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Countdown to The Open: Players to Watch & Tee Times

Only a few days to go now before the 146th Open Championship gets under way at Royal Birkdale in Southport, Merseyside.

For a major championship steeped in history and real tradition, there could not have been a more fitting display of golf at last year’s event, as the great Phil Mickelson and eventual Open Champion Henrik Stenson had an epic duel which will survive us all into the annals of golfing history. To expect a spectacle of similar magnitude this year may be a little gluttonous - though let's keep our fingers tightly crossed.

As we wait for proceedings to get under way, let’s whet the appetite a little further by focusing on what an Open Champion might need to prevail, along with a few players who we here at Hole19 expect big things from this week in Southport.

Find out below just what the Claret Jug means to some of the men lucky enough to land the spoils on an Open Sunday:

What’s required to win?

Royal Birkdale provides a real fair test of golf where great shots will be rewarded and errant blows could be severely punished.

What is for sure is that the 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year will have prevailed, due in no small part, to a great deal of patience. The right shot at the right time will be imperative, and there will be high value placed upon a good, solid short game.

We’re tempted to say that to win at Royal Birkdale, a golfer will need to be currently devoid of any major championships on his C.V. such is the current trend on Tour. The last seven majors have been won by first-timers and few would bet against number eight.

With that said, there are several golfers with at least one major safely tucked away who quite obviously cannot be overlooked this week. Let’s have a look at who we will be keeping a close eye on, and their own scheduled tee times.

Jon Rahm

Tee Times: 2.59pm (T) & 9.58am (F) (w/ Reed & Westwood)

The guy everyone is talking about, not least due to his taking apart of the links course at Portstewart Golf Club during the 2017 Irish Open.

A second win in a first full season as a professional golfer seems to be just for starters. There is a lot more to come from the Spanish youngster and it looks like only a matter of time before he takes a step into the winner's circle at a major championship. Why not The Open?

We now know that he can work a ball around a links course – albeit in relatively benign conditions. He has also shown that there is no real weakness in his game in terms of technical shot-making. Perhaps his only obvious shortcoming would be his fieriness, which can get the better of him at times and, this week in particular, there is much to be said for retaining a calm demeanour if things aren’t going your way.

We like his chances though. It’s pretty easy to when the guy has a booming swing like this:

Dustin Johnson

Tee Times: 2.48pm (T) & 9.47am (F) (w/ McIlroy & Schwartzel)

On his day he is pretty much untouchable and the key to the current world number one scoring well will be how he performs from 100 yards and closer.

Despite three wins already this season, he was cut in his last two events (US Open and the Memorial Tournament) and he has been off since Erin Hills back in mid-June. Whether this extended rest will work in his favour, only time will tell but it’s going to be a long time before anyone can safely rule DJ out of contention at any of the four annual golfing majors.

He could very easily be Open Champion this year and, just as easily, he could turn up to the first tee-box on Thursday a little ring-rusty and miss the cut.

Our money is on a good showing though.

Daniel Berger

Tee times: 2.46pm (T) & 9.25am (F) (w/ Larrazabal & Ikeda)

Probably a good thing that the young Floridian didn’t get over the line this weekend at the John Deere Classic, as many had expected he might. Since 1988 only three men have won a major championship the week after winning on Tour – Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickleson.

His low ball flight could be a great weapon at Royal Birkdale and a great 2017 so far has led to a place inside the top-20 of the Official World Golf Rankings – in the main thanks to his retention of the FedEx St Jude’s Classic.

Could become the second of the ‘Class of 2011’ (which includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas. Ollie Schniederjans et al) to enter into the realms of the major champion.

Catch the highlights of Daniel’s win at TPC Southwind last month:

Rickie Fowler

Tee Times: 1.26pm (T) & 8.25am (F) (w/ Scott & Casey)

A golfer from the other side of ‘the pond’ who seems right at home on a links golf course is the current world number 10, Rickie Fowler.

Joint runner-up behind Rory McIlroy at Hoylake, Rickie has also shown great links pedigree on the fairways of the host courses during the Irish Open and Scottish Open in the weeks preceding the biggest tournament in golf.

He has to be in the discussion for the new ‘best player without a major’ and it makes a lot of sense that a first may come on the hallowed fairways of one of the courses on the Open rota.

Next chance comes this week at Royal Birkdale.

Tommy Fleetwood

Tee Times: 10.09am (T) & 3.10pm (F) (w/ Matsuyama & Koepka)

With two European Tour wins this year – the Abu Dhabi HSBC and the HNA Open de France – the 26-year-old from Southport current leads the Race to Dubai standings and, given the quality of his overall game at present, he has to be in the mix at this year’s Open Championship.

Playing devil’s advocate for a brief second, Tommy will have to manage pretty high expectations this week and, despite being in the midst of a real breakthrough season, we do have to remember that his 4th at Erin Hills was only a first top-25 finish in 7 major appearances.

With that said, his game seems to trending towards a major win at some point over the next few years. Will it come at his native Birkdale?

Watch Tommy’s preview of the 146th Open below:

Justin Rose

Tee Times: 9.58am (T) & 2,59pm (F) (w/ Oosthuizen & Thomas)

An eventful ten months for the Englishman has seen some stellar play and a crowning as the first Olympic golf champion since 1904. More recently, Rose narrowly missed out on a Green Jacket at the Masters after a ding-dong battle with Sergio Garcia – the Spaniard ultimately emerging victorious on the second play-off hole.

It seems only right that Rose would get his hands on a second major trophy this year. If there’s going to be ‘Justice for Justin’ this week at Royal Birkdale, he will need to display his customary patience and mental strength throughout the four days.

There would be few more popular winners, that’s for sure.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at this year’s Open Championship? Who’s your early tip for Champion Golfer of the Year? Let us know below.

Further information on relevant tee times can be found via:

Thursday https://www.theopen.com/TeeTimes#!/R1
Friday https://www.theopen.com/TeeTimes#!/R2