The 148th Open Championship begins at Royal Portrush on Thursday as the world’s best golfers battle it out for the Claret Jug.
For just the second time in the storied history of the tournament, the sport’s oldest major will be staged in Northern Ireland, the home of 2014 champion Rory McIlroy.
Here are the favourites to win and the ones to be looking out for during this tournament:
Odds of Winning: 11.0*
He’s won four of his past nine majors and finished runner-up in two others. Oh yeah, and his caddie, Ricky Elliott, just happens to be from Portrush and grew up playing what will be a largely unknown venue for everyone else.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 8, 2019
Odds of Winning: 10.0*
Another golfer with the advantage of some local knowledge, the Northern Ireland native once shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush. When he was 16. McIlroy also has been the best golfer throughout the entire 2019 season with 11 top-10s in 14 PGA Tour starts, including two victories.
Watch @McilroyRory relive his incredible 61 a Royal Portrush when he was just 16 🏌️
— The Open (@TheOpen) June 2, 2019
McIlroy’s major drought will extend to more than five years if he doesn’t win and he faces a bit of extra pressure with this “home game” and being made the betting favourite. Of course, if he does win, he’s suddenly the front-runner for Player of the Year honours.
Odds of Winning: 31.0*
After a great year in the majors in 2018, Fleetwood has done no better than a T-36 at the Masters this year. Also, his overall Open record is nothing special, although trending in the right direction with a T-27 and a T-12 after three consecutive missed cuts.
'It's easy to be disappointed but you have to keep perspective'
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) July 14, 2019
Even though Fleetwood is without a win in 2019, he is likely to enjoy the conditions at Portrush. The links course on the upper tip of Northern Ireland is defended primarily by the wind which could play into the hands of a man brought up on the blowy north-west coast of England. Fleetwood is overdue a major breakthrough and will enjoy considerable support.
Odds of Winning: 26.0*
What separated this quiet, unassuming Italian from that star-studded field last year was his immense calmness under pressure. He went bogey-free in a two-under-par 69 in tricky conditions that will likely be replicated at Portrush.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 15, 2019
However, after ranking second in strokes gained: tee-to-green on the PGA Tour last season, Francesco has fallen to 57th. The ball-striking will need to be tightened up if he’s to claim the claret jug again.
Odds of Winning: 21.0*
The reigning Masters champ has won two of his past eight official stroke-play starts going back to last year’s Tour Championship. Before winning at Augusta National, many thought the Open—with its firmer fairways and slower greens—would be his best chance to claim another major, something he nearly did at Carnoustie last year. However, Woods has had only eight official stroke-play starts since last year’s Tour Championship.
"It's Tiger. Wake up!"
— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) July 8, 2019