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The Open gets underway at Royal Birkdale early on Thursday morning
Henrik Stenson defends the title he won last year against a strong field
There are plenty of players in with a shout of lifting the Claret Jug
Sportsmail picks out nine potential winners of the tournament
The Open gets underway at Royal Birkdale on Thursday morning with a host of players capable of lifting the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon.
From established names like Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson to new blood like Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama, the race for the title is as open as it’s ever been.
Sportsmail picks out 12 potential winners.
World ranking: 12
Form this year: Very consistent but still looking for a first win. The highlight, of course, was the Olympic champion’s epic duel against Sergio Garcia for the Masters.
Why he will win: For believers in fate, how wonderful it would be if the boy who finished fourth as an amateur at Birkdale in 1998 returns all these years later to win as a man.
Why he won’t: Never fully convincing with a putter in his hand. Doesn’t win enough for someone who is so good with 13 of the 14 clubs in his bag.
World ranking: 14
Form this year: Fantastic, in a word. Two wins and two close shaves at a WGC and the US Open helped the Southport man rise from 100th at the start of the year to 14th in the rankings.
Why he will win: On home soil, the crowd will inspire him and he will show everyone why he has become one of the best ball strikers in the modern game.
Why he won’t: On home soil, the crowd will intimidate him, and he will show everyone that he still has a bit to learn before he becomes a major champion.
World ranking: 24
Form this year: Started like a train and was never outside the top 15 in any tournament from January to March but missed three cuts in a row, starting at the US Open last month.
Why he will win: One of those players who feels at home when he gets on a links. It was by the seaside where it all started to go right for him last year, and it could do so again.
Why he won’t: Hard to get into contention when you are struggling for form. And, even if he did, will his still shaky temperament let him down?
Jon Rahm (Spain)
World ranking: 8
Form this year: If you need to ask this, you’re not a golfer. Simply sensational with two victories already in his debut full year as a pro.
Why he’ll win: Drives the ball great, wonderful iron player, superb around the greens and a formidable force on them.
Why he won’t: We’ve seen one or two instances where that Spanish temperament has got the better of him — and you need patience at Birkdale.
Sergio Garcia (Spain)
World ranking: 5
Form this year: Not only did he finally get a major to his name with his fabulous victory at the Masters, he also won in Dubai in February as well.
Why he’ll win: No-one has ever doubted he has the shots to win an Open. Now he arrives with the added self-belief that comes with being wrapped in a green jacket.
Why he won’t: You’re never quite sure with Sergio on the greens. True, he putts much better these days, but those nasty four footers are always a worry.
Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland)
World ranking: 4
Form this year: Not great, is it? Hampered by injury and a balky putter, he’s posted a few decent finishes but it’s all been a pale imitation of what he’s capable of doing.
Why he’ll win: If the sun is shining and Rory’s got the bit between his teeth, he’s still the best player in the game and the most glorious sight in golf.
Why he won’t: If it’s blowing a hoolie and Rory’s struggling on the greens, the shoulders are still prone to slumping and the fight can drain quickly.
World ranking: 1
Form this year: Invincible in February and March, but not been the same since suffering a freak back injury on the eve of the Masters.
Why he’ll win: Alongside Rory, the best driver of a ball on the circuit — and you need to drive it well at Birkdale.
Why he won’t: Very streaky on the greens, and you won’t get your hands on the Claret Jug if you don’t putt well.
World ranking: 3
Form this year: Patchy, to say the least, but the two-time major winner has still claimed two titles,