Confidential: Who Will Win the British Open? Who is a Dark Horse?
Each night during the British Open, writers, producers and editors from the Sports Illustrated Golf Group give their opinions on the hot topic of the day at Royal Troon. Agree with our takes? Disagree? Leave your answers in the comments section below or tweet us at @golf_com.
1. Royal Troon has had a mix of legendary winners and unknown champions when the venerable Scottish track hosts the British Open. Who is your pick to win this week?
Alan Bastable, executive editor, GOLF.com: Branden Grace. Three top-5s in the last five majors and a winner a couple years back of the Dunhill, which throws a medley of links courses at the pros (along with a medley of hacker celebs). Also, we're totally due for another South African major champ who makes casual observers say, "Who?"
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine: Phil Mickelson will win because he has done everything but win in 2016, he nearly won at Troon in 2004, he is playing well, and he is overdue.
Josh Sens, contributor, GOLF Magazine: Forecasting golf is a fool's errand but this fool says the winner will be Branden Grace. Three top 5s in the last five majors, and a low-ball game that's built for the setting. His turn for a big win is coming sooner or later. I'm guessing sooner.
Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine: Looking past the Big 4, I like Sergio Garcia and then Adam Scott. Both are enjoying excellent years in 2016, and have compiled superb British Open records. Scott finished T42 at Troon in 2004, and has posted 2, T3, T5 and T10 the past four years. Garcia owns nine Top 10s since '01, including a T2 in 2014 and T6 in '15. Both players are supreme ballstrikers who will benefit from Troon's sensibly paced, flattish greens. I'll pick Sergio in a coin flip.
Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, GOLF.com: DJ wins because the gorilla is off his back. He's playing the best, and he can hit driver on most holes and dismantle this place.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Picking DJ or even Jordan Spieth (who I think is primed for a big week) is the easy way out, so I'll go with Henrik Stenson. He's a supreme ball-striker, he won't be fazed by the elements and the greens aren't so severe or fast that he won't be able to negotiate them.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Danny Willett will be your champ.
Sean Zak, assistant editor, GOLF.com: Rory McIlroy will prove he is much more John Lennon than Ringo Starr. It was a comparison to the latter that riled Rors up at his press conference Tuesday. An inspired, angry McIlroy has me excited. That and his season of nine top 10s being "flawed," according to the impossibly high standards. He's ready for a breakthrough.
2. Who is an under-the-radar player that you think could contend this week at Royal Troon?
Bastable: Kevin Chappell. I dunno why, just a hunch. You also can bank on the local kid, Colin Montgomerie, putting a scare in the field before fading late.
Morfit: My dark horse is Brandt Snedeker, an all-world bad-weather player who could be sitting pretty if the weather is as bad as predicted.
Sens: And can a player who won three times on the European Tour last year really be called a dark horse? Maybe not. But I'm going with the Englishman, Andy Sullivan, anyway.
Godich: I like Patrick Reed. He came over last week for a warmup at the Scottish Open, and after an opening 75, he played the last 54 holes in 12 under par, including 67-67 on the weekend, to tie for 10th. When he wins the gold medal in Rio, Reed will be everybody's All-American.
Passov: Can my traditional dark horse, Hideki Matsuyama, still be considered a dark horse? If so, that's my guy. He always seems to be on the leaderboard early at the Open, and has finished T6, T39 and T18 in his three appearances. If not, I'll take England's Andy Sullivan. He won three times on the 2015 European Tour, tied for 23rd at Oakmont this year, posted a T5 in the French Open two weeks ago and a T6 last week at the Scottish Open.
Van Sickle: Steve Stricker.
Ritter: Lee Westwood is my dark horse. After playing poorly but handling controversy like a pro while paired with DJ at Oakmont, he deserves a little good karma. I can see shades of Darren Clarke in '12.
Zak: The 52nd-ranked player in the world is in shape to do what he does best: come out of nowhere to win a major. Martin Kaymer played well in the French and Scottish Opens in the past month and is searching for a third leg of the career grand slam. Keep an eye on the German.