Sobel: Ranking All 156 Golfers in 2019 British Open Field

Credit:

Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

  • The 2019 British Open starts on July 18 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
  • Jason Sobel ranks the entire British Open field, 1 to 156, so bettors and DFS players know which players to back and which to fade.

You know how this works by now: I rank an entire major championship field, you bookmark this page and remind me how wrong I was in a few days.

Nice little pattern we’ve got going.

Before offering up my picks for this week’s Open Championship, allow me to peel back the curtain a bit, providing a caveat that I swear is more preemptive explanation than excuse.

This is really difficult.

No, I mean, like, way more difficult than it used to be.

Even just 10 years ago, we’d be able to identify the world’s best players, then plug ‘em in near the top and expect a decent success rate.

More often these days, though, I find myself placing a guy I really like at, say, 26th on this type of list. I’ll then try to move him up because, again, I like him, but the problem is, there are 25 other guys I like better.

What I’m getting at is, there are so many talented players right now that if we list all of them — and of course, a handful of sleepers to avoid going chalk — it goes a few dozen deep with players who are legitimate candidates to win that specific major title.

And so it goes again for this week’s ranking.

There are players listed well into the 30s whom I really like. I just don’t like them quite as much as those listed ahead of them.

Anyway, that’s the tough stuff. The easy part was naming the guy in last place. Just, uh, make sure you read the analysis before telling me how wrong I was.

1. Adam Scott

Still seeking retribution for the 2012 Open, when he bogeyed the final four holes to lose to Ernie Els, it’s always felt like Scott has been destined to win a Claret Jug.

Inarguably one of the most talented players of his generation, he’s been terrific in a limited schedule this year, which has included results of T-18 at the Masters, T-8 at the PGA Championship and T-7 at the U.S. Open, with only a solo second place at the Memorial squeezed amongst them. Never a favorite, but never too far off, this could be the week.

2. Jon Rahm

No contender has moved in the recent markets like Rahm, who recently claimed yet another Irish Open title, then sang the praises of links golf and competing in Ireland.

A massive talent who is targeted for big things, many believe it’s only his short fuse of a temperament which is holding him back, though that might serve only as a rationalization for why he hasn’t won a major yet. Still just 24, that day is coming — and it might be coming this week, as he’s clearly figured out the secret to this style of golf.

3. Justin Thomas

What a strange year it’s been for Thomas so far. He started like gangbusters, recording three top-three finishes early on, but was derailed by a wrist injury and hasn’t posted a top 10 on the PGA Tour in eight starts, though he was T-9 at the Scottish Open this past weekend.

His results at The Open have been similarly strange. He’s finished MC-MC-53rd in three career appearances, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. He played through a weather-burdened nine-hole stretch at Royal Birkdale that led to one MC and had a triple- and quintuple-bogey leading to another.

4. Rory McIlroy

Not only does no other player have as much pressure on him this week as Northern Ireland’s own favorite son, I’m not sure any player has had as much pressure on them at a major in recent years — except, well, maybe McIlroy at the Masters.

We’ve seen how he’s played in that situation, trying to capture the career grand slam, which is to say, good, but not good enough. While it’s always possible Rory vanquishes the field by a half-dozen strokes, it’ll be tough in front of the adoring home crowd.

5. Matt Kuchar

Poor Kuch. After years of playing top-level golf, the story most will remember is about a caddie payment and the most lasting image just might be that of him sitting in the middle of Royal Birkdale’s 13th fairway while playing partner Jordan Spieth received a ruling that would ultimately help him win the Claret Jug.

That remains his closest call at a major, but Kuchar is playing some of the best golf of his life this year and it could be sweet justice if he turned a controversy-filled season into his first major championship.

6. Rickie Fowler

If you’ve been backing Rickie to win his first major for the last handful of years, you’re likely at a crossroads: Keep firing and hope the “inevitable” happens soon, or cut your losses and risk Fowler FOMO if he wins.

