Outsiders hoping to steal a march on golf's Fab Four
Published 14/07/2016 | 02:30
The Claret Jug is the tangible symbol of a prize that earns a golfer his place in history, and for as long as he lives, the winner will never forget the day he became 'The Champion Golfer of the Year.'
If there was any doubting the importance of achieving that accolade, it was soon dispelled by the 2015 Open champion, Zach Johnson.
Johnson spoke with pride of his victory at St Andrews, but also of the emotional tug at the heart when he had to give back the Claret Jug this week. Repeating that achievement is a huge task but Johnson cannot be discounted on a course with small greens, one which requires precision off the tee, a very good short game, and careful course management.
The Fab Four - Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy - are in the mix for sure but over four days, with wind always a factor, the spoils do not always go to the favoured ones.
The 2015 Open came down to the wire before Johnson edged home ahead of Australia's Marc Leishman and 2010 champion Louis Oosthuizen. The South African has to fancy his chances this week. He knows how to the get the job done if the opportunity arises.
Rickie Fowler has always to be considered and he is surely going to make a Major breakthrough sometime.
Henrik Stenson has not given up hope that he, too, has a Major-winning performance in him.
Mickelson (46) and Padraig Harrington (44) have all the experience required if they can negotiate their way into a challenging position on Sunday.
This, of all the Majors, gives the veterans hope. Three of the last six Opens were won by men in their 40s - Darren Clarke (42), Ernie Els (42) and Mickelson (43).
The other Irish? Graeme McDowell contended strongly in the Scottish Open last week and Shane Lowry feels confident, while Paul Dunne has been working hard after missing the cut at Castle Stuart.