighbouring states, he's one who could pop up for a bit. That's what he did in the 2020 Honda Classic, where the wind blew, and there's no doubt he's got a fine attitude and some of the skills required for a week-long challenge like that he'll face on Open debut.


Won the Yorkshire Amateur Championship at Moortown five years ago and has made a steady start to life as professional, going close on the MENA Golf Tour and at EuroPro level. Hard to get a handle on him but did crack the world's top 50 as an amateur and who knows where he'll end up.


Two-time winner of the Japan Open, both at the expense of quality operators and latterly under really challenging conditions. Accurate off the tee, made the weekend on his first Open try at Portrush, and form is getting better after a quiet spell.


Asian Tour standout who has come close to a European Tour breakthrough over the last 12 months, missing out in Northern Ireland and then following a play-off in Kenya. Does have a taste of contending for a major having been in the final group at the 2019 PGA Championship. Two missed cuts in this but neither was disastrous, although hard to put a positive spin on recent play.


Share of second in 2011 was his best major finish but meant for heavy criticism owing to the fact he'd also blown the US Open and been robbed of the PGA Championship the previous year. Mistake here came on the par-five 14th hole where in attempting to hit the green in two, he pushed a two-iron out of bounds to hand Darren Clarke a four-shot cushion. Since then has won two majors including the Masters but does have form questions to answer, his long-game a long way from where it was when he dominated the sport for a good six months from last summer onwards. Poor Open record of late, too.

Dustin Johnson won the Masters with a record score
Dustin Johnson won the Masters with a record score last November, but is he playing well enough now?


Lightning-quick winner of the Honda Classic who is playing some of the best golf of his life at 41. Also a two-time winner of the Australian Open, a firm(ish?), links test ought to suit and he's made the cut in all three majors so far this year. Things can spiral out of control, as they did at the US Open, but would consider this a more suitable assignment and he's capable of getting involved in some way. Still not exactly sure why I thought it wise to put him up at 125/1 for the US PGA, mind.

KANAYA, Takumi

Spent over a year atop the amateur rankings and has had a smooth transition to the professional ranks. Already a three-time winner in his native Japan and has come quite a long way since missing the cut at Portrush. More to do but 17th in Germany, 28th in Ireland and top-10 finish in Dubai evidence that he's already competitive on the European Tour.


Timing is everything so they say and his runner-up finish in the Irish Open underlines the point, as it's his first big finish in years and happened to come with a place in the Open. Doubt he'll make the cut, which would be his first in six major starts, even if Mount Juliet performance was the product of quality approach play.

KAYMER, Martin

Back in the Open after missing Portrush and has Kevin Na to thank, the American having decided to give this a miss. On balance and specific to this event, the field therefore gets stronger: Kaymer is a former Dunhill Links winner who was third at halfway here in 2011. Back then he was a reigning major champion who could do no wrong, whereas now he's fighting to prove, including to himself, that he can win again having gone seven years and change without silverware. Breaking down the barrier here would be extraordinary, but let us not forget this is an extraordinary golfer, with two majors, a PLAYERS, a World Golf Championship, and a Ryder Cup-winning putt all to his name. Don't forget it. He hasn't.


Veteran Aussie who had planned to finish his career in 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic changed things. Still weighing up ending next year unless he can prove himself good enough to compete with the game's elite which, at 47, seems unlikely for all this former club pro deserves enormous credit for what he's achieved. Made his major debut in this in 2011 and was out of things early after an opening 77, while more recently has been trying and coming up short in Monday qualifiers over in the US.

KIM, Chan

Big-hitting American exile who has done really well on the Japan Golf Tour. Disappointing US Open aside it's been a solid 2021 so far, including qualifying for that, finishing just outside the top 20 in the PGA Championship, midfield in the WGC-Workday, and generally hinting that he's in peak condition. Having been 11th at Birkdale four years ago he's done more in this than many higher-ranked contemporaries for all that few will anticipate a repeat under likely tougher and more traditional links conditions.


Former winner of the Lytham Trophy whose first European Tour win came nearby when he beat a good field in the British Masters. That and decent stab at the 2018 Open would've made him an interesting one but career has been turned upside down following epileptic seizure in the spring and only recently started playing again, missing the cut despite a promising start in Ireland.


Major debutant who has won back-to-back events in Japan recently. I think I wrote this one during the England game.

KIRK, Chris

When he returned to the PGA Tour following a battle with alcoholism, one of the subs at the desk decided 'A sobering return for Chris Kirk' was a good headline for an otherwise excellent piece. Put that in all the classes at journalism school and never let it happen again. On a more positive note, he likes paddle boarding, so if the first two rounds go badly perhaps you'll see him bobbing along a mile outside of Deal.


