The 145th Open Championship will feature the world’s best golfers and no less than 16 past champions.
The Old Course at Royal Troon will play host to The Open for the ninth time. Out of the 156-strong field, there can only be one Champion Golfer of the Year, so we narrowed it down to five top contenders.
Wins in 2016: 2
Top tens: 9
Johnson is on fire at the moment. The American will arrive at Royal Troon off the back of consecutive victories – and these aren’t just any victories either.
The 32-year-old cruised to his maiden major win at the U.S Open last month by three strokes. After coming close on multiple occasions in the majors, it must have felt like a weight off his shoulders. Evidently it was, as he again outplayed a high-class field at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks later.
Johnson’s prodigious length off the tee is tough for the rest of the field to deal with. But it’s not all power. He is the top-ranked PGA Tour player for approaches from 50-125 yards and ranks second in putting average, proving he has deft touch as well.
Let’s not forget that he is no mug on a links course, as he was within one of the lead in the final round of the 2011 Open at Royal St Georges. Johnson would finish T2 after a double bogey on the 14th, three strokes behind winner Darren Clarke. Last year, a stunning seven under 65 in the opening round gave him the lead at St Andrews, which he held onto until Saturday.
Wins in 2016: 3
Top tens: 8
The mercurial Day is another that enjoys winning in clumps. In fact, he enjoyed a simply incredible period in late 2015 where practically couldn’t stop winning.
The Australian’s four victories in six starts saw him reach the world number one spot for the first time. While Jordan Spieth snatched it away from him at the season-ending Tour championship, Day wasn’t done yet.
This year, Day carded victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational then the WGC-Cadillac Championship a week later to take back his number one spot. At the Players Championship – unofficially known as the ‘fifth major’ – Day showed his class once again, sailing to a four-stroke win with consummate ease.
In terms of results at the Open, Day enjoyed his best finish at last years event, where he settled for T4 after missing the playoff by one stroke. This year, he arrives following a T8 and a T3 at the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational respectively.
Wins in 2016: 2
Top tens: 7
Spieth has played the most events out of everyone on this list this season and perhaps it is starting to show.
Prior to his win at the Dean and Deluca Invitational in late May, by his standards, he was on a poor run of form. In the seven starts prior, he earned two top tens, but missed two cuts.
One of those top ten finishes was his T2 at the Masters which would have felt like missed cut after his meltdown on the 12th, where he put two balls in the creek.
Nonetheless, Spieth has proven he has the guile required for links golf, as he tied for fourth with Day at the home of golf last year, narrowly missing out on the playoff.
Coming off a disappointing T37 finish at Oakmont – his worst finish in a major after announcing himself at the 2014 Masters with a runner-up finish – Spieth will be keen to show he is not a flash in the pan.
Wins in 2016: 1
Top tens: 8
The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent certainly applies to McIlroy, who will be eager to impress at Royal Troon.
So far, 2016 has been a year of near misses for the Northern Irishman, as he has notched up no less than six top four finishes.
Two weeks ago, McIlroy was two shots off the lead going into the final round of the Open de France, but failed to fire in the final round and settled alone in third, five shots off the pace.
The four-time major winner missed out on the chance to defend his 2014 title last year due to an ankle injury, so in his mind, he is still the Champion Golfer of the Year. Following his wire-to-wire win, McIlroy certainly deserved the title.
After slipping to fourth in the world rankings – his lowest in three seasons – this week, McIlroy will have a golden opportunity to prove that he belongs at the top of world golf.
Wins in 2016: 2
Top tens: 4
Scott makes our top five not only for a consecutive wins at the Honda Classic and WGC-Cadillac Championship earlier this year, but also his record at The Open.
The Australian has gone T2, T3, T5 and T10 in his last four appearances at the iconic links event. Almost no-one in the field can boast those numbers.
However, he has had his fair share of slip ups. Twice has Scott shared the lead in the back nine Sunday, and twice he has failed to capitalise. In 2012, he lead by four strokes with four to play only to squander the lead and hand the win to Ernie Els.
The following year, Scott was level with leader and eventual winner Phil Mickelson on the 13th, but his dream died again after three consecutive bogeys. Ouch. But with the knowledge that he can do it, a revitalised Scott could be a force to be reckoned with this week.
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