The claret jug visits Royal Liverpool for the first time since 2014. Among those hoping to hoist golf’s oldest trophy is the man who held it in its last visit to Hoylake. Rory McIlroy, off a near-miss at the US Open and heartbreak from last year’s Open, but victory at the Genesis Scottish Open, enters as one of the Open Championship’s favourites. So does Scottie Scheffler, who hasn’t finished outside the top 12 since … well, since a long, long time ago. Brooks Koepka continues to be a bad man, showing the Brooks of now looks very much like the Brooks of old. Jon Rahm is looking to turn in an all-time season, and a handful of Englishman are hoping to do the hometown galleries proud.
As a preview of the 2023 Open Championship, we have ranked our top 100 golfers in the field:
Tiger Christensen, Davis Riley, Pádraig Harrington, Stewart Cink, Chris Kirk, Danny Willett, Ockie Strydom, Antoine Rozner, Alex Fitzpatrick, Ewen Ferguson, Zack Fischer, Kazuki Higa, Oliver Wilson, Bio Kim, Thriston Lawrence
After a promising rookie season, Riley is in a bit of a sophomore slump. However, he played well in the opening round of the Scottish Open, and his no-frills game is built for links dominance. … The time might not come at Hoylake, but Alex Fitzpatrick (above) is very, very close to no longer being known as Matt Fitzpatrick’s brother. … (Whispers) Paddy Harrington has real ‘09 Tom Watson potential.
Michael Kim, Lee Hodges, Matt Wallace, Matthew Southgate, Joost Luiten, Jazz Janewattananond, Shubhankar Sharma, Connor Syme, Brendan Todd, Adam Schenk
Schenk is having a breakout season at 31, entering the Scottish ranked 45th in the world and 22nd in the FedEx Cup standings. He’s making just his fifth major start, however, so be careful riding him too hard as a longshot. … Todd woke up from a year-long slumber at the John Deere Classic. He’s not a “sexy” pick, but at fourth in sg/around-the-green and 21st in putting he’s an interesting gamble. … Since winning the Corales Puntacana Championship, Wallace has failed to post a top-25. And yet, he’s so creative around the green (13th in that strokes gained category) that he has our interest.
Scott Stallings, Branden Grace, Laurie Canter, Charl Schwartzel, Nick Taylor, Yannik Paul, Guido Migliozzi, Tom Hoge, K.H. Lee, J.T. Poston
There’s always one Euro player who’s introduced to American audiences during the Open. That will be Paul this year, who’s currently holding down at automatic qualifier spot for the European Ryder Cup team. … Taylor won the RBC Canadian Open but otherwise he’s been stone cold, missing the cut in four of his past five starts. … Also cold: Hoge. Since finishing third at the Players he hasn’t better than T-43.
Lucas Herbert, Alex Noren, Emiliano Grillo, Richie Ramsay, Victor Perez, Rasmus Hojgaard, Billy Horschel, Abraham Ancer, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Francesco Molinari
Molinari’s on the list for his 2018 win, but despite his struggles since 2019 he’s remained formidable at the Open with T-11 and T-15 finishes since. … For those looking for a deep, deep sleeper, Ramsey owns three T-7 or better finishes in his last five starts on the DP World Tour. … Last year Noren withdrew from the Open to fly halfway across the world and play in the Barracuda. It proved to be a good decision, as he finished in second; still, he could have play the Old Course during the Open!
Pablo Larrazabal, Sepp Straka, Harris English, Thomas Pieters, Russell Henley, Thomas Detry, Kurt Kitayama, Jordan Smith, Thorbjorn Olesen, Ryan Fox
Could Straka parlay his John Deere Classic success into something special at Hoylake? He’s far from a consistent performer, but when the getting is good, Straka has a ceiling that few possess. … English’s game seems fit for an Open, but his last top 40 finish game almost 10 years ago. … After starting the season strong, Detry’s had just one top-25 finish since March.