Acerbic American whose game is all about finding fairways and then going to work. It's one which carried him into the mix at Carnoustie (T2) and he backed that up with 30th at Portrush, but had been a long way below form until recent surge at the Travelers where he shot two rounds of 63, before a good effort in Detroit on the sort of old-school course he adores. Play-off defeat at RSM Classic another reminder that he can catch fire under suitable conditions but the man whose tagline is 'this ain't no hobby' is still making things look a bit too much like hard work.


Pound-for-pound one of the longest hitters on the European Tour, who like most from the US is trying to get himself onto the PGA Tour. Will need to perform better in the biggest events but did nearly win a Rolex Series title in 2019 and is a two-time winner over here, including by the sea in Oman. That said, yet to prove up to this level and occasional waywardness will probably see him miss the cut as at Portrush.

KOEPKA, Brooks

Four-time major champion who is doing himself a disservice with this nonsense back-and-forth with DeChambeau. How genuine it all is who can say for sure, but by all accounts Koepka is a thoroughly likeable person and I suspect he overestimates how much this sort of shtick has helped him to achieve what he has. It's selfish, too, with the Ryder Cup looming, and now that the majors aren't coming quite so easily perhaps he might drop the playground bully act and start behaving like an actual adult. Or maybe I'm wrong and this is all somehow interesting, entertaining and generally great. Open-wise, he threatened in 2015, 2017 and 2019, and there's no reason the pattern can't continue in 2021 having been involved in the finish at both the PGA and the US Open.


Big improver this season having transformed his putting, which has helped him win twice and both at the expense of world-class opposition. Bit disappointing he couldn't produce more in the previous three majors given his overall form and it's therefore hard to see why he should do much better than a decent 32nd at Portrush, with his power maybe less of an asset here. Can't be dismissed given how far he's come but not really on the shortlist.


Unlucky to bump into Harry Potter, Gandalf and Merlin all in one at the 2017 Open, where Jordan Spieth did some of the most amazing things I've ever seen on a golf course and won the Claret Jug. Steady decline thereafter and while there have been signs of a revival since he went well in the Match Play, he's now missed six major cuts in succession. Return to the Open might help, although his sole missed cut in this event since 2010 came at Royal St George's. Joining the dots doesn't leave you with much.


Very capable youngster from France who looked like he might be the pick of a strong crop, but has been overtaken by a couple of his contemporaries. Still, only 26 and has quietly made all four major cuts, plus is a former winner of the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie. Form concerns are valid but will tempt some in the top Frenchman market.


Australian who has generally endured a rotten time of things on the course this year, save for a top-five finish on the Challenge Tour. Found comfort at Prince's to top his qualifier but likely to hit the ground hard here in the real thing. Apparently nicknamed 'Digger', so hopefully he's grouped with Jonathan 'Jigger' Thomson and, erm, Bryson 'Bigger' DeChambeau.

LEE, Min Woo

Brilliant young Aussie who won the Scottish Open with a birdie at the first play-off hole. That's two wins in 40-odd European Tour starts for this prodigious talent who absolutely flushes it and doesn't look too shabby on the greens, either. Up to 61st in the world as a result and no telling how high he can climb, especially if finding a bit more consistency. Expect he'll suffer a slight setback here, in a major where experience is so valuable, but has at least won on courses that are somewhat links-like.

LEE, Richard T.

Not to be confused with Richard H. Lee, who is a different person. Richard H. Lee, now there's a player. Ooh, the things I could tell you about Richard H. Lee. That story about him, Anthony Kim, Rory Sabbatini, Spencer Levin, Robert Allenby, the bar, the fire extinguisher, the police! Oh how I wish I could tell you that story about Richard H. Lee. But this is Richard T. Lee we're talking about, a Canadian who has been playing on the Asian and Korean Tours for a while now. So those stories about Richard H. Lee will have to wait.


Feast-or-famine type who hangs around when he gets a sniff, such as when fifth at the Masters earlier this year and when producing three top-six finishes in four Opens from 2014. That run included the 2015 play-off which he will feel he should've won and no doubt he's shown what he can do in this, despite missing the 2011 renewal. With a (pairs) win this season, that Augusta effort and T3 at the recent Travelers interspersed with lots of poor form, it's either very good or very bad, and his Open record demonstrates that perfectly: if he isn't in the top six, he's outside the top 50. That's not necessarily a bad thing, for him or for backers.

LI, Haotong

Surprise third in the 2017 Open and went on to beat Rory McIlroy to the Dubai Desert Classic title early the following year, spending the rest of it on the fringes of the game's elite. As recently as last autumn bagged another top-20 finish in a major and played well on the European Tour in Wales, but since then form has fallen off a cliff and, most worryingly, it's because of destructive shots rather than say a misbehaving putter. Bags of talent but it's a long road back from where he is today.

LIN, Yuxin (a)

Two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship and will therefore be making his fourth major start. So far hasn't made the weekend and while he's won collegiate events in the US, more recently has been a bit quiet.

