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The 147th Open
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10 players primed for major breakthrough
RickieFowlerMajor18

The last three winners at Carnoustie - Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999) and Padraig Harrington (2007) - were all first-time major winners.

Here are 10 players primed for a major breakthrough.

Jon Rahm

Age: 23

World Rank: 5

Career wins: 5 (two PGA Tour, three European Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 1

Record at The Open: Zero top-10s in two starts

Why could this be the week? Rahm was ranked 268th two years ago, and now he is a top-5 player thanks to five wins in his young career. He recorded his first top-10 in a major with a fourth-place finish at the Masters to go along with two wins (CareerBuilder and Spanish Open) and seven top-5 finishes this year already. He missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but Rahm learned a valuable lesson that week. He tried to keep his emotions in check, but it went against who he is as a player. In his next two starts, he finished in the top 5. Lesson learned.

Rickie Fowler

Age: 29

World Rank: 7

Career wins: 7 (four PGA Tour, two European Tour, one OneAsia)

Top-10s in majors: 9

Record at The Open: Two top-10s in eight starts

Why could this be the week? Fowler checks all the boxes of a player primed to win a major. He’s been around long enough to gain experience and win big events, plus he has contended in all four majors. He’s watched several of his friends capture one of the big four, and now it is definitely his time, but Fowler will no doubt battle the feeling of wanting to win too badly rather than just letting it happen.

Tommy Fleetwood

Age: 27

World Rank: 10

Career wins: 4 (European Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 2

Record at The Open: Zero top-10s in four starts

Why could this be the week? The reigning Race to Dubai champion hasn’t slowed down in 2018. He defended his title in Abu Dhabi, and he has recorded top-20 finishes this year at the Masters, Players, BMW PGA and U.S. Open. Fleetwood nearly won at Shinnecock Hills after a final-round 63 but had to settle for second. Oh, and he set the course record (63) at Carnoustie last year during the Alfred Dunhill Links.

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Alex Noren

Age: 35

World Rank: 11

Career wins: 10 (European Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 2

Record at The Open: Two top-10s in seven starts

Why could this be the week? Noren has been one of the best players in Europe over the last two years, and in 2018 he brought his stellar play across the pond to the PGA Tour. The Swede battled Jason Day in a playoff at Torrey Pines, and he also recorded third-place finishes at the Honda Classic and WGC-Dell Match Play. He nearly defended his title at the BMW PGA, and Noren captured his 10th European title at the French Open.

Paul Casey

Age: 40

World Rank: 14

Career wins: 18 (Two PGA Tour, 13 European Tour, two Asia Tour, one Korea Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 9

Record at The Open: Two top-10s in 15 starts

Why could this be the week? Casey has revitalized his career over the past two seasons, and he cemented his comeback with a victory in March at the Valspar Championship. He hasn’t finished outside the top 16 in his last four starts in a major, and with Carnoustie expected to play firm and fast distance won’t be as big a factor.

Francesco Molinari

Age: 35

World Rank: 15

Career wins: 6 (One PGA Tour, five European Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 3

Record at The Open: One top-10 in 10 starts

Why could this be the week? Molinari comes into The Open on fire after big wins at the BMW PGA and the Quicken Loans National (his first victory on the PGA Tour) and a T-2 at the John Deere Classic. The Italian’s record in the majors isn’t stellar, but clearly his game has risen to another level this season.

 

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Hideki Matsuyama

Age: 26

World Rank: 16

Career wins: 13 (Five PGA Tour, eight Japan Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 7

Record at The Open: One top-10 in five starts

Why could this be the week? Matsuyama hasn’t finished out of the top 20 in his last seven starts in majors, and while he hasn’t won yet this season he’s rounding into the form heading into Carnoustie with three straight top-16 finishes.

Marc Leishman

Age: 34

World Rank: 18

Career wins: 11 (Three PGA Tour, one European Tour, one Web.com Tour, one Sunshine Tour, one Korea Tour, five Von Nida Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 5

Record at The Open: Three top-10s in seven starts

Why could this be the week? Leishman had the best year of his career in 2017 (two wins), and he while he hasn’t won this year he has still recorded five top-10s, including a ninth-place finish at Augusta. The Aussie has been a fixture on The Open leaderboard the last several years, too, with three top-6 finishes in his last four appearances.

 

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Matt Kuchar

Age: 40

World Rank: 27

Career wins: 9 (Seven PGA Tour, one Web.com Tour, one PGA Tour of Australasia)

Top-10s in majors: 5

Record at The Open: 10 top-10s in 49 starts

Why could this be the week? With only three top-10s this year, Kuchar isn’t having a great 2018 season, but he definitely has plenty of experience in major championships. And he will certainly be motivated at The Open after coming so close last year at Royal Birkdale.

Ian Poulter

Age: 42

World Rank: 29

Career wins: 17 (Three PGA Tour, 12 European Tour, one Japan Tour, one Asian Tour)

Top-10s in majors: 8

Record at The Open: Three top-10s in 16 starts

Why could this be the week? Over the last year, Poulter has vaulted up the World Ranking after falling out of the top 200 due to a foot injury. He won his third PGA Tour title in Houston, and he has finished inside the top 25 in six of his last seven starts. It’s also a Ryder Cup year, and there is no doubt Poulter wants to secure a spot on the European squad after sitting out in 2016.