MORE: Why the 2006 Open at Hoylake was the most emotional moment of Tiger’s career
Seamus Power, Si Woo Kim, Adrian Meronk, Gary Woodland, Phil Mickelson
Power is starting to lose his chance at the Ryder Cup. A top-15 finish at Hoylake could go ways in turning that tide. … Scotland gave Mickelson the stone-cold silent treatment last year at St. Andrews. Without that intimacy and connection with the crowd, Mickelson floated like a ghost, knowing he was no longer of this world yet equally unable to leave it. It will be interesting to see if the crowds down south in England are more hospitable, especially with the developments in professional golf over the past month. … Woodland is having a nice little comeback season, ranking 11th on tour in SG/off-the-tee and ninth in approach. Don’t think that will lead to the claret jug, but as a top-20 play the former US Open winner is worth a look.
Sahith Theegala, Robert MacIntyre, Keegan Bradley, Brian Harman, Denny McCarthy
McCarthy is 13th in strokes gained over the past three months, with three top-seven finishes in his last four starts. We said it ahead of LACC and it’s worth repeating: If Team Europe sets up the Ryder Cup venue in Rome anything like they did Paris—where accuracy and short game are paramount to power—McCarthy and his lights-out putting merit consideration for the US club. … MacIntyre hasn’t made the jump Old World circuit backers thought he would after his breakthrough at Portrush in 2019. However, the Scotsman is still in his 20s and had the breakthrough victory many think is coming ripped from his hands at the Scottish Open by Rory McIlroy. That’s after a T-4 in his previous DP World Tour start. … Theegala has been stuck in neutral for the past three months, playing consistently OK but far from great golf. However, should he make a run at the Scottish, he’s worth investing as a second-tier fantasy option.
Adam Scott, Joaquin Niemann, Talor Gooch, Min Woo Lee, Corey Conners
Scott is a tempting play for your fantasy lineup, finishing T-5 at the 2014 Open at Hoylake. He also has just one top-five finish in his last 32 major starts, with his last top-10 coming in 2019. … Does Gooch’s three wins on LIV merit Ryder Cup consideration? No, not really, yet his continued performance does warrant consideration as an Open flyer. … Conners continues to be a second-shot savant (11th in approach) and has five finishes of T-12 or better in the last three months. He’s struggled in majors outside of Augusta, but that iron work could pay dividends in Hoylake.
Justin Rose, Tom Kim, Sam Burns, Louis Oosthuizen, Patrick Reed
Kim had a T-8 at the US Open, largely off a lights-out Saturday front nine. He was in the mix until late on Sunday at the Scottish Open, which bodes well considering he missed the cut in three of his last five starts and statistically has been a bit of a mess for three months now. … Burns has been extremely hit-or-miss since his WGC-Dell Match Play win. Given his lack of track record at majors—he’s yet to finish better than T-20—Burns is a risky gamble. … Reed hasn’t done much at the Open, but he’s been playing well at LIV, making him a viable dark horse pick.
Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Bryson DeChambeau, Max Homa
Day was one of the hottest players in the game six weeks ago, culminating in a win at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Since the W he’s missed three of four cuts, and the three were biggies in the PGA Championship, Memorial and US Open. Aside from a run at the 2015 Open, Day doesn’t have much of a track record at the British. So why is he this high? Because in that heater earlier this year Day showed he could be the player he once was, and that glimpse doesn’t disappear that quickly … DeChambeau’s sneakily regained the form that once made him an elite player, entering Hoylake off a T-4 at the PGA and T-20 at the US Open. He may not seem like a good pick for the Open Championship, but he did finish T-8 at St. Andrews last summer. … Matsuyama finished T-6 in his Open debut in 2013, but has not had a top-10 finish since.