LONG, Adam

The lols in the Joe Long profile will seem a bit odd now namesake Adam is in, following the latest spate of withdrawals. Not entirely sure who he officially replaces, like when a manager makes three substitutions at once. Best finish so far this year is T20 and few will expect that to change here, mainly because it won't.

LONG, Joe (a)

For some reason I can't help but think of 1991 hit film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, and the scene (filmed at Aysgarth Falls in the spectacular Yorkshire Dales) in which Costner and that other actor have a fight with some big sticks, during Costner's walk from Dover to Nottingham via Hadrian's Wall. You know the one: "Should I call you John Little, or should I call you... Little John." Anyway, Long Joe won the 2020 Amateur Championship and his only match at the recent Walker Cup. He's the third-best Long according to the world rankings, behind Adam and Hurly. And he's making his Open debut before presumably turning professional.


Ex-lunatic who has his wife to thank for getting him on the straight and narrow. (Read this bit in a French accent in your head) "Meriem told me trust yourself, because you’re clever. I always loved being the guy that can party and be funny, but the thing is I really believed that that was all that I was. But then you realise you’re more than that. You’re clever, you have a good view of what you need to do, and that’s what she taught me." Lovely stuff, and one of the European Tour's most popular maidens might shed that tag at a lower level if building on recent promise. Just not here. Surely.

LOWRY, Shane

Man, club and course have seldom been as connected as they were that glorious weekend at Portrush, where it felt like the whole of Ireland was along for the ride. Winless in two years since but top-five finish at the PGA plus his best two efforts in the Masters confirm his love for the big stage, and this is another huge summer in his career with the Ryder Cup firmly in focus. First comes a likely stout defence and he's a big runner in this bid to emulate friend and (hopefully) captain Padraig Harrington by winning the Open Championship back-to-back. I don't really see a good reason why he can't.

Shane Lowry's Open Career | Chronicles of a Champion Golfer


Permed Dutchman whose six European Tour wins are notable for being in slightly lesser company, which isn't to diminish a fabulous career but rather to contextualise it. At this level he's so far fallen a little short, never quite in the Ryder Cup conversation nor featuring for more than an hour or two on major leaderboards, and that's unlikely to change unless he somehow turns putting weakness into a strength. That said, long-game so good right now that big prices might underestimate him a tad and is the sort to lure me into another losing wager in the top continental European market. Note to self: Rahm or Hovland. Rahm or Hovland. It isn't complicated.


Hugely popular and promising youngster, who is still shy of his 25th birthday and kicked on from a strong rookie campaign with victory in the Cyprus Showdown last year. Rise in world rankings has made life tough in some ways, as opportunities in the US are hard to turn down but mean he's learning at the very highest level, whereas I suspect a European Tour campaign would've likely seen him contend for plenty more titles this spring. Still, it's all going in and the fact he's made six cuts from six in majors speaks to his strengths, which include a willingness to grind. Sixth at Portrush and made the last 16 of the Amateur Championship here, so definitely one who is of some interest, for all Sky Sports are probably guilty of piling on more pressure than is ideal by making him out to be a Ryder Cup shoo-in destined to win loads of stuff. Or else: BEN COLEY HATES OUR BOB MACINTYRE! COMMENT BELOW WITH SOME ABUSE!

MANSELL, Richard

Progressive flusher from the European Tour who came through Final Qualifying at Hollinwell. Drives the ball to an extremely high standard and might be a good week or two with the putter from really underlining his potential, for all that the twists and turns of golf mean there's no specific formula for success and chequered careers are common. It's not all life in the fast lane, sometimes you just have to take a pit stop but if you keep putting yourself in pole position eventually good things will happen, and you won't go off grid. Does he like dance music you ask? Erm, yes: Chicane in particular. And his favourite song by The National? Hairpin Turns. What are we going through indeed.


Better at this type of golf than he's given credit for having won at Hoylake and also finished second, third, fourth and fifth elsewhere. All of that counted for nothing when he was overwhelmed by the occasion at Portrush, where he took eight at the first hole before a magical Friday saw him fail gloriously with a round of 65 which was one more stroke than he could afford. Returns buoyed by improvement since joining forces with Pete Cowen and surely by playing in front of home crowds in the Irish Open, all of which entitles him to a place towards the top of the betting at a course where he was 25th in 2011. Arguably the most likely winner besides Jon Rahm for all that Irish Open was disappointing and he's probably still dropping too many shots on the cheap.

Rory McIlroy with the trophy after winning the Wells Fargo Championship
Rory McIlroy won the Wells Fargo back in May


Lost a play-off for the Rocket Mortgage Classic where he was beaten on, well, merit by Cameron Davis, who can't play here due to travel complications and effectively therefore pays his victim back by allowing him into the field. That's not a good sentence, is it. Anyway, this summer golfer is best known for stacking up birdies in low-key, low-scoring events, often ones held at the same time as a major. Now up in grade will probably come up short.


