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2021 British Open Preview: Ranking Every Player in the Field, 1-156

2021 British Open Preview: Ranking Every Player in the Field, 1-156 article feature image

Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Lee Westwood.

Two years since the last Open Championship, the 149th edition of the event is upon us, as the field at Royal St. George’s is finally set — or so we believe.

Issues with everything from COVID-19 protocols to travel restrictions to the impending Olympics have forced the R&A to go 16-deep into the alternate list, but that shouldn’t take much luster off what is expected to be a windblown week on a course where longshots have persevered in the past.

Let’s get right to the picks, from 1 to 156, starting with a player who isn’t exactly a Ben Curtis-type longshot, but probably isn’t a guy topping many similar lists, either.

1. Lee Westwood

With 87 career major starts without a victory, Westwood could set the all-time record this week — or he pull a little magic out of his hat and, like Phil Mickelson two months ago at the PGA Championship, produce one of the most popular victories in recent memory.

2. Jordan Spieth

There’s a sense that short-game creativity could be the prevailing asset that separates the contenders, and Spieth’s ability to get up and down from the proverbial car park should serve him very well this week.

3. Rory McIlroy

There remain questions about his form but not his history at this event, with four top-fives in his last five Open appearances and just a nervy opening-round front nine at Royal Portrush as the outlier.

4. Jon Rahm

His OWGR number shows a drop from No. 1 to No. 2 this week, but anyone paying even a small amount of attention over the last few months understands that Rahm is currently the best player in the game.

5. Louis Oosthuizen

The question is no longer whether Louis will contend at a major, but whether he can close another one out, as he’s finished runner-up in each of the last two to bring his career total up to a half-dozen.

6. Tyrrell Hatton

“When you’re feeling glum, pop your thumb.” There are sure to be frustrations for the fiery Hatton this week, but if he can ride ‘em out and remain patient, he should have an excellent chance to contend here.

7. Xander Schauffele

The good news: He excels at stepping up for the biggest events, producing top-10 finishes in more than half of his major starts. The bad news: It’s now been a whopping 2 1/2 years since his last victory.

8. Viktor Hovland

Armed with a world of talent but prone to making some big mistakes, Hovland owns a high-ceiling/low-floor combination this week. It wouldn’t be shocking if he leads the field in birdies and isn’t in serious contention.

9. Rickie Fowler

Slowly trending in the right direction, I’ve had Fowler earmarked for this one over the past few months, as his ability to hit lower trajectory shots and use the turf has often helped him on links courses.

10. Christiaan Bezuidenhout

He got into contention through three rounds at each of the previous two majors, only to fire a big number on Sunday, but those experiences should only steel him for better scores the next time he’s in that situation.

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11. Marc Leishman

He’s been disappointing at the past two majors, but The Open has often suited the Aussie’s game.

12. Scottie Scheffler

Getting a taste of links golf at last week’s Scottish Open could prove to be a huge benefit this week.

13. Ian Poulter

If you’re betting based on recent form and momentum, nobody scored better this past Sunday.

14. Justin Thomas

Feels like a weird crossroads, where his game has hardly vanished but isn’t quite where it needs to be, either.

15. Corey Conners

Terrible on Thursday at the Scottish but terrific on Friday, which should offer some confidence here.

16. Jason Day

With finishes of 14th-10th in his last two starts, the former No. 1 could be primed for a little resurgence.

17. Brooks Koepka

Sure, it’s a major week, but Brooks professing his indifference toward this venue shouldn’t help our confidence.

18. Branden Grace

The only player with a 62 in major history (at Royal Birkdale in 2017), he’s been very steady this year

19. Sergio Garcia

Garcia finally showed up in a major last month, so there’s reason to believe he can do it again.

20. Tommy Fleetwood

Once a favorite for “next first-time major champion,” he’s looked too ordinary for too long.

21. Dustin Johnson

In 10 starts since February, the world No. 1 doesn’t have a single result better than a T-10.

22. Shane Lowry

The defending champion enjoyed the spoils for an extra year, but it’s tough to envision him going back to back.

23. Matt Fitzpatrick

Fresh off a playoff loss at the Scottish, he’s obviously coming into this one with some solid form.

24. Collin Morikawa

One of the world’s best iron players, but a links golf neophyte who might struggle trying to figure it out.

25. Matt Wallace

If you’re looking for a player with triple-digit odds and at least the potential to win, this could be your guy.

26. Victor Perez

27. Cameron Smith

28. Martin Kaymer

29. Daniel Berger

30. Justin Rose

Which Rose will show up: The one who was top-10 at the first two majors of the year or the one who badly MC’d at the most recent?

