The 147th Open: Power Rankings and players to impress at Carnoustie


Who are the players to beat at Carnoustie this week? Ben Coley ranks the top contenders for victory at The Open.

Dustin Johnson

Missed the cut on his Open debut a decade ago but has made all seven since, a sequence which includes three top-10 finishes. Pick of the lot was second behind Darren Clarke at Sandwich and that's a pure, demanding links, so there's every chance he finds Carnoustie to his liking.

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How to follow of the action this week from Carnoustie, live on Sky Sports.

Plans to hit driver as often as possible but still settling on a putter and it was that which ultimately cost him the US Open. Still the man to beat.

Rickie Fowler

Another American with a fine links pedigree having been fifth at Sandwich and second at Hoylake, Fowler comes into the event on the back of an ideal preparation in the Scottish Open.

Will Fowler finally win a maiden major title?

Will Fowler finally win a maiden major title?

Without a win since a stunning final round in the Bahamas late last year but came closest at the Masters and continues to prove a force in majors. When the first one comes it could well be in this event and he won't mind the firmness of these fairways.

Rory McIlroy

With a win and three further top-five finishes in the Open, McIlroy boasts the best record of the elite players - despite some still reckoning that he can't play in the wind and doesn't like links golf.

McIlroy last won the Open in 2014

McIlroy last won the Open in 2014

The truth is he is a better player under soft, parkland conditions, but he's also tamed Carnoustie in the Dunhill Links previously and could do so again if the short-game improves. Disappointing at the US Open but entered the final round of the Masters in second place and always a threat.

Sergio Garcia

Underestimated in the betting, Garcia is a bona fide Open specialist who was second at Carnoustie 11 years ago. His love of a links challenge can be traced right back to victory at Muirfield in the Amateur Championship and he's been inside the top six in three of the last four Opens, so often contending at the business end.

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Crucially, the Spaniard has rediscovered his form lately with two top-15 finishes and he should love conditions this week.

Jordan Spieth

The defending champion was in much better form prior to last year's dramatic Birkdale success, but feels he's never far away from fixing the various little issues which have kept him from winning this year and should not be underestimated.

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The Open is as much a mental test as a physical one and Spieth's mind is his biggest weapon, so while there have been issues with the putter and he was poor in the US Open, he is not a player to dismiss as he seeks to become the first back-to-back Open winner since Tiger Woods.

Alex Noren

It's almost exactly two years since Alex Noren won the Scottish Open to trigger a rapid climb up the world rankings and he now looks a genuine contender.

Noren finished tied-sixth last year

Noren finished tied-sixth last year

The Swede was inside the top 20 on his major debut in this event a decade ago and has since added two further top-10 finishes, which makes sense as he's excellent in the wind, loves playing in the UK and is deadly around the greens. Victory in France last time - his 10th on the European Tour - has him primed.

Justin Rose

Rose has been strongly backed for this all year and clearly, much of his golf over the last 12 or so months has been top-class to the extent that he could end the week atop the world rankings. He's relatively low down the rankings here owing to a modest Open record - indeed, it's 20 years since he was fourth as an amateur and he's yet to better it.

Rose has seven top-10s in 12 starts this year

Rose has seven top-10s in 12 starts this year

However, with all aspects of his game firing and having won at Royal Aberdeen a couple of summers back, he may be ready to change that.

Justin Thomas

Rose's namesake has been the most prolific player in world golf since the start of 2017 and won his first major championship at the PGA last August, an event which proved to be an extremely demanding test.

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Earlier in the summer he'd missed the cut at Birkdale and a lack of Open experience is a concern, as is a slight dip in his form since the Masters. However, with best friend Spieth defending and his coach Mike along with him, Thomas seems sure to have prepared perfectly and may yet establish himself as a contender come the weekend.

Tiger Woods

The last Open Championship to be played on brown fairways which run and run was at Hoylake in 2006, where Woods was an impressive winner as he plotted a route around the links.

Woods is chasing a first worldwide win since 2013

Woods is chasing a first worldwide win since 2013

More than a decade on, he's stuck on 14 major titles, the last having come in the 2008 US Open, and there wasn't much to shout about in that event last month.

However, a top-five finish last time puts him on the front foot once more and Woods will benefit from not having to rely on driver here. With his approach play strong all season, that makes the prospect of a 15th major an altogether realistic one.

Phil Mickelson

The waiting is nearly over for the 147th Open, with all four days live on Sky Sports' dedicated channel.

The waiting is nearly over for the 147th Open, with all four days live on Sky Sports' dedicated channel.

Woods' rival-turned-friend has won and twice finished second in the Open since the start of the decade, and would've been a two-time champion were it not for Henrik Stenson's remarkable performance at Troon in 2016.

That pedigree entitles him to much respect, even if he's not currently in the best of form; we know that Mickelson can turn things around at the drop of the hat. He's been at Carnoustie since missing the cut in the Scottish Open and is overpriced.

Jon Rahm

Rahm is looking for his first major win

Rahm is looking for his first major win

The fiery Spaniard looks a sure-fire major winner of the future, but is he ready to conquer a test like Carnoustie? On the one hand, he's won an Irish Open on a true links course while his PGA Tour breakthrough came at the brutally difficult Torrey Pines.

On the other, his major efforts away from Augusta have been uninspiring so far and his temperament could be an issue. He certainly arrives in-form, however, with back-to-back top-five finishes since Shinnecock.

Brooks Koepka

Koepka has only made seven worldwide starts in 2018

Koepka has only made seven worldwide starts in 2018

After winning so impressively in last month's US Open, defending the title he'd won for the first time a year earlier, Koepka has to be considered a factor.

The big-hitter might not be an obvious type for the subtleties of links golf, but he shared the lead after the first round at Birkdale a year ago and perhaps no player in this field has greater self-belief.

Francesco Molinari

One of the game's hottest players right now, Molinari will be fancied by many to improve upon a fairly average Open record which shows a best of ninth at Muirfield five years ago.

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Certainly, the Italian is in the form of his life having won the BMW PGA and then a first PGA Tour title, and his final start in preparation for this was second place in the John Deere Classic at the weekend. Whether he can pick up where he left off after a late arrival at Carnoustie remains to be seen, but few have been at his level over the last 12 weeks.

Branden Grace

Those looking for links specialists should consider Grace, a former winner of the Dunhill Links who has won twice in Qatar and at Fancourt, other courses which favour players who have the game to succeed in the Open.

Grace was sixth at Birkdale last summer courtesy of a third-round 62, the lowest round in major history, but tougher conditions at Carnoustie will hold no fears. Hasn't played since the US Open but remains a factor regardless.

Will Grace's history-making 62 be bettered at Carnoustie?

Will Grace's history-making 62 be bettered at Carnoustie?

Hideki Matsuyama

The 15th and final spot in the list would've gone to Stenson but for his withdrawal with a neck injury last week, and instead goes to Matsuyama.

He's not been at his absolute best following a spring injury setback but a run of top-20 finishes at least shows hints of what he can do and the young Japanese has looked an ideal Open type ever since contending at Muirfield five years ago. A massive price if you're willing to speculate that he could step up a gear.

Watch The Open throughout the week on Sky Sports The Open. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 6.30am.

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