Who Will Win the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale?

Published on Wednesday, July 19th, 2017 in News | Slider

With apologies to The Masters and the U.S. Open (don’t even bother making a case, PGA Championship), the Open Championship is my favorite event of the year.

It’s golf the way it was meant to be played, on links-style courses, with fescue grasses, hip-high rough, narrow fairways, tiny greens, cavernous bunkers and an incessant wind blowing in off the ocean. I love the history of it all as well, the callback to the game’s origins, the stone bridges and clubhouses, and the 500-year-old towns that don’t seem to understand why we all get so excited to visit each summer. It’s quaint, it’s epic, and it warms my heart.

This year’s Open returns to England’s Royal Birkdale for the first time since 2008, when Padraig Harrington won his second-straight Open Championship, and his first of two back-to-back majors, before all but disappearing in the decade since (of Harrington’s 18 career wins on the PGA and European Tours, only two have come since 2008). It’s a course, though, where the cream typically rises to the top — past winners include Tom Watson, Johnny Miller, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer. In fact, seven of the previous nine winners of an Open Championship at Royal Birkdale are currently in the World Golf Hall of Fame. It’s true that the last seven majors have crowned first-time winners, dating back to Jason Day’s win at the 2015 PGA Championship, but history would suggest that it will be one of the game’s brightest stars hoisting the Claret Jug on Sunday.

Unlike some links courses, Royal Birkdale’s fairways are tight — think U.S. Open tight — so accurate driving will be key. Likewise, 120 bunkers and numerous doglegs limit the impact that the advantage of the game’s long bombers, forcing most players to aim for the same target areas on the fairway. That means players with a strong iron game will have an advantage of those who rely on blasting it long to avoid longer approach shots.

So, will the streak of first-time winners continue, or will a golfing legend take one more step towards joining his Royal Birkdale predecessors in the hall of fame? Here are our picks — let us know yours!

Lingmerth’s playing the best golf of his life — and has won on the PGA TOUR. Sure he’s a 100-1 shot to win The Open. But, perhaps this year he breaks through with that crafty power fade of his — hard to master and perfectly suited for the right-leaning links at Royal Birkdale. He’s jumped out and fired a 30 on the front-nine before in round one at The Open. He’s also had leads in PGA TOUR events this year. He puts together bogey-free streaks like no other — that’s what will win in England this week. His compact frame and steadiness might be what it takes to string four rounds together in the 67-69 range and win the Claret Jug. I have a feeling about this Scandinavian.

He has been knocking on the door consistently in majors, and with all the major championships since the 2015 PGA going to first-time winners, I see Fowler hoisting the Claret Jug when it is all said and done.

I really wanted to pick Justin Thomas, but his driver, I think, is going to get him in trouble. So, I’m going to take another American, and, yes, another first-timer: Kuchar. Like many of these first-time winners that have come before him, Kuchar has been in the “best player never to win a major” class for a long time: too long. With his ability to keep his ball in play, his cool head, his history of success at the Open (just one missed cut since 2010) and with his strong major performances so far this year (fourth at Augusta, 16th at the U.S. Open), I think he finally gets it done.

ALEX MROZ, CG SALES: Rickie Fowler
The number-one pick in Vegas right now, and for good reason. In four of his last five starts, he’s finished in the Top-10. Not to mention a tie for ninth at the Scottish Open last week at Dundonald Links, which will pose a similar challenge to Birkdale in terms of the conditions. Rickie also has a very low trajectory with his irons, giving him an upper hand for when the wind begins to blow off the Irish Sea. I think this is week he becomes a major champion.

IAN CIVEY, CG SALES: Downey Laferty
A U.S. product who was huge in the amateur world back in 1996. Vegas has him at 967-1 odds for the Open this year, but that makes his climb up the leaderboard all the more fantastic. He shot -12 at the Waterbury Open in ’96 under the guidance of his production/management/training team, Happy Madison. From there, he went on to an illustrious career, winning amateur tournament after amateur tournament through the early to mid 2000s. After a torrid affair with Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Kathy Ireland in 2006, he disappeared into ambiguity and not much was recorded of his happenings until the summer of 2016. He’s back on the scene now with a vengeance, looking better than ever and hitting the long ball at an average of 350 yards per drive. With his new caddy, Christopher McDonald (who played Shooter McGavin in the ’96 golf comedy “Happy Gilmore”), he’s my ultimate choice for this year’s Open champion. Plus, there’s the fact that he’s an entirely fictional character, which would make this a pretty amazing victory.

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