Will the Scots at Royal Birkdale be a Magnificent Seven? Courier Sports Editor Eric Nicolson assesses their chances at the 146th Open Championship.
1 Russell Knox
He’s the highest of the Scots in the world rankings at 47 but it’s been a disappointing season for the American-based player. Knox has missed more cuts than he’s made and admitted to feeling “lost” at the Scottish Open last week. Has been a bit more upbeat here, though, and feels Birkdale will suit his precision game. The Knox of 12 months ago would be getting talked up as one to watch. A week in which par may turn out to be a good score should suit him and, despite his form, he has to be considered the second best bet for a Scottish challenge.
2 Martin Laird
Another one who plays his golf in America. Concerns were growing that the three-time PGA Tour winner was a fading force. A third-place finish at the Quicken Loans National in Maryland got him into the Open and, on the whole, 2017 has been a year of recovery. Though he threatened a challenge at Muirfield in 2013 before falling apart on the third day, Laird’s high ball flight game is probably best suited to the States. The fact that he had never played Birkdale before this week will count against him too. Making the cut would be a reasonable expectation.
3 Richie Ramsay
Ramsay’s Open record is terrible. He’s played in six and missed the cut four times, with his best finish a lowly tied-55th. This week represents an excellent opportunity to finally make his mark. Second place at the Irish Open got him his Birkdale start and he made the cut at Dundonald last week. Ramsay is the nearest thing to an in-form pro Scottish golfer and is our best hope.
4 David Drysdale
Like Ramsay, Drysdale has a strong showing at Portstewart to thank for his Birkdale qualification. This will be his second Open. Wife Vicky, now his caddy, gets some of the credit for giving him “a kick up the backside when I need it.” He’s been a regular on the European Tour for nine years but has never won. It will take more than Mrs Drysdale’s size sixes to turn her husband into an Open contender but a good pay day and continued momentum for the rest of the season will represent a successful week.
5 Paul Lawrie
Lawrie is the last Scot to win the Open, of course, and isn’t likely to have that tag taken off him anytime soon. He’s never had so much as a top-20 since Carnoustie in 17 tries. Flirted with the leaderboard at St Andrews a couple of years ago but there has been absolutely no evidence to suggest he can roll back the years at Birkdale. The Seniors Tour is calling.
6 Sandy Lyle
Like Lawrie, Lyle gets in every year on the back of former glories rather than anything more recent. Carnoustie next year is the last championship his 1985 Sandwich triumph gets him into. Has made the cut just once in the last nine Opens and infamously walked off after 10 holes the last time we were at Birkdale. He’ll play 36 this time but almost certainly no more than that. There’s a reason Sandy is 2,500/1 to win.
7 Connor Syme
An amateur but has plenty going for him. Is in good form, having won his way through final qualifying. Is steeped in links golf, as all leading British amateurs are. Is suited to stroke play as opposed to match play, as all leading British amateurs certainly are not. And has the right temperament for a week like this. Playing with Jon Daly in the first two rounds, and all that goes with it, will test that temperament but Syme has every right to target the Silver Medal for leading amateur and it really wouldn’t be a huge shock if he claimed the title for leading Scot as well.