Performed all the tricks to beat Brooks Koepka and co and win the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, topping a leaderboard packed with Open specialists. That bodes well ahead of his bid for a second Claret Jug, as does the fact he was runner-up here a decade ago. Since won at Muirfield and beat everyone bar Henrik Stenson by a long way at Troon, so it's possible to make a case for him, even if the idea of lightning striking twice is hard to get your head around. Not so great in the face of off-course opposition.


Had he not been a golfer, would probably have made it to about the third series of Gomorrah before meeting a grizzly end while running errands for Patrizia. For now this blue-eyed stud is leading the way for Niall Horan's collective, already a two-time winner on the European Tour and unfortunate not to have added a third this year, including when playing his part in the Richard Bland story. Top-five finish at the US Open secured his place in this field and the Masters and at 24, he's really hitting his stride. Suddenly a contender for the Ryder Cup but first comes his Open debut and while lacking links form and experience, played the St Andrews Trophy across the road, probably has a decent game for it, and remains completely unexposed.


Southern slugger with game and yet again showed his love of tough conditions and playing in Florida when sealing his Open spot at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Better this year at times and has shown that he'll hang around when he's in form, but not on anyone's radar for this second Open appearance.

MOLINARI, Francesco

Stoic Carnoustie champion who saw off Tiger Woods that day and was basically the best golfer on the planet for a golden few months. Everything went wrong at Augusta the following year although did manage a good defence when 11th at Portrush, and more recently was 13th in the US Open. Still a long way short of the player he was having gone through plenty of changes, including moving his family out to California. Not sure he'll ever get it back but not sure I ever thought he'd get it in the first place, and won't underestimate again.


Decisive winner of a competitive PGA Championship last August and has quickly got to work on doubling up, with finishes of 18th, eighth and fourth so far this year. Definitely let slip a good chance at Torrey Pines but was far from alone in that and once more demonstrated that he can contend against the world's best without needing to putt well. If they do drop then the best iron player in the sport should be hard to keep out of the frame and it's only a lack of links experience which stands against him. Nevertheless expect that and short-game will combine to keep him off the premises for now.

Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship
Collin Morikawa won the WGC-Workday Championship

MUNOZ, Sebastian

Twice inside the top-10 this year to just about preserve ranking, but the rest of his form has been poor and unlikely to be much of a factor on his Open debut despite occasional lights-out scoring bursts.

NAGANO, Ryutaro

Qualified when runner-up in the Mizuno Open but has otherwise been in poor form and, more than 250 starts into his career, is yet to win anything. If that changes here, I'm changing sports.

NIEMANN, Joaquin

Santiago stud who is still figuring it out at this level, with 40th, 30th and 31st so far this year and nothing better than 23rd in the 2020 US Open. It's all money in the bank experience-wise and he's added length plus improved putting to his arsenal, all of which makes this 22-year-old a likely major contender at some point. Perhaps the Open will be the one as while he did miss the cut at Portrush, he likes to hit the ball low and shape shots in a way similar to mentor-of-sorts Sergio Garcia, himself a prodigious talent who quickly got to grips with this style of golf. Interesting enough if his short-game holds up, and fire will be burning after he blew a great chance to win in Detroit, where he made zero bogeys in 72 holes of regulation play, then bogeyed the first play-off hole. Oops.


Ten-time European Tour winner who went 2-1-0 on his Ryder Cup debut in 2018. The fact that he's not really in the mix for a wild card this time around tells you the subsequent years have been quiet and while much better in 2021, flourishes such as that we saw in Detroit need more substance. Nevertheless, five top-20 finishes in nine Open tries, a win in the Scottish Open and links form elsewhere have to entitle him to respect and remains capable of recapturing his best form, especially as there are few who grind harder on the range.


Globe-trotter who has made the cut in two of his three Open starts and played particularly well in bursts at Birkdale. Has also played nicely on rare European Tour starts this year, notably when fifth in Germany, but 39-year-old unlikely to do much better than an early tee-time on Sunday.


Were we talking about Louis Oosthuizen earlier? Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen, the 2010 champion whose career story becomes more absurd by the major, with six runner-up finishes — including one or more in each of them — demonstrating how close he's come to all-time greatness. Instead, carries the reputation of a nearly-man despite his runaway victory at St Andrews, where he was also beaten in a play-off five years later. Perhaps the 2022 Open is a better target then, because not only is he very short in the betting after back-to-back seconds at this level, but his Open record away from the Old Course is actually quite poor. Still, did very little wrong at Torrey Pines and arrives as an obvious candidate in many respects, one whose game has no weaknesses, and refreshed no doubt by a week back home on his beloved farm. Hero.

ORTIZ, Carlos

Debutant who won his first PGA Tour event late last year to launch himself to within sight of the top 50, and has since been either just inside or just outside that mark. Less of a regular on the leaderboard than he was then and though Texas education might be why he's decent in the wind, doubt it'll be enough to enhance a poor major record. If he ever says 'I feel great about my chances' and then wins that same week, I will do a really good tweet about Sandra Bullock in Speed, when she snarls 'thank you for the tip Ortiz'. OK, it's probably 'Ortis', and it might even work better if he says he's playing terribly. Work in progress.


