To accommodate the Olympics in August, the PGA Tour major championship season comes to a whirlwind finish with two majors in three weeks. This week’s British Open at Royal Troon precedes the PGA Championship at Baltusrol, which starts on July 28th.
A hectic stretch for the pros makes for a jubilant July for golf fans. The Open a year ago at St. Andrews saw Jordan Spieth’s bid for a Grand Slam slip away on Monday as Zach Johnson raised the Claret Jug in an open at St. Andrews plagued by weather.
Dustin Johnson led that Open for two rounds before disappearing on the weekend. DJ returns a year later as the hottest player in the game, having won consecutive starts.
His victory at the U.S. Open helped vault him to No. 2 in the world, and he’s the favorite this week. But the forecast might be bigger concern than the field for DJ this week. It’s supposed to rain nearly every day at Royal Troon in Scotland. Will the weather dampen DJ’s hot streak or will he persevere? We start to find out on Thursday.
Here’s a look at a few storylines for the week followed by Chris Mayson’s prediction.
DJ’s Time To Dominate? – Dustin Johnson capturing his first major at Oakmont immediately spark speculation whether this finally might unleash the torrent of titles his tremendous talent makes fathomable.
The course certainly seems to favor DJ for a double. The first seven holes at Royal Troon play downwind, which the Golf Channel’s Mark Rolfing will hand the big-hitting Johnson an advantage early.
“With right wind, DJ could have five eagle putts on the first six holes,” Rolfing said.
But the wind won’t always been so favorable and friendly. It’s likely to gust all week, which is likely to put a premium on finding fairways.
As three-time Open Champion Nick Faldo said, “You can’t win the Open from the hay.”
Will DJ make hay or will his run by undone by the conditions? He finish T-4 during a breezy Masters this year, which suggests his game can weather the weather.
And About That Forecast … – Chris Mayson addresses this more in a bit, so we’ll simply sum up the forecast as a steady diet of dreary. Who will be least affected and embrace the chaos? Weather could be a major wildcard in determining a major winner.
Who Can Lick the Postage Stamp? – At 123 yards, the par 3 8th, the famed Postage Stamp, is the shortest hole in the British Open rotation. Notably, it’s the first hole into the wind on the course.
The wind playing havoc can create a tricky recovery from the traps left or right, or as Colin Montgomerie put it, “If you miss the green, game on.” One columnist dubbed No. 8 a “tiny terror.”
It’s likely not a decisive hole, but the character and history are the type of thing we golfers live for and get in spades at the British.
The Big (Insert Your Number Here) – The Big Four have been whittled to a Big Three after the media revoked Rickie Fowler’s “big” card after three flat performances on the big stage. That leaves Jason Day as still world No. 1 and Jordan Spieth now looking up at Dustin Johnson.
This week, the British media is subtly reminding us that Rory’s major clock is ticking. He’s now gone six major starts without one – and missed the British a year ago with an ankle injury.
Will Rory rebound to keep the Big Three from going 0 for 3 in majors in 2016 headed to the PGA? Jason? Jordan? Or could we see another star of 2016 re-emerge?
Danny Willett, Anyone? – The Masters wasn’t that long ago, but Willett seems to have become a bit of any afterthought already. He shouldn’t be discounted this week. Recall that he contended on Sunday at St. Andrews last year. Just saying …
Now for the read on the week from Chris Mayson.
This year’s British Open will be defined by the weather. The high all week is only 64 degrees and there is plenty of rain and showers in the forecast. That will mean that someone who is used to playing in the elements will have a huge advantage this week around a course that is designed with wind and rain in mind.
Typically I would pick the in-form player. Right now that would be Dustin Johnson coming off his back to back wins at the U.S. Open and the World Golf Championships. I still really like his game and he usually plays very well at the Open. I expect him to do well.
But because of the elements I have to go with a European this week. Danny Willet won the Masters, and Shane Lowry nearly won the U.S. Open. Therefore I am going for the highest-ranked European in the world and a player who grew up playing links golf in Northern Ireland: Rory McIlroy.
Rors can shape and flight the ball on demand, he knows how to win the Open and grew up playing in the rain and wind. He’s my man this week.