Power Rankings: The Open Championship
July 12, 2021
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
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Shane Lowry forever will celebrate his victory at The Open Championship at Royal Portrush in 2019, but even though the pandemic canceled last year’s edition of the oldest major, if all you remembered were images and stories of the after-party in his native Dublin, you’d understand why it could have taken two years to simmer down.
Lowry’s title in Northern Ireland was just as popular a coronation as the lone major victory of Northern Ireland’s Darren Clarke at Royal St. George’s in 2011, albeit for very different reasons. Indeed, both Irishmen would be prominently positioned in a Power Rankings consisting of blokes with whom you’d trade barbs over a pint or three, but Clarke was 42 years of age and still in the throes of life without his wife, Heather, who died of cancer five years prior.
The 149th staging of The Open returns to Royal St. George’s this week. It’s the 15th time that it’s hosted. Clarke and Lowry are in the field of 156 that required the R&A to play every club in its bag to construct. For more on that, the backdrop, the weather – naturally – and other details, continue reading below the expanded ranking of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 20 Alex Noren 19 Lucas Herbert 18 Dustin Johnson 17 Harris English 16 Tony Finau 15 Ian Poulter 14 Shane Lowry 13 Rory McIlroy 12 Scottie Scheffler 11 Justin Thomas 10 Collin Morikawa 9 Patrick Cantlay 8 Patrick Reed 7 Viktor Hovland 6 Matt Fitzpatrick 5 Louis Oosthuizen 4 Brooks Koepka 3 Jordan Spieth 2 Xander Schauffele 1 Jon Rahm
Bryson DeChambeau, Tyrrell Hatton, Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger and Tommy Fleetwood will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
If you’re among the devotees who follows how fields are built, then you’ve witnessed one of the busiest turnstiles in history. Including past champions who have been returning regularly, as of Monday there have been 21 early withdrawals. Many but not all have been connected to complications caused by COVID-19, but the R&A has solved the puzzle on how to present the strongest field available, and an international smattering of talent at that. (For the entire field and the 21 who opted out, read Qualifiers.
Of those committed, 30 competed in the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. Like it did that year and will again this week, the track in Sandwich – as the seabird flies, the town in southeastern England is closer to France than it is to London – will test at a par of 70. The seventh and 14th hole serve as the par 5s. The course tips at 7,189 yards, down 22 yards from a decade ago.
Averaging 73.018 in 2011, Royal St. George’s ranked as the hardest course in relation to par of all that season. When it was laid out as a par 71 in 2003 – the fourth hole was a par 5 – it was even more difficult at 3.802 strokes over par. This is expected in this tournament. Unpredictable lies are the backbone to the links experience, even on the shortest grass, and the uncertainty of ever-changing conditions atmospherically deliver 1-2 punches throughout.
Unlike most links layouts, Royal St. George’s consists of a front nine that snakes out to the sea with a recoil on the inward side. There also is uncharacteristic separation in between holes, and six are adjacent to the coast, although, and of course, all 18 are subject to the wind. PGATOUR.com’s Ben Everill is on site and assembled a helpful guide in “Nine Things to Know.”
Courses in The Open rota are as much about execution and experience as they are about patience and understanding. You take what it gives, you don’t force the issue and you walk away with a smile when you connect with the relative successes earned. Baked into all of that is a belief that reducing errors is more important than circling par breakers.
Prevailing winds will push in from the north and are forecast to be sustained at 10-15 mph for the first and final rounds. They’ll freshen a bit in between. Daytime highs will open in the low 70s before retreating into the 60s for the remainder. Most surprisingly, rain is not expected. That is not a misprint.
In addition to the Claret Jug, the champion will receive 600 FedExCup points, $2.07 million, exemptions into The Open through the age of 60, exemptions into the next five editions of the other three majors and a five-year membership exemption on the PGA TOUR.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings (The Open)
TUESDAY*: Power Rankings (Barbasol); Sleepers (The Open); Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.