I understand the surrender, but this might be a foolish jumping-off point. His ability to embrace links with creativity around the course should serve him well, though the recent results have been disappointing: Since a runner-up finish in 2014, he’s finished 30th-46th-22nd-28th.

7. Xander Schauffele

This guy is becoming so proficient at major championships that he could even win one by accident soon. In 10 major starts, he owns five finishes of sixth or better, including a runner-up at this year’s Masters and a share of third place at the U.S. Open. He still remains overlooked amongst the public, but this week could suit him well. In limited experience, he’s shown a solid proficiency for playing links golf, including a — what else? — runner-up finish at last year’s Open.

8. Matt Wallace

Expect this to be a very trendy pick — and for good reason. Wallace finished T-3 at the PGA Championship and T-12 at the U.S. Open. Now the four-time European Tour winner is back on more familiar territory and should be even more comfortable. Keep in mind, though, that the ascendancy of this 24th-ranked golfer in the world has happened quickly, so quickly that he’s competed in only a single Open Championship previously, missing the cut last year.

9. Dustin Johnson

Just once, I’d love to hear DJ pissed off and fired up, saying it’s unacceptable that a player of his caliber has only one major victory, while insisting that he knows he’s every bit as good as Brooks Koepka. Alas, that ain’t ever, ever gonna happen. Instead, we’re left with the cool cat who continues to come close, though The Open is decidedly his least favorite major. Johnson owns three career top 10s, but in the last four years he’s only once finished better than 49th.

10. Tiger Woods

When he insisted he’d play way fewer events this year, Woods wasn’t embellishing. More than halfway through the calendar, he’s made just nine starts — three fewer than any other player in the world’s top five. Tiger obviously proved he can still win at Augusta National and if we’re ranking the majors that best suit his 43-year-old body and game, The Open would have to be next on the list. Dialing in long- and mid-irons has always been his specialty and that should keep him in the mix this week, as well.

11. Marc Leishman

When the turf is firm and the wind is blowing, Leishman’s stock rises immensely. A noted low-ball hitter from his formative years growing up in the Australian town of Warrnambool, his game matches up nicely with usual Open conditions, which explains his three top-six finishes in the past five years. If there was a viable stat which offered strokes gained on links courses, Leishman might be right near the top of it.

12. Matt Fitzpatrick

He’s been solid this year, with a runner-up on each major tour, but no wins yet for the first time in five years. The good news about Fitz is that he owns the talent and mentality to put his game into a different gear and go really low, as evidenced by low rounds of 67 at the Masters, 65 at the PGA Championship and 68 at the U.S. Open. The bad news is that he can similarly blow up in the same situations, as his high rounds in those same three majors this year were 78, 76 and 72, respectively.

13. Patrick Cantlay

I’ve always believed that the world’s upper-most echelon of golfers, the very elite of the elite, separate themselves from the next tier based on the fact that they can win on any type of course, anytime. I think Cantlay is on the verge of bursting through that barrier and joining that crowd, and he can go a long way toward proving it this week. A lone previous result of 12th last year suggests he’s suited to links golf, while the confidence from being 21st or better at this year’s first three majors should offer momentum.

14. Justin Rose

It’s been 21 years since Rose burst onto the scene as low amateur at The Open, finishing T-4 at Royal Birkdale as a 17-year-old. That mark stood as his best result at the event until last year, when he earned a share of runner-up honors. If the weather remains calm, like it did at Carnoustie last summer, Rose’s chances for contention should be elevated. If the wind blows, I’d slide him a bit lower down on the list, since I’m not sure he owns the proper low-ball game to survive those conditions.

15. Francesco Molinari

Is it possible that the defending champion is getting overlooked this time around? Quite frankly, Frankie could win three in a row and still not steal the headlines away from his big-name peers, which seems just fine with him. In the year since winning, he’s made the cut at all four majors, including a pair of top-six finishes. He’s not exactly Brooks Koepka when it comes to playing his best golf only at the big ones, but the very nature of tougher setups tends to suit his game very well.

