Saturday - Five to watch
We continue our daily look at some of the key players featuring near the top of the leaderboard.
There are two Scandinavians on the leaderboard and both Kjeldsen and Henrik Stenson are not just fine golfers but have a wonderfully dry sense of humour. They are among the top interviewees in world golf and both are more than capable of winning the Claret Jug this week. Last year Kjeldsen came through a period in the doldrums to win the Irish Open at Royal Co. Down where he proved adept at coping with adverse conditions. He is not long but he’s mightily effective when he’s on his game.
The 30-year-old from Woodstock is another player who has been through a slump so his fine form over the first two rounds will be like music to his ears. He told us yesterday it has been tough listening to his peers asking “what’s gone wrong?” so is delighted his work with new coach Darren May is starting to pay off. Eleven missed cuts in twenty events on the PGA Tour this season is poor return. A tie for 8th at the recent Memorial tournament was the first sign of the recent progress the former US PGA Champion has made.
‘Beef’ has currently been lapping up his new-found celebrity status but anyone who thinks he’s all show need look no further than his win in this year’s Spanish Open at Valderrama. That course is one of the most demanding in Europe so it’s no surprise he’s coping admirably with the adverse conditions here. ‘Beef’ might well be hard to shift.
Raphael Cabrera Bello
Regular golf watchers will know this 32-year-old from Las Palmas has seldom been off the leaderboard all season. He hasn’t won but has ties for second at the Qatar Masters and the Dubai Desert Class and a semi-final place at the WGC-Dell World Match Play are on this season’s CV. He was also T-17th at the Masters and T-32nd at the US Open so is clearly not afraid of the big stage. Rafa is already a virtual dead cert for this year’s Ryder Cup team and it’s likely he will create a lot more headlines before he gets to Hazeltine.
Garcia, alongside Lee Westwood, must be fed up being labelled as ‘The Best Player in the World not to have won a Major’. This is the 36-year-old’s 20th appearance in The Open and he’s had two top-three and nine top-ten finishes but that elusive victory still remains tantalisingly out of his grasp. Rounds of 68 and 70 leave him six shots behind Phil Mickelson but that is by no means insurmountable if the weather misbehaves.