With the year’s third major upon us and the tee times for the first two rounds released, let’s take a look at some of the groups to keep an eye on at Royal Birkdale:
Henrik Stenson-Si Woo Kim-Jordan Spieth
After winning in remarkable fashion last year at Royal Troon, Stenson has struggled in 2017 with missed cuts in the first two majors and indifferent results the rest of the way. Stenson will be grouped with Players champion Si Woo Kim and Jordan Spieth, who already has two victories in 2017. Spieth never has finished worse than a tie for 44th in four appearances in the Open Championship and would add a third leg to the career grand slam if he were to win.
Brooks Koepka-Hideki Matsuyama-Tommy Fleetwood
If the players in this group play anything like they did at Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, they will be in great shape. Fresh off his major triumph, Brooks Koepka should be excited to play in the Open Championship after missing it with an injury last year. Matsuyama has three straight top-11 finishes in majors and tied for second in the U.S. Open last month. Fleetwood just won the Open de France and finished fourth at Erin Hills, continuing a strong year that started with a victory at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in February.
Zach Johnson-Jason Day-Sergio García
Johnson loves parlaying strong performances at the John Deere Classic into strong performances at the Open Championship. His past six starts in the game’s oldest major are T12, his victory in 2015, T47, T6, T9 and T16. Day’s record is less than stellar in the tournament (one top-20 finish), but his recent form (missed cut at the U.S. Open and Travelers Championship) is much more concerning. Many have circled Birkdale as a great place for García to win the Open Championship, and the Masters champ’s form coming into the tournament would suggest he’s a great pick. He has three consecutive top-six finishes and 10 career top-10s at the Open Championship.
Rickie Fowler-Adam Scott-Paul Casey
An intriguing threesome of players who only account for one combined major but easily could have a handful. Fowler continues to knock at the door, with a T11 at The Masters and a T5 at the U.S. Open. He has a strong record in the Open Championship with three top-14s in seven appearances. Scott has not won in 16 months but has four top-10s at the Open in his past five starts. Casey is liable to show up in any major (sixth at The Masters, 26th at the U.S. Open) and finished tied for seventh the last time Birkdale hosted the Open.
Rory McIlroy-Dustin Johnson-Charl Schwartzel
We’re not sure what to expect from this uber-talented but often unpredictable grouping. McIlroy is coming off missed cuts at the Irish Open and Scottish Open and hasn’t picked up much momentum in 2017 because of injury. Johnson looked unstoppable heading into The Masters before a freak accident caused him to withdraw. He contended at the Wells Fargo several weeks later but has been mostly absent since with a missed cut at the Memorial and the U.S. Open. Johnson has three top-10s in seven Open Championship starts. Schwartzel can just as easily contend (third at The Masters and T2 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic) as he could not be a factor whatsoever (missed the cut at the Players Championship and the U.S. Open, WD at the Byron Nelson).
Jon Rahm-Patrick Reed-Lee Westwood
This group has a Ryder Cup feel to it. Rahm, certainly a future participant for the Europeans, is coming off a dominant Irish Open victory and is eager to answer the question of whether he can perform in majors, where he has yet to register a top-20 finish in his fledgling career. Reed, the leader of the American side at Hazeltine, has been consistent recently (nine consecutive made cuts) and got into the mix at the U.S. Open. Westwood, a Ryder Cup veteran, continues to search for his elusive major title and may have a good shot to contend once again this year. He has made the cut in 11 straight majors and has four top-fours in the Open Championship.
Click HERE for a complete list of tee times.