Here’s a look at how the top five players in the world could fare at The Open Championship from Carnoustie.
1. Dustin Johnson
World number one Dustin Johnson didn’t begin his major championship career until 2008 so he just missed out on the last time The Open was played at Carnoustie. While obviously on different courses, DJ does have a decent history at this tournament. After missing the cut in his first appearance in 2009 at Turnberry, he’s made eight consecutive cuts and has three top-10 finishes, including a tie for runner-up at Royal St. George’s in 2011. He tied for ninth two years ago but finished well back a year ago, tying for 54th. His length is never going to be a problem anywhere and it will be interesting to see which approach he takes off the tee. If Brandt Snedeker is hitting 430-yard bombs, what would DJ do with a driver out here? The grass off the fairway is said to be a bit wispy at this point, meaning it might not be as difficult to hit out of. If Johnson has wedges in his hand all week, it might be a rough week for the rest of the field. He hasn’t played since losing that lead at the U.S. Open, eventually finishing in solo third, so we’ll see if rust plays a factor early on.
2. Justin Thomas
World No. 2 Justin Thomas, who overtook Johnson as the top player in the world for a short time this spring, hasn’t found the same success he did last year, a year in which he racked up five victories and won his first major, the FedExCup and the PGA Tour Player of the Year but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t had a good year. He hasn’t missed a cut in 2018, won The Honda Classic early in the year, has four other top-10 finishes, including a runner-up finish at the WGC-Mexico after losing a playoff to Phil Mickelson and finished in the top 25 at both The Masters and the U.S. Open. He’s played twice since Shinnecock Hills, finishing tied for 56th at the Travelers Championship and got his trip to Europe started early, tying for eighth at the HNA Open de France two weeks ago. However, The Open Championship hasn’t been kind to him in his young career. He tied for 53rd two years ago at Royal Troon and missed the cut last year at Royal Birkdale as he watched good friend Jordan Spieth hoist the Claret Jug. He needs to get off to a good start to get his confidence up.
3. Justin Rose
I really like Justin Rose this week. I know that’s an easy statement to make given his consistency but I see him as a big favorite heading into Carnoustie. He was just 18 years old when he played The Open at Carnoustie, missing the cut after rounds of 79 and 77. He came back nicely in 2007, tying for 12th as just one of 19 players to finish the week under par. However, overall, The Open hasn’t been overly kind to the Englishman. Since bursting onto the scene and tying for fourth as an amateur in 1998, Rose has missed the weekend nearly a third of the time in this tournament and has just one other top 10, a tie for sixth at St. Andrews in 2015. But Rose is playing fantastic golf right now. He’s finished in the top 10 of each of his last four tournaments with a win in Fort Worth, a tie for sixth at the Memorial, a tie for 10th at the U.S. Open and a tie for ninth at this past weekend’s Scottish Open. It won’t be surprising to see him lingering near the top of the leaderboard as the week goes along.
4. Brooks Koepka
I think it’s safe to say that Brooks Koepka enjoys playing in major championships. In 18 major appearances, the 28-year-old Floridian has missed just two cuts (his first two majors played), finished out of the top 25 only twice and finished inside the top 10 seven times, including his back-to-back U.S. Open victories. Dating back to last year’s Masters, where he finished tied for 11th, he won his first major, tied for sixth at The Open, tied for 13th at the PGA Championship and won another U.S. Open. He had to miss The Masters this season due to a wrist injury, something that obviously isn’t bothering him anymore. As the rest of the field faltered, Koepka stayed the course last month at Shinnecock Hills to become just the seventh man in history to win back-to-back U.S. Open crowns and figures to be right in the mix at Carnoustie this week. He’s played just once since then, tying for 19th at the Travelers Championship.
5. Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm got a good look at Carnoustie when he checked into his hotel this week and couldn’t believe how dry the course was, saying at least he was happy that the R&A was watering the greens. The young Spaniard, who has had great success on courses such as these, was one of those hitting driver in practice rounds and seems to be planning to try and boom his way to victory. We know he can hit the ball a long way — he’s averaged over 307 yards off the tee on the PGA Tour this season — and if the ball lands in the right places, the strategy of avoiding the bunkers by flying over them could work. After missing the cut at the U.S. Open, Rahm headed back to the European Tour and finished tied for fifth at the HNA Open de France and tied for fourth at the Irish Open so he’s playing good golf coming into The Open. I don’t know why it seems that he’s been out here forever and it’s easy to forget sometimes that he’s just 23 years old, only turned pro two years ago and has teed it up in just eight major championships, his debut as a professional coming at The Open in 2016 where he finished tied for 59th. He finished tied for 44th a year ago but did nab a solo fourth at The Masters earlier this season. Which Jon Rahm will we get this week?