Joel Cook analyzes the elite field gathered at Carnoustie for the 147th Open Championship in this week’s Open Championship Power Rankings: Top 30.
This week, the greatest field in golf will convene at famed Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland, attempting to avoid becoming the latest victims of the pernicious “Carnoustie Effect”, at the 147th Open Championship.
Nearly everyone whose name has any relevance in the professional men’s golf world are on hand, and will be witness to what is guaranteed to add positively to the refulgent reputation of the season’s third major.
We like many of those field participants, but here are the 30 we like just a little more:
OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP POWER RANKINGS: LONGER SHOTS
30. Brandon Stone
The young South African has done nothing in majors and has been awful for 98% of the past two seasons, but the lad just shot a final-round 60(!) last Sunday to win the European Tour’s Scottish Open, barely missing a putt on the last hole that would have given him the first 59 in European Tour history.
With Scottish Open success historically correlating well with Open Championship success, we would rather ride the red-hot hand with Stone than gamble on someone like Matt Kuchar or Hideki Matsuyama, who are much more accomplished, but look completely lost in recent months.
World Rank: 110th
2018 Majors: DNQ (Masters), DNQ (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 1, 69, MC, MC, 65, 60, MC
29. Bubba Watson
The Open Championship and two-time major champion Bubba Watson do not seem to mix. The well-accomplished 39-year-old has 12 career victories, but none of them were even close to happening at The Open, where his best finish is a T23 in 2012.
That being said, only one man in professional golf has three victories in 2018, and that man is Gerry “Bubba” Lester Watson Jr. He is long and is hitting a LOT of greens this year. That is not a bad combination anywhere.
World Rank: 13th
2018 Majors: T5 (Masters), MC (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 13, 1, MC, 44, 57, 5, 1
28. Chris Wood
In 2008, Chris Wood, a bright, young amateur with a string-bean physique burst onto the major championship stage at Royal Birkdale, the site of that year’s Open Championship, shocking the field by finishing T5 in his major championship debut.
Out to prove it was not a fluke, Wood bested that Open result as a rookie professional the following year, placing in a tie for third at Turnberry. In the nine years since, Wood has been AWOL on the major stage, but with a runner-up at the recent French Open, and another in February in Oman, the now 30-year-old is choosing a great time to remind the golf world of who he once was.
World Rank: 94th
2018 Majors: DNQ (Masters), DNQ (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: MC, 14, 2, 33, 36, 27, MC
27. Xander Schauffele
The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year is finding life as a golf rock star more difficult in his sophomore campaign, but Schauffele has still been picking his spots, and those have been in the big events.
A T2 at THE PLAYERS Championship was a superb lead-in to a T6 at last month’s U.S. Open. Now, the two-time PGA Tour champion takes his precocious iron game to Carnoustie, just 12 months after a very respectable T20 in his Open Championship debut. One player who will not be surprised if Xander Schauffele gets into the leader mix this week? Xander Schauffele.
World Rank: 24th
2018 Majors: T50 (Masters), T5 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 21, MC, 6, MC, MC, 2, 72
26. Bryson DeChambeau
How is the shoulder? That question could have a tremendous bearing on this tournament for the unorthodox 24-year-old prodigy, who withdrew from his title defense at last week’s John Deere Classic late in his first round with shoulder pain, which presumably played a big part in why he was 3-over at the time against a very, very weak field.
He is still looking for his major championship breakthrough, not that it is expected that he should have had it already, but that lack of experience still hurts his chances, despite the fact that he has been stellar in some stacked-field events this year, including a victory at The Memorial Tournament and a runner-up at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
DeChambeau is DeLegit, but there are probably too many question marks to depend on his first dose of major championship contention coming at Carnoustie this week.
World Rank: 22nd
2018 Majors: T38 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: WD, 9, 25, 1, 42, 37, 4
25. Ian Poulter
“Quiet” is not a word that fits Ian Poulter in any way, but the 42-year-old English Ryder Cup Wizard had become somewhat forgotten among the golf’s best after a few down seasons. Now, with a strong past 12 months that includes a victory at the PGA Tour’s Houston Open, people are remembering that Poulter was a guy who was supposed to have won a major by now.
A T30 at last week’s Scottish Open snapped a six-start streak of top 25 finishes, but iron game is clicking, and Carnoustie is a course that fits him well.
World Rank: 29th
2018 Majors: T44 (Masters), T25 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 30, 21, 25, 8, 20, 11, 17
24. Webb Simpson
He absolutely blew away the field at THE PLAYERS, taking a seven-stroke lead into the final day before settling for a four-shot win, his first victory on Tour since 2014. An unbelievable, basically unprecedented turnaround in his putting game has been the catalyst for a strong 2018 season, and that confidence with the flagstick could carry him a long way at Carnoustie.
Despite an awful Open history, he would be ranked higher on this list if not for a recent unimpressive four-event stretch of play since THE PLAYERS blowout. He did finish T10 at the U.S. Open, but it was the backdoor variety after he played himself out with round one 76, and in those other three starts he has two missed cuts, and a T47 at The Greenbrier, which is even worse when factoring in a round one 61. He has been wildly inconsistent within tournaments.
World Rank: 21st
2018 Majors: T20 (Masters), T10 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 47, MC, 10, MC, 1, 21, 5
23. Paul Casey
The man who turns 41 on Open Saturday is expected to be playing that day, and it would not surprise anyone if he is in contention, but the real questions for the Englishman are likely to come on Sunday, as he has struggled to close out events his entire career.
Accomplished on the European Tour with 13 career victories, Casey ended a nearly decade-long PGA Tour winless drought with a victory at the Valspar Championship in March.
But the questions about closing came back when Casey squandered a 54-hole lead at last month’s Travelers Championship, stunning the crowd with a 2-over 74 on Sunday. It was the only over-par final-round score among the final 37 players on the leaderboard.
He is good enough to win a major, but does he have it right between the ears?
World Rank: 14th
2018 Majors: T15 (Masters), T16 (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 2, 16, 20, 5, MC, 15, 17
22. 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
21. Tony Finau
He may have benefited greatly from having an early tee time on that nightmare Saturday for the USGA at the U.S. Open, posting a 66 that moved him a shocking 44 spots up the leaderboard into Sunday’s final pairing, but Finau held his own in round 4, bouncing back from bogeys on 2, 3, and 4 to stay in the mix nearly the entire day and finish in fifth place.
Two of his six top 10s this season have been in majors, suggesting that the stage is not too big for him. He is second on Tour this season in driving distance, showing that he has the length to compete in modern golf, while also ranking highly in approach statistics, showing that he is far from a one-trick pony.
In his nine-event major career, he has more finishes inside the top 20 (5) than outside (4), and despite just one career victory, the 28-year-old should not be discounted in any of the biggest events.
World Rank: 31st
2018 Majors: T10 (Masters), 5th (U.S. Open)
Last Seven: 21, 5, MC, 13, 57, 21, 10
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