Texan 40-something who played some of the best golf of his life last year and into this, but hasn't translated that to majors. Probably never will but has made the weekend in four of his five Open starts including when 30th here in 2011, so could be one to hang around for longer than you might think following a good start in Scotland under his favoured low-scoring conditions.


Once a good amateur and has done well on the PGA Tour, winning the RBC Heritage, going close at a few similar courses, and even making an excellent Masters debut last November. Any tournament in which there's no real emphasis on power will help but yet to show anything under these conditions in two Open missed cuts.

PEREZ, Victor

Dunhill Links winner in 2019 who revealed that he now lives in Dundee, so there are ticks in all the links boxes. Played some lovely stuff thereafter but progress halted by pandemic and it's getting serious now in terms of whether he can make the Ryder Cup side, which looked very likely at one stage. Skipping the Olympics as a result and under real pressure, which might be making it harder for his likeable long-game to sing, as is the fact he's played a piecemeal schedule lately.

PIKE, Aaron

Like Takumi Kanaya, qualified for this via the 2019 Australian Open when finishing behind winner Matt Jones. "The Open is the biggest tournament in the world for me," he said. "It is. It’s as simple as that." And there's a lot of truth in that.


Dominated his qualifier at West Lancashire and it's hard not to be pleased for this Sheffield youngster who offers a glimpse into the realities of trying to make it, having done various odd-jobs from driving a supermarket delivery van to fitting windows while his partner works for the NHS. Plays out of Pete Cowen's academy and hopefully on his way up the ladder.


Runner-up in 2008 but has missed four of his last five Open cuts and has struggled at Royal St George's in the past. That said, plenty of good form throughout this year, including in all three majors, and will be desperate to put on a show with the Ryder Cup looming. One thing is certain: come September, some people will be outraged that Ian Poulter is/is not one of Padraig Harrington's wild cards. They will largely be the same bunch who were outraged that Matt Wallace was not one of Thomas Bjorn's, or else they'll be from the group who were ready to be outraged had Sergio Garcia been left out (in fairness, the last-named group would've been right). And it will all be good fun.


Stunning winner at Torrey Pines, making mid-range birdie putts on the 71st and 72nd holes to take the title away from Louis Oosthuizen and become a major champion. It was always likely to happen and that course is perfect for him, but that in itself brought pressure and he coped wonderfully. Laugh all you like but fatherhood might've made the difference and he should be a feature on major leaderboards for years and years to come, with the fact he's already won twice on links courses in Ireland suggesting he can collect a Claret Jug at some stage. Can be difficult to go again after such an exhilarating victory but clearly not a problem for this one and he's the man to beat, a fact which probably means less in this major than it does the other three.

RAI, Aaron

Meticulous 26-year-old who does things his own way, with a glove on each hand and head covers on his irons. Already a two-time European Tour winner, beating Matt Fitzpatrick in Hong Kong and Tommy Fleetwood in Scotland, and has something about him. Both those victories speak to a fondness for the likely conditions and he's playing better than his results might suggest, so if the short putts happen to drop (they often do not, but did in Ireland), he can go quite well on his Open Championship debut where the fact he averages 19 pars per round is a help not a hindrance.


In here because he made it to East Lake in 2019, a back-to-form season which saw him follow third place in the US Open with an overdue second PGA Tour win. Really quiet for much of this year and while his long-game might be coming back, as we saw in round one of the John Deere Classic, his record in this speaks for itself (check Wikipedia if you need specifics).

REED, Patrick

Ex-villain who now offers commentary on episodes such as the Koepka-DeChambeau spat, in the same way that the best person to tell you about life in prison is probably someone who is familiar with being behind bars. On a run of seven top-20 finishes in succession in majors right now and this former Masters champion has played well in four of his six Opens, that Texas education and those magic hands keeping him competitive. Hopefully the manager of his bubble hotel does the right thing and makes 'useGolfFACTS' the WiFi password but despite that likely source of anger, he should play well.


Six wins at Sunshine and Challenge Tour level over the last five years and has done reasonably well on the European Tour at times. Not likely to be one of the best of this batch of young South Africans, but good enough to earn a European Tour card this year. Open debut is a free roll in the meantime.

ROSE, Justin

Possibly one of the nicest players around and has done a lot for women's golf over the last year, so I'm going to stop being mean about him, although that may also have something to do with the fact that Bonobos have sent heavies to my house. "Every round is an opportunity to come in under par, sure, but it’s also a chance to show your style," says Rose. SURE. As for his prospects of adding an Open Championship to his US Open win, he's been atypically inconsistent for quite some time and though second at Carnoustie, overall his Open record since those amateur heroics almost 25 years ago isn't great. Maybe that's because he hits the ball so high, maybe it's because he's had bit of bad luck with the draw. Probably a sponsor's dream third.

