BRITISH OPEN '21: Capsules on 10 contenders for claret jug

·6-min read

A capsule look at 10 top players in the 149th British Open, which starts July 15 at Royal St. George's in Sandwich, England (listed in predicted order of finish):

JON RAHM

Age: 26.

Country: Spain.

World ranking: 1.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: US Open (2021).

2021 Majors: Masters-T5, PGA Championship-T8, US Open-1.

British Open moment: Made his professional debut at the Quicken Loans National in 2016, and his tie for third earned him a spot in the British Open at Royal Troon (tie for 59th).

Backspin: Not since Tiger Woods has a player won golf’s two oldest championships in the same year, and the six players who have won the U.S. Open and British Open is as elite as it gets -- Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and Bobby Jones (twice). Rahm has finished top 10 in all three majors this year.

JUSTIN THOMAS

Age: 28.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 3.

Worldwide wins: 14.

Majors: PGA Championship (2017).

2021 Majors: Masters-T21, PGA Championship-Cut, US Open-T19.

British Open moment: Two behind after the opening round at Royal Birkdale in 2017, he tried three times to hack out of thick grass on the sixth hole and couldn’t find the ball after the third try. He made a 9 and went on to shoot 80 to miss the cut.

Backspin: A rough start to the year, a big win at The Players Championship, and then mediocrity. Since winning at the TPC Sawgrass, he has gone eight consecutive starts without a top 10, including three majors.

BROOKS KOEPKA

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 7.

Worldwide wins: 11.

Majors: PGA Championship (2018, 2019), US Open (2017, 2018).

2021 Majors: Masters-Cut, PGA Championship-T2, US Open-T4.

British Open moment: Standing his ground at St. Andrews in 2015 when an official told him to keep playing and Koepka refused because the wind kept moving his ball on the 11th green. Play was suspended.

Backspin: When he’s not roasting Bryson DeChambeau, Koepka is contending in majors, as always. His right knee injury no longer appears to be an issue. Of greater concern might be some of his finishes in the majors where he was contending on Sunday.

XANDER SCHAUFFELE

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 5.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: None.

2021 Majors: Masters-T3, PGA Championship-Cut, US Open-T7.

British Open moment: Sharing the 54-hole lead at Carnoustie in 2018 and was one shot out of the lead until a bogey on the 17th hole ended his hopes.

Backspin: Schauffele has a performance in the majors that rivals Brooks Koepka, minus the victories. He had a chance at the Masters until hitting into the water on the 16th hole, and he was among those who had a chance Sunday on the back nine at the U.S. Open. But he now has gone 53 starts since his last trophy.

LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN

Age: 38.

Country: South Africa.

World ranking: 13.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: British Open (2010).

2021 Majors: Masters-T26, PGA Championship-T2, US Open-2.

British Open moment: Winning at St. Andrews in 2010. That remains his lone PGA Tour title.

Backspin: He already has the career silver slam with runner-up finishes in all four majors. Another silver medal at Royal St. George’s would make him the first player since Ernie Els in 2000 to be runner-up in three straight majors. The fact he keeps contending bodes well for him to break through.

BRYSON DECHAMBEAU

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 6.

Worldwide wins: 9.

Majors: US Open (2020).

2021 Majors: Masters-T46, PGA Championship-T38, US Open-T26.

British Open moment: His emotional meltdown on the range at Carnoustie after his first-round 75. He shot 70 the next day to make the cut on the number. That’s the only time he has played the weekend at the British Open.

Backspin: Going from a share of the lead to a 44 on the back nine Sunday at the U.S. Open, DeChambeau’s outlook did not improve when his caddie left him on the eve of the Rocket Mortgage Classic and he missed the cut. He is the only player in the top 10 in the world who has not finished in the top 20 at a major this year.

JORDAN SPIETH

Age: 27.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 22.

Worldwide wins: 15.

Majors: Masters (2015), US Open (2015), British Open (2017).

2021 Majors: Masters-T3, PGA Championship-T30, US Open-T19.

British Open moment: His birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie stretch on the back nine at Royal Birkdale to win in 2017.

Backspin: He has six finishes in the top 5 this year, including his first victory since Birkdale in 2017, and is back in the conversation at the majors. Spieth goes into the British Open having not played in the three weeks since the U.S. Open.

PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 51.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 31.

Worldwide wins: 48.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), PGA Championship (2005, 2021), British Open (2013).

2021 Majors: Masters-T21, PGA Championship-1, US Open-T62.

British Open moment: Winning at Muirfield in 2013 with a 66, considered one of the great closing rounds in championship history.

Backspin: Mickelson has finished in the top 20 only once in 15 starts this year, but that was a big one. He won the PGA Championship at age 50 to become the oldest major champion. He was runner-up the last time at Royal St. George’s. A good week might make him a viable Ryder Cup candidate.

RORY MCILROY

Age: 32.

Country: Northern Ireland.

World ranking: 11.

Worldwide wins: 27.

Majors: PGA Championship (2012, 2014), US Open (2011), British Open (2014).

2021 Majors: Masters-Cut, PGA Championship-T49, US Open-T7.

British Open moment: Winning at Royal Liverpool in 2014.

Backspin: This is the seven-year anniversary of McIlroy’s last win in a major. His best chance this year was going into the final round two shots behind in the U.S. Open and closing with a 73. It was at Royal St. George’s in 2011 when McIlroy says he prefers playing in warm sunshine with little wind.

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 37.

Country: United States.

World ranking: 2.

Worldwide wins: 25.

Majors: Masters (2020), US Open (2016).

2021 Majors: Masters-Cut, PGA Championship-Cut, US Open-T19.

British Open moment: Hitting 2-iron out-of-bounds on the 14th at Royal St. George’s in he final round when he was on the verge of tracking down Darren Clarke.

Backspin: He has only one top 10 in his last 11 tournaments, and his performance has really been lacking in the majors. This is the first time he has two missed cuts in the majors in one year. He was runner-up at Royal St. George’s in 2011. Then again, he can contend on any course. He just hasn’t lately.

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