Hartsock: 5 players who could win the 146th British Open

OK, so I was bad with the Masters and even worse with the U.S. Open, but subscribing to the blind squirrel theory, I’m really feeling good about my five players to watch at this week’s British Open.

When you consider that the last seven major titles have gone to first-time winners, picking the champion at Royal Birkdale is a crapshoot. I’m not sure that any of my five picks will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday, but you can bank on a couple of them to be in the hunt on the back nine.

Dustin Johnson — Bookmakers across the pond say he’s the favorite to win despite not being around for the weekend last month at the U.S. Open. After a hot start to the season the world’s No. 1 player has cooled off, but his game is just too good to ignore.
Jon Rahm — I’m going to keep riding this rookie until he wins a major, which will be sooner than later. The Spaniard is coming off a six-shot win at the Irish Open. The concern right now is recent history in the majors. Rahm has finished outside the top 25 in his four majors since turning pro.
Tommy Fleetwood — Two words: hometown hero. The Southport, England native was fourth last month at Erin Hills in the U.S. Open, but he’s never made a cut in three tries in the British Open.

Sergio Garcia — The reigning Masters champion gets married next month in Texas, but his focus will be razor sharp in an event that he always seems to play well. Garcia has been no worse than sixth in his last three tries at the British, even though he hasn’t played that well in two previous chances at Royal Birkdale.
Rickie Fowler — The guy who is now, arguably, the best player to never win a major could get his name off that list this week. Fowler can handle the rocky conditions that might blow up across the pond. I can see him extending that streak of first-time major winners this week.
Darkhorses — Phil Mickelson is a 30-1 shot this week and lefty decided to leave his driver at home. The 2013 champion will have a new man on his bag this week after parting ways with long-time looper Bones Mackay. Mickelson is always a favorite for those of us who play from the “other side.”

Henrik Stenson is the defending Open champion. Stenson has the game to compete at Royal Birdale, but he’s missed the cut in 5 of his last 10 starts.

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