Eight of the past ten Major Championships have been captured by a player winning his maiden major title. With that trend in mind, below are ten players most likely to become a first-time major winner, come Sunday evening at the conclusion of the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie:
1. Rickie Fowler
Stop us if you have heard this one before. The madly popular Rickie Fowler is ranked inside the World’s top 10, but another year has gone by without him adding a major championship to his resume. His standing among the elites will be strongly questioned if he keeps missing the winner’s circle on the biggest stages.
For legacy’s purpose, it is possible that nobody needs this week more than Rickie. With top five finishes in three of his past five majors, the World No. 7 Fowler now has eight such finishes to his name. Now 29 years old, he needs to close the door on one of these. He put up a great effort at this year’s Masters with a 65-67 weekend, but it came up one stroke short of Patrick Reed. At last month’s U.S. Open, a 73-69 start gave Fowler a shot going into the weekend, but the bad round of all bad rounds on a Saturday full of bad rounds (he shot an 84) made his final round 65 strictly cosmetic.
Rickie has shown an affinity in his career for links style golf, and a T6 at last week’s Scottish Open could signal that the environment is finally conducive to the result people have expected from him for years. This could be his week.
World Rank: 7th
2018 Majors: 2nd (Masters), T20 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 6, 12, 20, 8, 14, MC, 21
2. Tommy Fleetwood
Extraordinarily motivated to win his first major, Fleetwood put a special kind of pressure on the Sunday leaders at the U.S. Open, posting a sizzling 7-under 63 that ended up being just one short stroke of forcing a playoff with Brooks Koepka.
The runner-up was the second time in as many years that the 27-year-old Fleetwood has contended at the U.S. Open, getting himself into the final Sunday pairing before a fourth place at Erin Hills in 2016.
Now, the reigning European Tour Race to Dubai Champion has arguably the best game among players who have yet to win a major. For the season, he has the seventh best scoring average on the PGA Tour, and over the past several years, Fleetwood has been consistently among the best in Europe at hitting fairways and greens.
At Shinnecock Hills, he led the field in driving accuracy, and was second in greens in regulation. If he comes anywhere close to that at Carnoustie, he is almost guaranteed the victory.
World Rank: 10th
2018 Majors: T17 (Masters), 2nd (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: MC, 59, 2, 23, 20, 7, MC
3. Alex Noren
One of Sweden’s best players, Alex Noren has made little noise on the major championship stage in his career, but with both of his career top 10s coming at The Open, the World No. 11 is a player worth keeping a closer eye on this week.
Playing in the U.S. more than he has in the past, the 36-year-old has found himself in deep contention several times this year, finishing T2 at the Farmers Insurance Open after taking Jason Day to six playoff holes , and taking solo-third at both the Honda Classic and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Third-round 77s spoiled otherwise solid performances at both the U.S. Open (T25) and THE PLAYERS Championship (T17), but his spirits should be high coming into Carnoustie after his most recent start, a victory at the European Tour’s French Open, surging ahead of the pack with an incredible weekend.
World Rank: 11th
2018 Majors: MC (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 1, 25, 23, 3, 17, MC, MC
4. Francesco Molinari
Looking for a hot golfer? Don’t stand too close to Italy’s Francesco Molinari, who has two wins and two runner-ups in his last five starts. One of those wins was at the prestigious BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event, and the other was an 8-stroke romp at the Quicken Loans National.
Long-known as a technician with a stellar iron game, Molinari currently ranks second on Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green. He has a surprisingly poor record in major championships with just three top 10s in 35 career major starts, but after a T2 at last year’s PGA Championship, coupled with his recent form, he looks like a good bet to take home the hardware.
He has posted two respectable major results in 2018: a T20 at The Masters and a T25 at the U.S. Open.
World Rank: 15th
2018 Majors: T20 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 2, 1, 25, 2, 1, MC, 16
5. Paul Casey
The well-traveled Englishman turns 41 this Saturday, and would love to celebrate with a first career major championship the following day. With nine career top-10s in majors, the story on Paul Casey has been an exasperating inability to close.