20. Cameron Young
World Ranking: 18 Open Championship starts: 2 Best finish: 2nd, 2022
This is an odd thing to say but we’re going to say it: The John Deere Classic, where Young finished T-6, maybe what turns around his season. The Bronx Bomber had not finished in the top 30 in his previous seven events, and over the last three months was outside the top 70 in true strokes gained. Calling it a sophomore slump is unfair, but Young hasn’t taken the leap many believed he would in 2023. Yet he finished runner-up at last year’s Open, and his performance last week spurs belief his struggles may be coming to an end.
19. Wyndham Clark
World Ranking: 11 Open Championship starts: 1 Best finish: T-76, 2022
In the immediate aftermath, Clark’s US Open win seemed to be viewed as one of the times where a good player gets on a heater and achieves immortality. Personally, that take is myopic, if not misinformed, because Clark actually might be a killer, the type of player with the ceiling that begs questions of where he may ultimately go. There don’t seem to be any holes in his game, ranking inside the top 45 in every strokes-gained category, and he boasts an old-school finesse—particularly around the greens—that correlates to links success. The Open is historically not kind to the inexperienced, so it’s probably unfair to expect too much out of Clark in his second career Open start. But make no mistake, this is a name you’ll be hearing from for some time.
18. Justin Thomas
World Ranking: 20 Open Championship starts: 6 Best finish: T-11, 2019
Both things can be true: 1) Statistically, Thomas isn’t that far off from his usual production and still ranks among the tour’s best birdie producers. 2) Thomas hasn’t looked right in months, missing three of his last four cuts. He’s also historically struggled at the Open, just one finish better than T-40, odd given his shotmaking and creativity should serve him well on links golf. This is especially true at Hoylake, which allows for some breathing room off the tee and puts a premium on ingenuity in approaches. But majors are not the most conducive environments for reversals.
17. Tony Finau
World Ranking: 14 Open Championship starts: 6 Best finish: 3rd, 2019
Finau has won four times in the calendar year. He’s also failed to finish in the top 10 in his last nine major starts, with zero top-25s in the first three majors of 2023. With Finau turning 34 in the fall, the runway to make his mark in the tournaments that matter the most is getting short. If this Open turns out to be more of a shootout than Opens of the past, Finau (sixth in birdie average) may be the beneficiary.
16. Dustin Johnson
World Ranking: 77 Open Championship starts: 13 Best finish: T-2, 2011
Has finished T-8 and T-6 in his last two Opens and was a respectable T-12 at Hoylake in 2014. Coming off a good performance at LACC (T-10). And because we have nothing else to add, nothing was more poetically apropos than DJ—a man undisturbed by his surroundings, beholden to an inner command only known to him—doing backflips off a yacht during golf’s Congressional hearing.
15. Tyrrell Hatton
World Ranking: 16 Open Championship starts: 7 Best finish: T-6, 2019
Has been sneaky good for the last six months, ranking eighth in true strokes gained over that span, and ranks third overall in strokes gained on the tour season. He also seems to play well in tougher conditions, which theoretically should bode well for weeks like this. And yet, Hatton has been a non-factor at majors, finishing outside the top 10 in his last 14 starts. Still, his best two major performances have come at the Open, and Hatton is too good to stay out of the major mix for this long.
14. Matt Fitzpatrick
World Ranking: 9 Open Championship starts: 7 Best finish: T-20, 2019
Has played steady golf over the past three months since winning the RBC Heritage. Hasn’t done much of note in his previous seven Open outings, although hasn’t been far off either, finishing better than T-30 in his last three Open starts. Links golf asks a lot of questions out of a golfer, but each question is baked in strategy and gumption. As Fitzpatrick showed at Brookline last summer, he does not fall short on any of those prerequisites.
13. Tommy Fleetwood
World Ranking: 22 Open Championship starts: 8 Best finish: 2nd, 2019
Fleetwood allowed Nick Taylor to win the Canadian Open in hopes providence would be delivered at “his” national championship. That is our theory and we’re sticking to it … For Fleetwood to stick around into the weekend he’ll need to get off to a better start than he has been this year, ranking 70th in first-round scoring average. Luckily, those averages improve as the tournament goes on. Ranking outside the top 50 in birdie average, Fleetwood’s best chance at the claret jug is seemingly if the course plays mean. Conversely, he also finished T-4 at last year’s birdie-fest Open. Coupled with a good showing at LACC, this may be the time for TommyLad.
