During each of the three major championships in 2019 so far we have compiled a list of 'Players to Watch' to help build-up to the four days play. After a decent strike rate so far, we've decided to ignore the obvious favourites and mix it up a little by choosing a list of top ten outsiders who could win The Open Championship 2019.
Who do we think could surprise many by capturing the Claret Jug this month at Royal Portrush Links on the north Antrim coast of Northern Ireland? Check out our top ten below (FYI, we're just ignoring the main prominent players in the game - and particularly those with majors to their name already).
10. Hideki Matsuyama
Is Hideki ready to shine again? There are some signs that the Japanese superstar is coming back into a little bit of form and it remains quite surprising that he hasn't yet managed to better his career-best Open performance of T-6 at Carnoustie back in 2013.
Just a few years ago, Hideki seemed primed to become only the second-ever Asian major champion in history - after Y.E. Yang - before losing his form quite dramatically. Two top tens in his last four outings suggest that he's arriving in good shape to put four good rounds together and let's see where that takes him.
9. Matt Kuchar
Matt Kuchar will undoubtedly feel he has unfinished business with The Open Championship. That ding-dong battle with Jordan Spieth back in 2017 when it seemed like a maiden major title was his for the taking will live long in the memory for many golf fans.
It will have been tough to take, but the American has shaken off that disappointment long ago and will arrive at Royal Portrush keen for another chance of capturing the Claret Jug. He's in good form in 2019 as has managed to visit the winner's circle (Sony Open in Hawaii) as well as finishing runner-up twice.
8. Patrick Cantlay
Patrick Cantlay is enjoying an impressive 2019 with four top tens in his last six events, including a win at the Memorial Tournament which came hot on the heels of a T-3 at Bethpage Black.
He is a very consistent player with a well-rounded game, but if there were one concern, it would be his position of 154th in Driving Accuracy. While the fairways at Royal Portrush are wider than at other Open rota courses, the rough is more punishing if you do stray off line. If Patrick can keep it in the short stuff more often than not, he could have a great week.
7. Eddie Pepperell
One of the real characters of the game, Eddie Pepperell is a real fans' favourite, and his golf game seems to be in real good shape at the minute.
Finishing T-6 at Carnoustie last year, T-4 at last week's Irish Open and T-2 at the 2015 Irish Open suggests a real comfort on links-style golf courses, while his best performance of the year came at TPC Sawgrass for THE PLAYERS Championship (T-3) indicating an ability to challenge in a field packed with the world's best golfers.
6. Rickie Fowler
Probably shouldn't be on this list but many major championship chances have come and went for Rickie Fowler, with many golf fans now considering whether he could join the list of the best golfers to end their career without a major title to their name.
He has previously proven an ability to challenge for the Claret Jug (2014 at Royal Liverpool) but recent years have passed with very few concerted challenges in any of the major championships. With that said, it would be foolish to rule out the world number 14 prematurely - he makes our list more in hope than expectation.
5. Bryson DeChambeau
Is he an outsider? Possibly not, but despite being within the world's top ten golfers at this stage, the American Bryson DeChambeau has failed to make an impact at any of the 11 majors he has contested as a professional golfer.
With that said, 'The Scientist' as he is known in golfing circles, is world number six for a reason and should be respected as such. He will arrive at Royal Portrush in good form after his near-miss at last week's 3M Open in Minnesota.
4. Tommy Fleetwood
Apart from the Irish contingent (and Tiger, of course), there would unlikely be a more popular champion than if Englishman Tommy Fleetwood were to win the Claret Jug at this year's Open.
So far his best major finishes have been at the U.S. Open, and he's yet to manage a top-10 finish at The Open. Though failing to make any real impression, four solid rounds at Lahinch G.C. last time out may have helped sharpen the game as we head to the North Antrim coast.
Tommy could be in with a good shout.
3. Rafa Cabrera-Bello
One golfer who has proven that he feels at home on the links courses of Ireland is Rafa Cabrera-Bello. The Spaniard has featured strongly at the DDF Irish Open on more than one occasion: finishing T-4 at Lahinch G.C. just last week, impressing with a T-2 at Royal Portrush back in 2012, and managing another T-4 at Royal County Down in 2015.
Strong showings at his last two European Tour events - the Irish Open and the BMW International - points towards somewhat of a resurgence after a rather low-key 2019 so far. The familiarity with Royal Portrush could bring the best out of Rafa and this year's Open could offer up his best chance of a concerted major championship challenge.
2. Matt Wallace
Of the high-profile English golfers without a major win, Matt Wallace could be regarded as the most likely to grab one of the big four tournaments before too long.
He has an undeniable winning mentality with ten professional wins to his name in the past 3.5 years and, despite missing the cut at the Masters in April, his 2019 major performances have been steadily improving. A T-12 at the U.S. Open was followed by a T-3 at the PGA Championship - could he do even better at this year's Open?
1. Xander Schauffele
During his last professional start, Xander managed a T-3 at the U.S. Open, and when you add this to his T-2 at The Masters back in April it's clear that he has the game and the mentality to perform strongly at Royal Portrush.
The former Rookie of the Year on the PGA Tour looks primed for major championship glory in the not too distant future. Already at a young age he's got to be viewed as one of the best golfers yet to win on the biggest stage.
Who are you rooting for during next week's Open Championship? Let us know below.
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