Carnoustie by and large produces quality champions, but they’re not always the most obvious.
This course was the starting point, in terms of major wins, for the last three champions here. Only in 1968, with Gary Player just holding off Jack Nicklaus, did we have a contest between the two best players in the world at the time.
The extremely dry conditions here this week are only going to get drier on the weekend – there’s some rain forecast for Friday morning, but not enough to make a difference – as the R&A aim to have greens like glass for Sunday, like they did the last time we had conditions like this at Muirfield five years ago, and Phil Mickelson won at three-under.
Who am I ruling out? High ball-flight bombers, mostly. That includes you, Rory. Tiger? Can’t see it.
Carnoustie is made for Sergio, or at least it should have been. The premium on ball-striking and control of the long game Carnoustie demands slots straight into his game’s biggest strength. He clearly should have won in 2007. Fatherhood earlier this year seemed to understandably distract him but he’s been 12th and 8th last two times out.
If Carnoustie can be overpowered – and it’s a big if, even playing this fast and firm – then DJ is the man to do it. Where he fell down at Shinnecock Hills was on the greens, and even if they get glassy at the weekend, there’s not a great deal to fool you on the putting surfaces at Carnoustie. His much-improved chipping game convinces as well. Just stay out of the traps, big guy.
Of all the identikit, big-bombing athletes at the front of the world game, the US Open champion seems to be the most adaptable. Perhaps his time in Europe, when he played well at a couple of Dunhills, brought this out of him. Fully fit, you take him as a contender on any layout, in any conditions.
Must be the smart person’s tip because everyone seems to be tipping the Australian to do well. Brought up near the Melbourne sandbelt, great all-round game, and has finished top six in three of the last four Opens. Australians also have a habit of doing well at Carnoustie.
There is no-one in better form in world golf right now than the Italian – W-2-T25-W-2 in his last five tournaments. His biggest strength is putting the ball in the right place to attack the flag, which Carnoustie demands more than any other Open venue. If he has a weakness, it’s an occasionally iffy putter, but that’s less of a problem here.
It’s downright astonishing that Rose’s best Open performance is STILL his T4 as an amateur teenager at Birkdale 20 years ago. That’s something that simply has to change sooner than later. Looked to be solid and playing within himself at Gullane last week, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be the first Englishman to capture the Jug since Faldo in 1992.
Keep an each-way eye on: Emiliano Grilli (Argentinians, for some reason, do well at Carnoustie) , Tyrrell Hatton (a coming man, double Dunhill winner), Xander Schauffele (the choice of Colin Sinclair, the Carnoustie Links head pro, as a possible surprise rookie winner), Eddie Pepperell (strong form, good on links, other guy won’t shoot 60 to beat him this week), Branden Grace (Dunhill specialist, can play links golf for sure), Lee Westwood (there’s one more shot a major left, and he should have won the last time an Open course was like this).