ROZNER, Antoine

Remarkable winner under tough conditions in Qatar to double his European Tour tally just a couple of months after low-scoring Dubai breakthrough. Those achievements make him a worthy albeit late addition who also deserves inclusion in Ryder Cup chatter having shown flashes of promise on the PGA Tour, most notably at the WGC-Match Play in Texas. Long-game can be so good that putting an upper limit on potential is difficult, and while new to this has shown he can play in the wind. Not to be underestimated at big odds.


Says he'd have been a dentist if he hadn't chosen a career in professional golf, and so far has proven himself a capable operator on the Asian Tour where he's won three times. Barely played tour-level golf this year though and likely exposed as a result.


And so begins a surprisingly long list of players whose names begin 'Sch', about the only thing you (probably) can't bet on. This one is the most likely to contend as his top-10 strike-rate in majors is better than 50%, and includes four in six since golf returned last June. Open record similarly strong with 20th on debut and then second at Carnoustie, and Portrush can be marked up as he was told his driver was non-confirming and had to change it on the eve of the tournament. Growing frustration that he's winless since January 2019 aside, what's not to like?


Arguably the standout maiden on the PGA Tour, along with Will Zalatoris, Abraham Ancer and Matt Fitzpatrick, who of course has won plenty in Europe. Scheffler shouldn't be long in getting off the mark having done everything else, and his 2020-onwards major record is really good: 19-4-18-8-7. Carrying that with him to Kent is no given for a big-hitting, aggressive player who may lack something in the way of links smarts, though being Texan and having dealt with wind from the day he picked up a club may help a good deal. Several from the Lone Star State, including Jordan Spieth but also far lesser names, have shown that before.

SCHMID, Matthias (a)

Big-hitting German amateur who was awful when I tipped him at 1000/1 for the European Open, then brilliant when sent off 300/1 a couple of weeks later for a much stronger event. I don't like to go on about it though.


Winner on the Challenge Tour in the Czech Republic, earning his Open debut in the process. It's taken a while but he's never been better and looks likely to go very close at a similar level, or even on the European Tour, in the coming months. Not here, of course.

SCHWAB, Matthias

One of several who qualify for this based on 2019 Race to Dubai finishing positions, and is back in that kind of form now having been a staple of European Tour leaderboards throughout this season. Propensity to hit one or two rank shots at the weekend remains, and his putting can be utterly hopeless, but this mild-mannered ski-circus performer has so much talent and should put it all together soon. May well make his first major cut here and while parkland courses more suitable, is a former runner-up in the Amateur Championship at Troon.


Not to be confused with the actor who dresses better but isn't as good looking. It's not a competition. Undeniably been quiet since the pandemic hit, before which he'd won at Riviera, and the biggest concern is that his long-game has been poor whereas the putter has generally behaved. Still prone to missing from close range so really will need to start hitting the ball better if he's to finally banish the demons of 2012, when he bogeyed the final four holes at Lytham to lose by one. That's one of five top-10 finishes in the event and he was 25th here a year earlier, so do expect to see him put up by some good judges.


Cape Town-born Aussie who was a very good amateur and has been a regular on the European Tour for several years now, often threatening to win including in high-class company. Showed at the Scandinavian Mixed that firm, fast, breezy conditions are ideal but it was a bit disappointing to see his effort peter out on Sunday there. Open debut and one with the skills if not quite the class.


Finishing flourish in Scotland means he'll play in four of the last five Opens. That's an amazing achievement for a one-time promising amateur who is yet to crack the world's top 150. Yet to make a cut but there's more substance to his form this time than when coming through 36-hole qualifiers so perhaps that can change.

SHEPHERD, Laird (a)

Secured the golfing comeback of the year/decade/century when beating Monty Scowsill in the Amateur Championship having been eight down through 17 in a 36-hole final. Pick of the quotes either "I felt so nervous I thought I was going to die" or "I’m not good at anything other than golf", the latter when explaining what was going through his mind when injury issues threatened to end his young career before it had really started. Clearly a bit of a fighter and that will serve him well.

SIEM, Marcel

Brilliant scenes on Sunday as he won on the Challenge Tour to gain entry into the Open Championship. He isn't going to win this, is he, and therefore a good reminder that while we all obsess over who might, there's so much more to it. Siem's main goal was to win a tournament with his little daughter there watching, and he's gone and done it. He may well have felt as good as whoever gets the Claret Jug and good on the ponytailed madman.


Made his Open debut here with a share of 16th and bettered than when 12th at Carnoustie three years ago. That reflects a solid but unspectacular record in the event, a comment which would also apply to his form in 2021. Crucially, he's been a little off with his approaches and as someone who gives up ground off the tee, that leaves the putter with an awful amount of heavy lifting to do. Expectations can't be too high unless and until he gets his irons firing again and still a bit of a mystery as to why he seldom plays.

