Open Championship: Seven outside bets

The world’s leading golfers have descended on Scotland for the 2016 Open Championship, the year’s third major, to played on the Old Course of Royal Troon Golf Course in South Ayrshire.

This year’s edition will be the ninth in the history of the tournament to be played at Royal Troon, with Todd Hamilton the most recent winner at the venue, having beating Ernie Els in a play-off in the 2004 event.

Much column space has been filled talking up the chances of the new ‘big four’ in men’s golf – Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy – and the leading quartet on the world rankings will once again be the players to beat.

However, Golf, links golf in particular, can be one of the most difficult to predict and a number of other players will fancy their chances of lifting the Claret Jug come Sunday.

We take a closer look at some of those in with a chance:

Henrik Stenson

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A perennial nearly-man, the Swede has come close to breaking his major duck on more than one occasion, none more so than in 2013 when he finished as the runner-up to Phil Mickelson when the Open took place at Muirfield.

The 40-year-old has had a bit of a torrid time over the last two years, struggling to replicated the form that saw him win the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup and the European Tour’s Race to Dubai in 2013, but returned to winning ways at the BMW International Open last month.

World ranking: Sixth
Best Open finish: Second (2013)

Rickie Fowler

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A former top-ranked amateur, Fowler arguably hosts the best major record of any of the players in the field that haven’t won one of golf’s big ones.

Having finished in the top five in each of the majors in 2014, the 27-year-old has struggled to apply himself at the majors over the last 18 months, missing out on the cut in three of his last six majors.

Nevertheless, the American does have a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship behind his name this season and has long been earmarked as the most likely player to upset the status quo at the top of the rankings.

Considering an American has won at Royal Troon the last six times the Open was held there, going back as far as 1950, this might be Fowler’s time to make a name for himself.

World ranking: Seventh
Best Open finish: Tied for second (2014)

Branden Grace

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Often tipped as the next South African major winner, Grace first caught the attention in 2012 when he won four times in what was his debut season on the European Tour.

Since then, the 28-year-old has steadily improved, and after switching to the PGA Tour in 2016 he won the RBC Heritage tournament two months ago.

After finishing inside the top four in two majors in 2015, it is more a case of ‘when’ and not ‘if’ Grace has what it takes to win the biggest titles in golf.

World ranking: 10th
Best Open finish: Tied for 20th (2015)

Justin Rose

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A former world number one with a top three finish in each of the American majors, including the 2013 US Open title, Rose has struggled at his ‘home’ major somewhat.

Rose’s best performance at the Open came when he was just a 17-year-old amateur, and his tie for sixth position in 2015 is his best showing since the turn of the century.

That said, when the mood hits him Rose is more than a match for anyone in the field and remains a legitimate contender.

World ranking: 11th
Best Open finish: Tied for fourth (1998)

Sergio Garcia

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Another player with top four finishes in each of the majors, albeit only once this decade, the Spaniard is regarded as perhaps the best ever player not to have won a major… yet.

Noted for his his accuracy off the tee and strong iron play, Garcia will be even more of a threat if the wind picks up, conditions which make the sometimes placid-looking Royal Troon course a completely different animal.

Questions will continue to be asked of Garcia’s temperament until he breaks his major duck, but after winning AT&T Byron Nelson in May, the Spaniard has some form coming into the Open.

World ranking: 12th
Best Open finish: Second (2007), tied for second (2014)

Hideki Matsuyama

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The highest-ranked Asian golfer and the youngest player on our list at 24 years of age, Matsuyama already has two PGA Tour titles behind his name, including this year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Experience may count against him when asked to make the quick transition from the PGA Tour to links golf, but Matsuyama is clearly a huge talent.

Although the Japanese player has only one top five finish behind his name in the majors, time is clearly on his side.

World ranking: 17th
Best Open finish: Tied for sixth (2013)

Zach Johnson

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Last year’s winner at St Andrews and the 2007 Masters champion to boot, Johnson has been a contender for most majors he has entered for more than a decade.

Since winning last year’s Claret Jug, Johnson hasn’t set the course alight by any stretch of the imagination, but a tie for eighth at last month’s U.S Open suggests that a mean run of form may be just around the corner for the 40-year-old.

The last player to win back-to-back Open titles was Padraig Harrington in 2008, and Johnson could well emulate the Irishman this week.

World ranking: 18th
Best Open finish: Winner (2015)

Enjoy the full coverage of the 145th Open Championship on FOX Sports Play, where you can catch the LIVE action from different angles, hits and misses, interviews, behind the scenes and so much more. Don’t miss it!

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