12. Patrick Cantlay
World Ranking: 4 Open Championship starts: 4 Best finish: T-8, 2022
For all that’s been made about Cantlay’s performance—or perceived lack thereof—at majors, the man has finished T-14 or better in three straight major starts, including a T-9 two months ago at the PGA and a T-8 at last year’s Open at St. Andrews. He entered the Scottish ranked fifth in strokes gained on the season and fourth in SG/off-the-tee, although he also missed the cut. If he can hold it together around the green, Cantlay may finally get the major monkey off his back.
11. Rickie Fowler
World Ranking: 21 Open Championship starts: 11 Best finish: T-2, 2014
We had Fowler as high as No. 5 in our preliminary rankings and as low as No. 15. Why buy the hype: Fowler’s sixth in true strokes gained over the last six months, has four top-10s in his last five starts (including a win in Detroit and contending at the US Open) and finished runner-up the last time the Open visited Hoylake. The worry: That heater may have crescendoed with his victory two weeks back. And for gambling purposes, Fowler’s price has risen dramatically, and that value, while fair, is far from good. But if the setup is there for the taking or there to break the field’s spirit, Fowler has the ability to contend in both, making him one of our favourites.
10. Viktor Hovland
World Ranking: 5 Open Championship starts: 2 Best finish: T-4, 2022
Last year’s Open—where Hovland played in the final pairing, only to be just one of two players in the top 14 who failed to break 70—was an important step for Hovland. He ejected hard at St. Andrews that Sunday, but competing at majors is a bit like riding a bike in that you have to fall off to figure out how to stay on. That experience was on display at this year’s PGA, where he finished runner-up, and at the Masters, where he finished T-7. The important thing is to make sure those experiences don’t create too much scar tissue. The short game remains a work in progress, but the ball striking is so good (10th in tee-to-green) it can combat those deficiencies.
9: Collin Morikawa
World Ranking: 19 Open Championship starts: 2 Best finish: Win, 2021
Morikawa is in danger of falling outside the World Top 20. He’s also ranked ninth in true strokes gained over the last six months and finished T-2 in Detroit. He made this ridiculously hard game look ridiculously easy this time two years ago at Royal St. George’s, and Hoylake will give him the opportunity to duplicate those feats. One thing to keep an eye on: Morikawa has been one of the best Round 2 players on tour this season, his scoring average sixth-best among tour players on Fridays. Should his wave avoid the bad weather in Round 1, don’t be surprised to see his name among the leaders heading into the weekend.
8. Shane Lowry
World Ranking: 30 Open Championship starts: 10 Best finish: Win, 2019
Royal Portrush was not an Open aberration. Along with his victory in 2019, Lowry has finished inside the top 25 in the Open since 2017. Lowry’s game is a bit like Jordan Spieth’s in that it may have fared consistently better in an era, yet this is one of the few tournaments where that game can not just compete but outshine his competition. Moreover, after a bit of a slump, Lowry has started to signs of coming out of hibernation, finishing in the top 20 in four of his past five starts—including the PGA Championship and US Open.
7. Jordan Spieth
World Ranking: 10 Open Championship starts: 9 Best finish: Win, 2017
Has missed three of his past five cuts, including at the US Open. So what; if Augusta National is his fantasyland, links golf is Spieth’s playground. He’s finished T-9 or better in four of his last six Open starts, capped by a win in 2017. The game over there speaks to his cunning and inventiveness, allows him to be a bit more loose off the tee and doesn’t require the power of most PGA Tour sites. Just as importantly the greens, due to their relative slowness, tend to equalize the field in putting, with a slight favouritism to aggressiveness. Similar to the Masters, it may seem like Spieth should have more than one Open victory.
