Here are five of the dark horses most likely to upset golf’s biggest names in the British Open at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England, starting Thursday:
World ranking: 7
Best British Open finish: T-59 (2016)
The eye-catching Spaniard’s rise to the top of the world game has been staggering. He made the cut at last year’s British Open in just his third event as a professional, before claiming his first PGA Tour title at Torrey Pines earlier this year with an eagle on the final hole. A run to the WGC World Matchplay final and his runaway victory at the Irish Open have confirmed him as one of golf’s brightest prospects.
Tipped by many to win multiple majors, there is no reason why Rahm will not get that ball rolling in north-west England.
“I know why there’s some confidence in me from people who think I’m going to play good this week. And I like to think if they have the faith in me, I should have faith in myself that I’m going to do it properly,” he said on Tuesday.
A year ago after #TheOpen, Jon Rahm was 278th in world. This week, he's getting better odds (18/1) than Rory (20/1, per Ladbrokes) to win.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 18, 2017
World ranking: 10
Best British Open finish: T-2 (2014)
One of the most talented players yet to win a major title, Fowler appears to have regained some of his best form so far this season. After finishing in the top five in all four majors in 2014, Fowler failed to post another top-10 until this year’s US Open.
The 28-year-old was well-placed to launch serious title challenges at both the US Open and April’s Masters, but produced poor final rounds on both occasions.
A former Scottish Open champion, Fowler has showed himself to be a fine links player. He finished tied for second behind Rory McIlroy three years ago at Hoylake, and also contended at Royal St George’s in 2011.
World ranking: 11
Best British Open finish: T-10 (2015)
The powerful American stormed out of the pack to claim his maiden major crown at the US Open last month. The 27-year-old’s final-round 67 showed he can produce his best under severe pressure. Koepka will be well-rested too, having not played since his breakthrough triumph at Erin Hills.
Unlike some of his compatriots, he shouldn’t struggle to adapt to the British conditions, having made his name on the European Tour.
“I love links golf. I think it’s the best kind of golf you can play. So much imagination that goes into it. You can play 10 different shots from the middle of the fairway and I think that’s so cool. You’ve really got to be creative,” he said Tuesday.
World ranking: 14
Best British Open finish: Missed cut (2014, 2015, 2016)
The Englishman is one of the most in-form players in the world and will be buoyed further by the prospect of playing in his hometown of Southport. The 26-year-old has risen to 14th in the world from 99th at the start of the year thanks to some stellar performances.
His first event of the season saw an impressive victory in Abu Dhabi, while he also finished second at the WGC event in Mexico. Fleetwood eased to the French Open title two weeks ago, having also finished fourth behind Koepka at Erin Hills for his best major-championship effort to date.
World ranking: 32
Best British Open finish: Debut
The young Korean showed maturity far beyond his years when comfortably beating a field of the highest quality to win the Players Championship in May by three shots.
The 22-year-old has never played the British Open, but showed he can compete at the top of major leaderboards at last month’s US Open, before falling away on the final day to finish tied 13th.
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