SMITH, Cameron

Scrappy sort who needs the driver to behave if he's to show what he can do thereafter, which includes some of the best hands in the sport and a short-game to die for. Already proven himself at the highest level, both in the Masters and the US Open and also the Presidents Cup, and were it not for the fact he's been a bit quiet lately would've been a strong candidate here. Still interesting to some degree following 20th at Portrush and forms part of a potentially strong Aussie contingent.


Wears a genuine smile and has done on his Open trips, including when pulling pints in a local pub back in 2013. Now 40 and having been through a very difficult time off the course, will appreciate that this is his last Open unless he rediscovers his best golf. There have been bits and pieces of encouragement, but he's a long way outside the world's top 100 now and patchy Open record includes a missed cut here in 2011.

SPIETH, Jordan

One of the comeback stories of the season having reestablished himself and won the Texas Open, with several other good performances supporting the idea that he's close to his mesmerising best. Still a little way to go and has been quiet in the last two majors, but a return to linksland bound to spark something in a creative golfer who showcased the full repertoire when winning this four years ago. Seven cuts made in seven Open starts and looks a huge runner for all that he'll arrive here having been absent since Torrey Pines. He knows what he's doing though, and 13 top-30s in 14 starts since he rose from the ashes in Phoenix further help to underline his credentials.

Jordan Spieth shot a final-round 66 to win in Texas
Jordan Spieth shot a final-round 66 to win in Texas back in April

STEELE, Brendan

Another late addition after withdrawals of Bubba Watson and Hideki Matsuyama on Sunday. This one had a chance in the 2011 PGA Championship and has played well in a couple of subsequent majors, but has missed the weekend in three of his four tries in the Open and is unlikely to feature. No relation to the station officer from Fireman Sam whose voice I impersonated for my son in February 2020 and have had to keep on impersonating every single day since then. P L E H D N E S


Stars aligned for a remarkable performance in 2016 and it had always seemed that the Open Championship would be his major, were there to be one. Down the field in 2011 which wouldn't be a worry given that he was in the middle of a slump, except 10 years on he's back in that position. Long-game suddenly full of errors and with his approach work not what it was, suddenly his unwillingness to hit driver looks a massive problem. Instinct might carry him far enough to make another cut but wouldn't count on it and Noren looks the one for top Swede honours.


Old-school ball-striker who might've been one of the best players in the world had he been born in a different era. Really relishes the adventure of an Open and has finished eighth and 15th in his two major appearances so far this year, so extension of a late invite means we've another genuine each-way contender to consider. MC here in 2011 doesn't tell us much, especially as he rallied nicely on Friday, and on his last Open appearance produced a dazzling Friday 65 to advance. Look for match bets as he may well win them all providing John Deere start was just a blip.


Late addition who seemed to know he was in the field before anyone else did, and maintains he's playing well despite quiet week in Scotland. Returned to winning ways last summer and his last two victories on the European Tour have been by seven and nine strokes, evidence of what damage he can do. It's usually under low-scoring conditions but 12th at Troon was solid as was sixth at Royal County Down the previous summer. Back at that level now despite blip at the Renaissance.

THOMAS, Justin

Personal favourite of mine who was awesome when winning The PLAYERS Championship back in March. Otherwise it's been very much an up-and-down year, on and off the course, and his trademark approach play has suffered a significant dip over the last eight weeks. Doubt he can win this without correcting that but fought hard for 11th at Portrush, his best Open finish, and is one of the most prolific players in the sport. Nevertheless not as reliable as some in majors and this would be the least suitable, so needs to have built on a strong start to the Scottish Open to become of serious interest and even then would want to be convinced his long-game is back.

THOMSON, Jonathan

Nicknamed Jigger and best known for being a mountain of a man who accordingly thrashes it. Dabbled on the European Tour in 2018 and contended a couple times, most notably in Denmark, while more recently managed a welcome top-20 on the Challenge Tour prior to qualifying at Hollinwell. Survived cancer as a kid so this will be an absolute walk in the park for a man worthy of heaps of respect.

TODD, Brendon

Came back from the abyss to win twice in back-to-back weeks at the end of 2019, both by the coast and in fairly low-key company. Kept playing at that kind of level to contend several times last summer and had a taste of the lead at the PGA, where his fairway-finding and putting abilities kept him competitive. They could do here as he's particularly comfortable in a breeze and has finished 39th and 12th in two previous Open appearances.


Solid sort who is a longstanding maiden but should at some stage get there and force statisticians to check whether he's had 387 or 388 previous attempts at winning on the PGA Tour. Terrible record in majors and probably one to take on.


Not the first example of a player who graduates from European to PGA Tour and then finds that things get really difficult. There have been several signs he's capable of making the grade but it's a tough school and would be no surprise to see better now back in the UK and Ireland, where he's managed a couple of top-20 finishes in this and contended in the Irish Open. Proven on links terrain and until this year boasted a strong record in majors overall. Get the guitar.


