Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.
Royal St. George’s is the site of the 149th Open Championship this week and is noteworthy for producing some very unlikely winners in the past 40 years including Bill Rogers (1981), Ben Curtis (2003) and even Darren Clarke in 2011, and maybe another longshot in 2021. Bryson DeChambeau has a new caddie and Jon Rahm is World #1 and won his first major just a few weeks ago. Those are just a few of the intriguing stories being discussed this week. What storyline do you find most compelling about this year’s Open Championship?
Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): It may not be a prominent storyline, but I think RSG doesn’t achieve the respect it’s due as a great links course. I’ve played 9 of the 10 rota courses (all except Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s), and I’d rank RSG in the top 5, after Royal Portrush, Royal Birkdale, and Turnberry. The fact that it’s not in “the nawth” as most rota courses are, and it HAS had its share of unlikely winners may have given it a bum rap, but I think that’s unfair. I urge people to give it a fair view this week and play it one day if you can.
Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario, @craigloughry): For me, it is Rahm. He’s had one heck of a season, ups and downs. He’s been playing stellar golf for months now. I think he’ll be there in the end, he’s just too talented. Does he get the jug? Not sure, but I know I’ll watch every single shot all week! I love the Open.
Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: This venue is perfect for a mano o mano with Brooks vs Bryson. Brawn vs brawn. Chatter vs the brain. Smash ‘n gouge vs smash and gouge. Maybe throw in a debate during après Press Conference. While all that is going on with TV following every stroke, every punch, everybody blow, every quip I hope the wind howls and some real golf gets played. I’d love to see lots of bump and runs around the greens, bullet drives, and 5 irons from 150 yards. Storyline? There are so many to choose from how about Tiger’s recovery from his accident. Oh well, I guess I miss everything always being about Tiger.
TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): I’m not sure there’s a really intriguing story heading into the event, I think the story will emerge as the week progresses. It really is wide open this year and I think we may see a surprise champion again at Royal St George’s.
Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): For me, the best stories in almost every major are the enigmas. The guys who are on a roll get plenty of attention and this week that’s Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Louis Oosthuizen and Brooks Koepka but then there are top players whose story involves a ‘yabut’. Can Dustin Johnson win? Ya, but he’s just a bit off right now. Can Rory McIlroy win? Ya, but he can’t seem to get fired up in the majors anymore. Can Lee Westwood win? Ya, but he’s about to set a record for most majors without a win so what would make you think he can change that arc of history? Whether they’re fighting demons, swing faults or off-course woes, those guys make the most compelling stories.
Major tournaments always produce lots of chatter about players that need to win a major or deserve to win, perhaps someone who could use a major title to cap off a long and distinguished career. Which player over the age of 40 would you most like to see add a first major title to their resume?
Deeks: Wow, I have to think long and hard about that one and go online to check ages. Louis Oosthuizen is nearly 39, so I’m going to bend the criterion and go with him. Six second-place finishes in majors surely qualifies Louis as the Man Most Deserving to finally win one.
Loughry: Westwood for sure makes my list. This guy is awesome, and an Open would really cap off his career. Another would be Poulter, could you imagine what that would be like? ANARCHY! I’d love to see either, but Westy would really be something.
Schurman: Anyone who does NOT say Westwood is either getting paid, lying, or not paying attention.
Rule: That’s an easy one for me, it’s Lee Westwood. I’ve been cheering for him to win a major for two decades now, and this might be one of his best chances, given the form he’s had this year. It would be the icing on the top of his hall of fame worthy career.
Mumford: Westwood is the obvious choice here. As noted above, he’s tied with Jay Haas for most major starts without a win at 87. He has fashioned a Hall of Fame career based on European Tour wins, money titles, Ryder Cup results and near misses at the majors, so not passing Haas this week would be a nice cap to his career. As Craig notes, an Ian Poulter victory would also be sweet – more so for international golf fans than Americans. Poults finished T4 last week in the Scottish Open, so he’s not exactly arriving from obscurity. The Yanks would likely be excited about Matt Kuchar finally nabbing a major in his 40’s but Kooch fell off my radar when he stiffed his caddie in Mexico a few years back. Bad form, as they say.
Head vs Heart. You have 10 Pounds to make two bets on the Open Championship: 5 Pounds on the player you THINK will win and 5 Pounds on the player you HOPE will win. Who are your two picks?
Deeks: Joaquin Neumann will win, but I hope Oosthuizen does. I’d guess Neumann would go off at 75-1, Louis at 37-1.
Loughry: If Oosthuizen doesn’t make everyone’s list to win, you haven’t been paying attention. He’s been the most consistent player in majors the last 12 months, especially recently, lay a five’r on him. For me, I’d lay down another five on Spieth as my HOPE. He’s good for golf, and in general, I’d love to see him pull it out. Oostie or Spieth, now wouldn’t that be something!
Schurman: Heart – Oosthuizen; Head – Cantlay.
Rule: I like Tyrrell Hatton this week. He has won on an Open course before (two-time champ at Dunhill Links at St Andrews/Carnoustie), and he’s been in decent form. In terms of hoping to win, I’ll refer to my previous answer. Although I’d love to see a Canadian win first and foremost, Lee Westwood would be my heart pick this week.
Mumford: The problem with finding a logical pick is you can really overthink this stuff to the point where you get a headache. Jon Rahm is the hot hand right now, and coincidentally has been my go-to pick in the majors for four years, so I’ll stick with Rahmbo. The heart says Jordan Spieth, but I’d also be delighted if King Louis, Lee Westwood or any of the Canadians could steal the Claret Jug.