6. Xander Schauffele
World Ranking: 6 Open Championship starts: 5 Best finish: T-2, 2018
A T-2 in 2018 at Carnoustie is his only top-10 at the Open. No matter, only Scottie Scheffler, Brooks Koepka and Fowler have better true strokes gained figures over the last three months than X-Man. Schauffele knows he is the best player in golf without a major and that people think it’s well past time to shed that label, but he’s still in his 20s and his game should age well. Owning one of the best ball striking/short-game combos (fourth in approach, sixth in putting), Schauffele should be in the mix no matter what Hoylake throws at the field.
5. Cameron Smith
World Ranking: 7 Open Championship starts: 5 Best finish: Win, 2022
If there was one player to worry about competitive atrophy jumping to LIV, it was the reigning Open Championship winner. After a quiet start in 2023, Smith has shown he’s still very much the player who won the Players and Open last year, finishing T-9 at the PGA and fourth at last month’s US Open and winning a LIV event last week. Though last year’s breakthrough at the Old Course is Smith’s only finish of note at the Open, the Aussie’s short-game dexterity is the perfect asset for links golf. Expect a strong title defense.
4. Scottie Scheffler
World Ranking: 1 Open Championship starts: 2 Best finish: T-8, 2021
The only thing that stopped Scheffler at St. Andrews was, um, well, just trust us. He owns the best true strokes gained figure over the last three, six and 12 months in professional golf and comes to Hoylake finishing no worse than T-5 in his last seven starts. (Reread that sentence again.) His last finish outside the top 12 was last fall. In short, the dude is balling. That we have the World No. 1 at No. 4 on his list is no indictment on Scheffler or his odds this week, but rather how loaded golf’s front-line of stars is this season. Plus, his heater has to eventually cool off, right? … (Silence) … Right?
3. Jon Rahm
World Ranking: 2 Open Championship starts: 6 Best finish: T-3, 2021
He contended for the 2021 Open, ultimately finishing in a tie for third. However, that is the lone top-10 in Rahm’s still nascent career at the Open (although he did finish T-11 in 2019). His game is too round and his mind too creative to allow that track record to continue, and past wins at the Irish Open underline Rahm knows how to play links golf. Will be heading into the Open Championship looking to get right after a missed cut at the Travelers Championship, although that is the aberration in 2023, boasting four wins since January alone, including his Masters triumph. He’s also second to just Scheffler in true strokes gained over the last six months. You could make the case he should be No. 1 on the list, and you won’t get much of a counter.
2. Rory McIlroy
World Ranking: 3 Open Championship starts: 13 Best finish: Win, 2014
The golf gods do not pay their debts and have no stomach for karma, for if they did McIlroy would have emerged victorious at St. Andrews last summer. But while McIlroy, winner on Sunday at the Scottish Open, will again be the sentimental pick for the claret jug his game needs no extra love, ranking seventh in strokes gained over the past three months, according to DataGolf, highlighted by a runner-up finish at the US Open. And to state the obvious, the last time the Open was contested at Hoylake the Ulsterman left as its champ. It’s hard to bet against McIlroy, and we certainly won’t, although there’s one player whose chances we slightly favour…
1. Brooks Koepka
World Ranking: 12 Open Championship starts: 8 Best finish: T-4, 2019
He’s calling out LIV teammates. He’s posing on Instagram with Bryson. He’s doing Lord knows what with the Wanamaker. Koepka is a fusion of swagger and swashbuckler, and it’s clear—after seemingly running on E last year—his confidence tank has been refilled. Koepka’s been sneaky good at the Open with four top 10s in his last six starts. The reason Koepka is so good at majors is he brings his best when the course is at its worst. If Hoylake plays mean, and it should, the winner will be golf’s baddest man.
Is it the Open Championship or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilise both names in its coverage.