A win at March’s Valspar Championship was Casey’s first on the PGA Tour since 2009, but hopes that he had put his troubling closing woes behind him have risen again, after he squandered the 54-hole lead at last month’s Travelers Championship.
World Rank: 14th
2018 Majors: T15 (Masters), T16 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 2, 16, 20, 5, MC, 15, 17
6. Marc Leishman
The 34-year-old Aussie has been as boom or bust as they come over the past year, but among non-Europeans, Leishman has a well-earned reputation as an excellent player on links-style courses. He loves the Open Championship, as evidenced by three top-six finishes in the past four editions, including a playoff loss to Zach Johnson in 2015.
His form has been way off since he was outdueled by Aaron Wise at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, but with six top-10s coming off a two-win season, and the latter of those coming in a FedExCup Playoff event, there is a good argument that he is severely underrated on this list.
World Rank: 18th
2018 Majors: 9th (Masters), T45 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 13, MC, 45, 62, 2, 63, MC
7. Jon Rahm
At 23 years of age, Jon Rahm is probably the most talented player in this group, but he’s also the youngest. And while the major pressure is not exceptionally overpowering yet, he has proven himself among the best in the world with five victories in the past year and a half, and impressively, a major is one of the only things missing.
Now No. 5 in the world rankings, Rahm has been hit or miss this season, winning the CareerBuilder Challenge and taking solo fourth place at The Masters, but he missed the cut by a mile at the U.S. Open, and has been substandard in his recent WGC starts. His win is coming, but is this the week?
World Rank: 5th
2018 Majors: 4th (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 4, 5, MC, 5, 63, 1, 4
8. Tyrrell Hatton
The talented 26-year-old Englishman might be the streakiest great golfer in the world. When he is off, he is very off, which we saw when he missed the cut in all four majors last year, and in a six-event stretch earlier this year, when he missed four cuts and had no finishes inside the top 40.
When Hatton is on, however, he has a major championship game, which we saw in several red-hot stretches over 2016 and late 2017. Hatton fans should be comforted to learn that he is currently “on,” with three straight quality finishes, including a T6 at the U.S. Open – his third top-10 in his last eight majors starts.
If he can control his famous temper, the world No. 23 – who has reached as high as No. 13 – looks primed to add a major to a resume that includes three victories and 15 top-10s over the past three years.
World Rank: 23rd
2018 Majors: T44 (Masters), T6 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 9, 16, 6, MC, MC, MC, 42
9. Ian Poulter
Renowned for his Ryder Cup prowess, it is easy to forget that the ostentatious Brit is still looking for his first major championship title at the age of 42.
In his current form, Carnoustie could be Ian Poulter’s best chance in some time. His iron game is on, his results have been mostly commendable, and an impressive victory at April’s Houston Open may have gotten his subconscious mind set to his previous winning ways. In the past 18 months, Poulter has seen his world ranking climb precipitously from 207th to his current position of 29th; a major would cap an inspiring career comeback.
World Rank: 29th
2018 Majors: T44 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 30, 21, 25, 8, 20, 11, 17
10. Branden Grace
At last year’s Open Championship, the steady South African Branden Grace shot a third-round 62, the first 62 in major championship history, putting an end to the strangest 30-way tie in sports.
The reasonable next step on Grace’s career track is to finally pull through on a stage where he has finished in the top 6 five times in the past four seasons.
World Rank: 35th
2018 Majors: T24 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 25, 52, 5, 3, 46, 24, 29
Bonus: Lee Westwood
With sharply declining results in recent years, many believe the major window of 45-year-old Lee Westwood has closed.
They could be right, but there is no doubt that the man with 18 career major top 10s without a win, with 11 of those being in the top 5, would like to at least go down swinging. Surprisingly, this is the first major Westwood has even qualified for in 2018. His odds are long, but a victory would be a tremendous story.
World Rank: 112th
2018 Majors: DNQ (Masters), DNQ (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 32, 19, 5, 27, 80, 40, 11