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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 23 February, 2020

Tips for Troon: 5 players worth an each-way punt at the Open this week

Underdogs regularly prevail at the tournament but who has the best chance of challenging this year?

The 18th at Royal Troon: who will be standing tallest on Sunday?
The 18th at Royal Troon: who will be standing tallest on Sunday?

WITH TRICKY LINKS courses and harsh weather often providing extreme tests for the world’s best golfers, the Open Championship is never short of drama.

The 145th edition of the world’s oldest Major tees off on Thursday morning but which players are best poised to prevail at Royal Troon?

Last year’s event saw American Zach Johnson claim the Claret Jug on a Monday — the first Monday finish since 1988 — after play was suspended due to torrential rain and heavy winds. Golfers at this year’s tournament may have to contend with similar conditions again as more rain and strong winds are expected over the coming days.

There’s little to choose between the pre-tournament favourites with Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth tightly stacked at the top of the betting.

Below are some players who could very well be tipping about near the top of the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon and beyond.

Shane Lowry (35/1)

US Open Golf Day Three Shane Lowry celebrates making a birdie at the US Open last month. Source: Gene J. Puskar

Lowry hasn’t had a stretch of consistently good performances this season but despite that, the Offaly man ripped up the form book at the US Open last month with a career-best finish at Oakmont.

You can never rule Lowry out once you consider his tendencies to perform on the big stage.

Remember 2009? An unknown Irish amateur at the time, he not only claimed victory in the Irish Open but did so after a tense playoff against the experience of European journeyman Robert Rock.

The 29-year old’s performance at Oakmont was further proof of his ability to shine on the big stage. A poor Scottish Open result where he missed the cut wasn’t ideal but it provided the Irishman with more time to prepare for the course in South Ayrshire.

The harsh conditions expected over the week won’t affect Lowry as much as his rivals and they could very well play into his hands as he has plenty of experience of persisting with challenging conditions growing up in the gloriously unpredictable Irish climate.

Lee Westwood (40/1)

The Open Championship 2016 - Practice Day Two - Royal Troon Golf Club Lee Westwood practices his putting at Royal Troon Golf Course on Monday. Source: Peter Byrne

Another Major, another chance for Westwood to end his drought and finally gain long-overdue admittance to golf’s most exclusive club.

Similarly to Euro 2016 where we witnessed underdogs topple giants, unforgettable thunderclaps, and one of the game’s greats finally accomplish a career-long ambition, The Open, too, is no stranger to romantic subplots.

The 2009 tournament saw 60-year old Tom Watson on track to become the oldest Major winner of all time only to lose to fellow American Stewart Cink. Two years later, we witnessed Darren Clarke cruising to victory 21 years after turning professional.

2006 will be remembered as the year dry eyes were in short supply around the 18th green as Tiger Woods landed his first Major since his father’s death earlier in the year. There’s nothing to suggest that Royal Troon can’t provide the setting for Westwood’s fairytale?

The 43-year old hasn’t brought home any silverware thus far this season but he has carded a number of high finishes over the last number of months, solidifying his position as Mr Consistency.

Another solid performance could see him finally land a Major but it will most likely require more than the arduous consistency he continuously brings.

Matt Kuchar (66/1)

Players Championship Golf Matt Kuchar lines up a putt shot during The Players Championship in May. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Kuchar, who this week stepped in to replace Jordan Spieth on the United States Olympic golf team, has been knocking on the door of Majors for a while and has been hitting some fine form as of late.

He has carded a top-10 finish in five of his last six events, culminating in an impressive third-place finish at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks ago.

Royal Troon’s history also favours American players as they have won every Open Championship held at the course since Bobby Locke won the event in 1950. If the tradition is to continue, Kuchar is one of the most likely candidates to maintain the record.

He will have to improve on a mediocre 46th place finish at the US Open to challenge for the Claret Jug but he has proven that he is well capable of doing so on the big stage, not least when he finished third at The Players Championship in May.

Andy Sullivan (80/1)

The Open Championship 2016 - Practice Day Three - Royal Troon Golf Club Andy Sullivan watches his drive during practice at Royal Troon Golf Club. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Sullivan is yet another of the in-form golfers coming into The Open.

A fifth-place finish at the Open de France, followed by a sixth-place finish at last week’s Scottish Open, is a gentle reminder that the Englishman is not to be overlooked in this year’s event.

He hasn’t won an event on the tour this year but he won three events last year including an emphatic win at the Portugal Masters where he won by nine shots.

He looked impressive during the early rounds of the US Open but as play developed into the weekend, he gradually faded away.

If the 30-year old can build on his early rounds at Oakmont, he could put himself in a prime position to become the first Englishman to win the competition since Nick Faldo at Muirfield in 1992.

Tyrell Hatton (125/1)

AAM Scottish Open - Day Three - Castle Stuart Golf Links Tyrell Hatton tees off during Day three of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. Source: Kenny Smith

Relatively unknown to sunshine golf fans, Hatton has been in fine form this year, only finishing outside the top 20 twice in eight events since the middle of April.

The Englishman has yet to win on the European Tour but came agonizingly close at last week’s Scottish Open after he finished one shot behind winner Alex Noren.

The fine performance at Castle Stuart propelled him 30 places up in the world rankings and adds to the momentum that has being building in the 24-year old’s game over the last number of months.

Expected strong winds shouldn’t affect Hatton as much as others as he has performed well in similar conditions before, most notably finishing fourth at the 2015 Irish Open at Royal County Down.

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