Which former Champion Golfer has the best chance of another Claret Jug
The 147th Open is here and with a field packed full of talented players looking to lift the Claret Jug and become the Champion Golfer of the Year.
For 19 men in the field, lifting the sport’s most famous trophy is something they have already experienced, and each will be keen to do so once more.
The question is though, which former Champion Golfer has the best chance of triumphing at Carnoustie come Sunday?
No player since World War II has won The Open more than the ten years apart that Ernie Els managed with his second title in 2012, so with the greatest of respect to some of the older winners, a repeating champion is likely to come from a more recent vintage.
With that in mind, here are the five players who could have the most chance of becoming Champion Golfer of the Year once again.
Where else can you start but with the defending champion, Jordan Spieth? A year on from his memorable duel with Matt Kuchar at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is looking to retain his crown at Carnoustie.
Still only 24, Spieth is a three-time Major winner, although 2018 has been a little tougher for him on the greens and has seen his world ranking slip down to sixth.
The Texan is still looking for his first win of the season but did manage to finish third at the Masters in April.
While his form has been a little patchy since, it would take a brave man to write off a player who tied for the best final-round score at Augusta with his 64 just three months ago.
A Spieth victory would mean back-to-back titles, a feat which has not been achieved since Padraig Harrington managed it in 2007 and 2008, the first of those titles coming, coincidentally, at Carnoustie.
Els’ titles came ten years apart, so Tiger Woods would have to break his record, having not lifted the Claret Jug since 2006.
With three Open titles to his name, Woods knows just what it takes to become the Champion Golfer and his renaissance this season has been the golfing story of the year.
While he has not yet picked up a victory on his reduced programme since his injury return, Woods has regularly challenged at the business end of tournaments, including a tied fourth at the Quicken Loans National in Potomac at the start of the month.
Experience certainly seems to play a role at The Open, with recent winners Els, Phil Mickelson, Darren Clarke and Henrik Stenson having all turned 40 when they lifted the Claret Jug.
For Woods, now 42, his adeptness on the greens will be fascinating, having changed putter in Potomac. There he seemed to go well from slightly longer range but will have to eliminate some of his shorter-range misses to seriously challenge in Angus.
Overall this season, Woods has been better on the PGA Tour than in majors, but that could all change at Carnoustie.
After his struggles at Shinnecock Hills, Rory McIlroy questioned his ability to cope with windy conditions, a must at a course like Carnoustie.
Still, he has shown this season that he remains one of the most dangerous players on tour, with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, not to mention his tied fifth at the Masters.
The 29-year-old has a fine record at The Open, going all the way back to his Silver Medal at Carnoustie in 2007, the last time the course hosted the event.
Seven years later, McIlroy matched Woods as the only players to have won both the Silver Medal and lifted the Claret Jug, doing so at Royal Liverpool.
It has now been four years since McIlroy won a major, but the world No.8 remains a force of nature when he is on song, and could be a real danger in Scotland.
With top tens at both of the majors played already this year, Henrik Stenson has managed to save his best form for the big events.
Two years on from his record-breaking success at Royal Troon, the 42-year-old Swede arrives at Carnoustie in promising form.
In 2016, Stenson shot 264, the lowest score ever at a major championship so at his best, he is a hard man to beat.
Last year’s Wyndham Championship was his last tournament victory, but his consistency in 2018 has been impressive with five top-ten finishes, and having missed the cut just once all year.
Currently 17th in the world, Sweden’s first-ever major winner has finished in the top three on four occasions at The Open, including the 2016 success. Could this year be podium number five?
Phil Mickelson’s win at Muirfield will long in the memory and he will have the chance to go again at Carnoustie as he goes in search of a second Open title.
The 48-year-old made his first appearance at The Open 27 years ago, with his sole victory to date coming in 2013 at Muirfield.
Mickelson has also got two second places and a third to his name, most notably duelling with Stenson in one of the greatest final days of any Open two years ago, when the American finished 11 shots clear of third place but was denied the title.
His record at Carnoustie is patchy, having missed the cut in both 1999 and 2007, but he arrives on the back of a strong season.
The stand-out result is unquestionably the WGC-Mexico Championship success in April, but with four further top-ten finishes, that was not a flash in the pan.
As mentioned earlier, The Open often tends to favour the older players, so Mickelson will arrive hopeful of adding to his five major titles.
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