16. Tommy Fleetwood

Myth: Fleetwood has been knocking on the door at The Open and he’s finally ready to turn one of those title contentions into a victory. Reality: He’s missed the cut in three of five career starts and never finished inside the top 10, with last year’s T-12 being his best result. None of that means he can’t win, of course, as the Englishman is a proven commodity at this style of golf, his superb Dunhill Links record as evidence. Other than a Northern Irishman, he’s amongst the more popular potential champions.

17. Henrik Stenson

Few players in the game — if any — own the integral combination of above-average distance and dead-eye accuracy like Stenson, whose lone major championship came in an epic head-to-head battle against Phil Mickelson three years ago. Since then, he’s posted results of 11th or better at each of the four majors, though it’s been tough to figure out his form this year, which has included a T-8, a few T-9s and a bunch of other solid results, without a single true title contention.

18. Jordan Spieth

Will the real Jordan Spieth please stand up? The much-beleaguered three-time major champion hasn’t been nearly as off with his performance this year as most people believe; it’s just that his first handful of years as a pro were so special that the bar of expectations has perhaps been raised too high. Even so, it’s tough to figure out what we should expect. Spieth went 10 months without a top 10, then peeled off three straight, only to be followed by a T-65 and MC in his two most recent starts.

19. Jason Day

For a player who’s always insisted his career won’t be a lengthy one due to back issues, it feels like Day has ratcheted up the immediacy after failing to win for the past year and falling well outside the world’s top 10. With Steve Williams on the bag, expect the intangible factor of greater focus and plenty of tangible ones, especially this week. “He’s gone there with Tiger [Woods] before the British in some years, so he definitely knows that course,” Day told me. That won’t hurt the cause.

20. Tyrrell Hatton

You know, for as much baseless criticism that Jon Rahm receives for his on-course temper — and how it might be preventing him from winning a major — we rarely hear it about in regard to Hatton, who can hothead with the best of ‘em. While it’s surprising that Hatton’s career includes just three total victories, it should be noted that two of ‘em, in 2016 and ’17, came at the Dunhill Links Championship, played on three courses which should all correlate well to any in the Open Championship rota.

21. Graeme McDowell

No player in the field will be greeted with a warmer reception than GMac this week. While McIlroy remains the home country favorite, McDowell is the hometown favorite, having played, practiced and even worked at Royal Portrush during his formative years. After months of will-he-or-won’t-he whispers in regard to getting into the field, he finally insisted he’d just try to play golf and forget all about it — which was right before he did, in fact, qualify, thanks to a 30-foot par putt on the final hole of the RBC Canadian Open.

22. Hideki Matsuyama

We often talk about high-ceiling/low-floor players, the types who are capable of winning on any given week, but post an awful large number of MCs, too. Well, Matsuyama is a high-floor kind of guy, with no result worse than 33rd since the second week of the year, but he’s similarly developed into a low-ceiling guy. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, but during this lengthy streak of 33rd-or-better performances, he’s yet to post a single top-five result. Consistency pays the bills, but it can’t buy trophies.

23. Sergio Garcia

Perhaps it should come as little surprise that Garcia is the all-time leading money winner in Open Championship history out of those who haven’t won the event. Ranking seventh overall with more than $3.6 million, Garcia owns more top 10s at this event since the turn of the century (10 of ‘em) than results outside the top 10, including a playoff loss to Padraig Harrington in 2007. And yet, since winning the Masters two years ago, he’s MC’d in seven of 10 major starts and hasn’t posted a single top 20.

24. Louis Oosthuizen

If it’s a major, then watch out for Louis. One of eight players in the game’s history to finish runner-up at all four majors, this is the only one he’s captured, winning by seven at St. Andrews in 2010. While he always plays pretty well at majors – 13 top-25s in the last six years and only two missed cuts – good luck trying to figure out when he’s going to seriously contend, as there appears to be no pattern and he’s the type that doesn’t need to be in any kind of form prior to playing his best golf.