31. Matt Kuchar

32. Guido Migliozzi

33. Ryan Palmer

34. Justin Harding

35. Patrick Reed

36. Danny Willett

37. Patrick Cantlay

38. Garrick Higgo

39. Adam Scott

40. Marcus Armitage

Very conceivable that this fun-loving Englishman could hang around this leaderboard for the first few days.

41. Alex Noren

42. Robert Macintyre

43. Gary Woodland

44. Abraham Ancer

45. Min Woo Lee

46. Webb Simpson

47. Talor Gooch

48. Lucas Herbert

49. Joaquin Niemann

50. Phil Mickelson

Can he do it again? He’ll need to have that 2-wood dialed in and his wedges close to perfect around these greens.

Christopher Lee/Getty Images. Pictured: Bryson DeChambeau (left) and Phil Mickelson.

51. Bernd Wiesberger

52. Will Zalatoris

53. Tony Finau

54. Sam Burns

55. Stewart Cink

56. Sam Horsfield

57. Thomas Detry

58. Billy Horschel

59. Harris English

60. Padraig Harrington

He might be Europe’s Ryder Cup captain, but the two-time Open champ can still play, as evidenced by his T-4 at Kiawah.

61. Matt Jones

62. John Catlin

63. Russell Henley

64. Francesco Molinari

65. Bryson DeChambeau

66. Andy Sullivan

67. Rikuya Hoshino

68. Ryan Fox

69. Kevin Kisner

70. Lucas Glover

Fresh off his first victory in more than a decade, Glover should feel like he’s playing with house money this week.

Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Lucas Glover.

71. Brendon Todd

72. Emiliano Grillo

73. Takumi Kanaya

74. Paul Casey

75. Jason Kokrak

76. Max Homa

77. Jack Senior

78. Henrik Stenson

79. Kevin Streelman

80. Richard Bland

A media darling for two days at Torrey Pines, the 48-year-old should be more in his element at this one.

81. Kurt Kitayama

82. C.T. Pan

83. Brian Harman

84. Adam Hadwin

85. Aaron Rai

86. Chez Reavie

87. Johannes Veerman

88. Keegan Bradley

89. Antoine Rozner

90. Sebastian Munoz

The 54-hole leader at last week’s John Deere should enter this event with at least some level of confidence.

91. Dean Burmester

92. Jorge Campillo

93. Brandt Snedeker

94. Erik Van Rooyen

95. Chris Kirk

96. Romain Langasque

97. Charley Hoffman

98. Dylan Frittelli

99. Matthias Schwab

100. Matthias Schmid

If you don’t know your Matthias Schwabs from your Matthias Schmids, then you’d better start doing some more research.

101. Cameron Tringale

102. Brendan Steele

103. Harold Varner III

104. Chan Kim

105. Carlos Ortiz

106. Michael Lorenzo-Vera

107. Joel Dahmen

108. Rafa Cabrera Bello

109. Lanto Griffin

110. Darren Clarke

Ten years ago, Clarke was a surprise winner at Royal St. Georges, cashing all 150/1 outright tickets.

Richard Sellers/PA Images via Getty Images. Pictured: Darren Clarke.

111. Joost Luiten

112. Mackenzie Hughes

113. Marcel Siem

114. Paul Waring

115. Ryosuke Kinoshita

116. Benjamin Hebert

117. Shaun Norris

118. Brad Kennedy

119. Jason Scrivener

120. Jazz Janewattananond

New rule: If you walk up to the betting window and spell his name correctly without looking, you get a free bet.

121. Keith Mitchell

122. Troy Merritt

123. Byeong Hun An

124. Adam Long

125. Joe Long

126. Rikard Karlberg

127. Jimmy Walker

128. Cole Hammer

129. Daniel Van Tonder

130. Ernie Els

It doesn’t feel like so long ago that Els’ name would’ve been close to the top of one of these pre-tourney rankings.

Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images. Pictured: Ernie Els.

131. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano

132. Jaco Ahlers

133. Marcus Kinhult

134. Aaron Pike

135. Daniel Hillier

136. J.C. Ritchie

137. Haotong Li

138. Richard Mansell

139. Abel Gallegos

140. Jon Thomson

If you’ve never seen a 6-foot-9 professional golfer, well, keep an eye on this guy during the week.

141. Yuxin Lin

142. Richard T. Lee

143. Yuki Inamori

144. Laird Shepherd

145. Christoffer Bring

146. Marcel Schneider

147. Ryutaro Nagano

148. Daniel Croft

149. Sam Bairstow

150. Ricardo Celia

151. Poom Saksanin

152. Deyen Lawson

153. Ben Hutchinson

154. Nicholas Poppleton

155. Sam Forgan

156. Connor Wordsall

Depending on the book, you can either find Poppleton or Forgan or Wordsall, each of whom compete on the EuroPro Tour, with the highest odds for this week. If you think one of ‘em can be the next Ben Curtis, this could be a very profitable week for you.

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