Career has taken off over the last year and a half, first becoming the dominant force on the Sunshine Tour and then winning a play-off in Kenya to complete the transition to European Tour. Already shown he can be competitive outside of Africa and was the second best player in the PGA Championship from tee to green. That Open-like test might be a good guide and the way he coped, with the exception of the putter, bodes well. It was his first go at a major and he's absolutely full of it right now.

VARNER, Harold

Similarities to Ancer in that he's won in Australia but awaits a PGA Tour breakthrough. That victory under tricky conditions says much about this quality ball-striker, who has made the cut in his last three majors, was 66th on his sole Open try in 2016, and surely wants more of a test than when 11th last week.

VEERMAN, Johannes

Prolific birdie-maker who has at times looked very promising on the European Tour, including when third in Ireland. That was his first top-20 finish since March and it remains to be seen whether he can now kick on.


Exemptions for winning the 2016 PGA Championship are running out but has two more goes at this. Best so far is T26, which came during the same year he was inside the top 10 in all other majors, and while recent sixth at the Memorial was welcome, there are doubts as to whether it really represents the turning of the tide. Real shame that his career has been effectively curtailed by Lyme disease.


Burst on the scene in as much as a golfer can really burst on the scene when winning four times in less than 18 months, but it's now twice as long since the latest of them. That said has produced some of his best golf this year, with three top-sevens all in very good company, and recent dip in form isn't too much of a worry. Open-winning caddie Gareth Lord on the bag has to be a positive and while a little shy on links form, he's gaining strokes in all departments on the PGA Tour this season.


Fine driver of the ball who delivered on long-held promise to win in 2018, and then enjoyed an even better season in 2019. It's that which got him into this field and he's a huge price owing to persisting injury troubles and a lack of form since returning last summer. Open record is decent (made two cuts in three) though and one who might've made the first-round leader list but for the way he's played lately.


Fireworks of early spring have gone out a bit but had his distractions having recently remarried. Clearly still a force at this level having won the 2020 Race to Dubai and feel sure that if he is to defy all logic and finally win a major, it will be in the Open Championship where he was fourth at Portrush to go with five previous top-10s. Record here reads MC-MC but wouldn't dwell on that limited evidence and he can look to old pal Darren Clarke for inspiration, as well as more recently the performance of Phil Mickelson at Kiawah Island. Made the cut in a remarkable 67 of his 87 major appearances and it is not totally out of the question that he could pull this off, though does need to return to the golf which saw him finish second at Bay Hill and Sawgrass (good start in Scotland helps on that score). Chances are he instead does a Monty and wins a major on the seniors' circuit, but until his form demands otherwise it's important that all of us hold on to hope.


Still Austria's leading light and made it eight European Tour wins with a dominant performance from the front in Denmark. Two wins there plus one in the Scottish Open and second at Royal County Down demonstrate that links or at the very least breezy golf should be all right, but so far has done very little in the Open. Better last time, sharing 32nd at Portrush, but it's probably no coincidence his standout performances at the highest level have come under fairly easy conditions as he's generally at his best when chasing flags. Would want to see him do better here if he's to be a Ryder Cup candidate.


Still quite like him for this despite the fact it's been a fairly quiet year for the 2016 Masters champion. Case for involves top-six finishes at St Andrews and Portrush plus 13th at Muirfield and 24th at Carnoustie, all helping demonstrate that he's a big-time player with a strong links pedigree. Also has some history at Royal St George's having won the English Amateur Championship here a long time ago and can do better than when making his Open debut in 2011 and missing the cut.


US Open winner in 2019 who saw his run of seven cuts made in seven appearances come to an end at Portush. Fair to say he's not been much of a factor since that excellent Pebble Beach effort and while he has had excuses, having struggled with injuries and experimented with his coaching team, the only thing to recommend him is the fact he made his Open debut here in 2011 and finished T30.


Raw and rugged youngster who was a surprise qualifier at Prince's having been quiet on mini tours in the UK. Clung on after a second-round 75 and will surely struggle here, but hopefully this won't be the last we see of him. I don't really know why I said that. Anyway, he's been to Royal St George's before and witnessed Tom Watson's 2011 hole-in-one as a spectator so watch for that story if he also does a hole-in-one. I don't know why I said that, either.


Stick-thin sensation who is a welcome addition to this feature, giving it a more complete feel. Top-10 finishes in his first three majors before somehow refusing to make a single birdie in 36 holes at Torrey Pines, where he seemed to play fine and was no doubt frustrated. Wisely bagging some links prep in the Scottish Open, where he can boost his Race to Dubai hopes in a strong field. On that, I am 100% behind the prospect of one of the best golfers in the world playing in the Czech Masters because he's ineligible for the FedEx Cup Playoffs unless he wins before they begin. I mean he probably won't turn up in Prague but it might just cross his mind and would make the PGA Tour look really stupid. All for that in the workplace.

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