25. Bernd Wiesberger

One of the last players to qualify for The Open a few weeks ago, thanks to a share of second place at the Irish Open, Wiesberger has been trending in the right direction, validating his win in Denmark with another hard-fought victory in a Scottish Open playoff this past weekend. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Austrian has never finished better than 15th place in 20 career major starts. At 33, though, the talented ball-striker might just now be entering his true prime years.

26. Rafa Cabrera Bello

27. Erik Van Rooyen

28. Lee Westwood

29. Ian Poulter

30. Joaquin Niemann

31. Andy Sullivan

32. Haotong Li

33. Eddie Pepperell

The best tweeter in golf recently took a pronounced break from competitive play, remaining sidelined for seven weeks to rest a back injury. That news in itself would be cause for concern, except for the fact that he returned to a fourth-place finish at the Irish Open. Last year’s T-6 at Carnoustie signified Pepperell’s first top 10 at a major and proved he can hang with the big boys. Should that back injury be fully healed while playing a third straight week, expect some solid scores once again.

34. Emiliano Grillo

35. Mike Lorenzo-Vera

36. Abraham Ancer

37. Paul Casey

38. Tony Finau

39. Robert MacIntyre

40. Patrick Reed

41. Andrew “Beef” Johnston

42. Thorbjorn Olesen

43. Gary Woodland

44. Kevin Kisner

His profile at this tournament trended way up last year, as he went from missing the cut in his first start to a 76th, then a 54th, then a share of second place. This year, his performance has been good, but not great, winning the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship, but failing to finish better than 15th in any stroke-play event, despite missing only two cuts. It’s not just commendable that he opted to play the Scottish Open last week; it should serve as solid prep for this week.

45. Jim Furyk

46. Justin Harding

47. Bryson DeChambeau

48. Webb Simpson

49. Alex Noren

50. Russell Knox

51. Austin Connelly

52. Christiaan Bezuidenhout

53. Byeong Hun An

54. Cameron Smith

55. Zach Johnson

56. Dylan Frittelli

57. Aaron Wise

After missing the cut in his first three major championship starts, Wise cashed paychecks in the first three this year, which suggests he’s learning a thing or two about playing majors. That could be a byproduct of practice rounds with Brooks Koepka, who said prior to the U.S. Open: “I think he’s super talented and he can learn a lot. Watching Aaron hit the ball, it’s super impressive. He’s going to be super talented when he figures it out and understands his game. I think he’s going to be a hell of a player.”

58. Adri Arnaus

59. Andrea Pavan

60. Shane Lowry

61. Jorge Campillo

62. Sungjae Im

63. Branden Grace

64. Andrew Putnam

65. Jazz Janewattananond

66. Phil Mickelson

In a video posted Sunday to social media, Mickelson revealed he’s done a “hard reset,” going on a retreat and losing 15 pounds by fasting over six days. “I haven’t posted anything, because I haven’t felt good about myself and the way I’ve been playing,” he said. It’s true: Since winning at Pebble Beach in February, a T-18 at the Masters remains his lone top-35 finish. “I don’t know if it’s going to help me play better or not, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get my best back.”

67. Padraig Harrington

68. Prom Meesawat

69. Chan Kim

70. Brian Harman

71. Lucas Bjerregaard

72. Rory Sabbatini

73. Ryan Fox

74. Brandt Snedeker

75. Keegan Bradley

76. Brandon Wu

77. C.T. Pan

78. Benjamin Hebert

79. Jason Kokrak

80. Si Woo Kim

81. Billy Horschel

82. Danny Willett

After a few years of falling off the radar, the 2016 Masters champion has enjoyed a return to form recently, finishing in the top 30 in three of his last four starts, including a T-12 at the U.S. Open. It might be a bit early to believe he can seriously contend for a second major title, but he’s gradually starting to prove that there’s a flicker of hope he won’t be a one-major wonder.

