Thursday - Five to watch
We continue our daily look at some of the leading contenders in this week’s field and at why they might perform well in The Open.
Anyone who is considering a solid each-way bet would be well advised to look at Adam Scott. The former Masters Champion is the only man in this week’s field to have claimed a top-10 finish in each of the last four years. That’s impressive although it is a slight worry that after finishing 2nd in 2012 he was T-3rd in ’03, T-5th in 2014 and T-10th last year. Can the Australian reverse that trend and claim a second Major title?
At first sight, the 24-year-old Hatton looks like a rank outsider. Four successive missed cuts in The Open suggest he isn’t much of a links player but dig a little bit deeper into the stats and you will see he finished tied-4th in the Irish Open at Royal County Down and T-4th in the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen. Throw in a second place finish at last week’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart and all of a sudden his links pedigree doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it did at first sight.
The Englishman’s great friend, Darren Clarke, was 43 when he ended his long wait to win a Major Championship at The Open at Royal St George’s in 2011 so there would be a certain symmetry if Westwood finally ended his own lengthy barren run with a win at the same age and it’s entirely possible because his record in The Open in Scotland is much better than it is in England. It’s also worth mentioning it’s often his putting that causes Westwood his biggest problems so it might be significant that Troon has some of the flattest greens on The Open rota.
The American left-hander is flying a bit under the radar this year but believers in Horses for Courses might like to know he finished third behind compatriot, Todd Hamilton, the last time The Open was staged at Royal Troon back in 2004. Incidentally, Westwood (see above) was fourth in that event and Mickelson was also 43 when he won at Muirfield in 2013. Is there some sort of trend emerging here?
Padraig Harrington was the last man to defend The Open back in 2008 but last year’s Golfer of the Year might well be the man to end that run. There will be those who suggest a softish Troon will be too long for the American but that’s what they said before the American won the 2007 Masters. The American is famous for playing his own game and, at its best, it is as good as almost anybody else’s.