83. Tom Lewis

84. Thomas Pieters

85. Lucas Glover

86. Adrian Otaegui

87. Kiradech Aphibarnrat

88. Shubhankar Sharma

89. Romain Langasque

90. Corey Conners

91. Joost Luiten

92. Kyle Stanley

93. Nino Bertasio

94. Luke List

95. Bubba Watson

I don’t mean to pick on Bubba, whose career profile should lift him to a place much higher on this list, but I just don’t see much reason for optimism this week. He’s missed the cut in three of his last five starts at this event, but here’s the real kicker: Other than the Masters, which he obviously adores, Watson hasn’t posted a top 10 at a major since 2010. We tend to think of him as a solid major competitor, but that form hasn’t shown itself outside the gates of Augusta National.

96. Ryan Palmer

97. Joel Dahmen

98. Sung Kang

99. Robert Rock

100. Adam Hadwin

101. Mikko Korhonen

102. Keith Mitchell

103. Chez Reavie

104. Kurt Kitayama

105. Kevin Streelman

106. Shugo Imahira

107. Doc Redman

108. Stewart Cink

Happy 10-year anniversary to Cink, who won at Turnberry in 2009 — or as the rest of us remember it, the day he stole away a legendary sports moment by defeating 59-year-old Tom Watson in a playoff. For as much as the world was collectively pulling for his opponent, Cink handled the situation with class and grace. Maybe that’ll be enough karma to get him onto the leaderboard at some point a decade later.

109. Miguel Angel Jimenez

110. Paul Waring

111. Connor Syme

112. Yuta Ikeda

113. David Lipsky

114. Zander Lombard

115. J.B. Holmes

116. Alexander Bjork

117. James Sugrue

118. Charley Hoffman

119. Richard Sterne

120. Patton Kizzire

121. Shaun Norris

122. Jimmy Walker

123. Alexander Levy

124. Tom Lehman

125. Chris Wood

126. Matthew Baldwin

127. Nate Lashley

128. Ernie Els

129. Brandon Stone

130. Oliver Wilson

131. Gunn Charoenkul

Who? Gunn has been shooting straight lately, with finishes of eighth or better in six of his last seven global starts.

132. Garrick Porteous

133. Callum Shinkwin

134. David Duval

135. Sang Hyun Park

136. Jake McLeod

137. Mikumu Horikawa

138. Jack Senior

139. Dimitrios Papadatos

140. Andrew Wilson

In his most recent start, he won the Motocaddy Masters, which was preceded by a T-24 at the previous week’s Golfcatcher Championship. (Yes, these are real events.)

141. Yoshinori Fujimoto

142. Thomas Thurloway

143. Doyeob Mun

144. Darren Clarke

145. Yosuke Asaji

146. Paul Lawrie

147. Ashton Turner

148. Yuki Inamori

149. Innchoon Hwang

150. Sam Locke

151. Isidro Benitez

If golfers weren’t allowed to use clubs, he’d be much higher on this list.

152. Takumi Kanaya

153. Matthias Schmid

154. Curtis Knipes

155. Dongkyu Jang

156. Brooks Koepka

Seriously?! No, not seriously. We already know that Koepka plays his best golf when he’s got a massive chip on his shoulder, manufactured or otherwise. So, here’s the idea: We all place a wager on the game’s elite major championship competitor, then let it slip to him that he ranked DFL on this list. We then watch him transform from Bruce Banner to The Hulk, stepping on throats as he climbs the leaderboard. He wins and we win, with the added exhilaration of knowing we provided some vital motivation.

It’s a perfect plan, really. Let’s set it in motion. Ten quid to the first reporter who tells Koepka in a press conference that on one list, he’s the lowest-ranked man in this field. I can’t wait to see his response — and the ensuing performance.

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