In recent years European Tour stalwarts such as Eddie Pepperell, HaoTong Li, Matthew Southgate, Soren Kjeldsen and Edoardo Molinari have proved valuable sleeper picks in the Open and each of them had links or windy condition experience that hint at their success. Who in this week's field might be a sneaky pick? Let's take a look.
The South African continues to find winning a problem, but there remains no doubt that he’s a very fine links performer. He was T4 at last year’s Irish Open at Ballyliffin (leading by four after 54 holes) and was solo second at the same stage last week in the Scottish Open before a catastrophic quadruple bogey-8 on his second hole on Sunday. T17 at Carnoustie last year.
The Frenchman made the cut in his only previous Open appearance, when T62 at Royal Birkdale, and is now playing the best golf of his career with two second places this season and an impressive T9 at Lahinch at the Irish Open. That said it was his first (and only) links top 20 since he was T20 at County Louth in 2009. A good wind player, but maybe not on the British seaside.
T12 at Royal Troon in 2016, his only top 25 in four starts at the Open, but he has a good links records with two top tens in the Scottish Open (Castle Stuart and Dundonald Links) and three in the Irish Open (Royal County Down, Ballyliffin, Lahinch).
The Belgian doesn’t have the strongest links record. He is 1-for-4 on Irish links with T40 at Ballyliffin the exception, he has T6 in the Scottish Open at Gullane and was T20 at The Renaissance, his only top 20s in five tournament starts, and although he has made three Open cuts he’s yet to break the top 25.
Twelve months ago the Spaniard watched from behind the 18th green as Francesco Molinari putted out to win the Open at Carnoustie. It’s unlikely he’ll emulate that but will he be inspired to perform himself? He has been T8 at Castle Stuart in the Scottish Open and top ten in the last two Irish Opens.
He’s only ever visited the Irish Open for links events and has a dismal 0-for-3 record. He is also a terrible 1-for-5 in this event with T75 last year at Carnoustie a rather inglorious exception. The only light at the end of the tunnel is T4 at the 2015 Dunhill Links and victory in the Paul Lawrie Match Play at Murcar Links.
Rather incredibly he has played only one Open and that was back in 2011 when he missed the cut at Royal St Georges. He’s also missed his last three cuts on linksland in the Irish Open and when he also avoided the weekend last week in the Scottish it was a fifth on the trot (despite a R1 66). He is the reigning Dunhill Links champion however.
Two visits to the championship, two missed cuts, four failures to break 72. He also missed the cut at Portstewart in the 2017 Irish Open and was T50 at Lahinch. Ray of hope – T14 in the Irish Open last year at Ballyliffin. He was T62 last week.
Put rather a lot of pressure on himself last week when saying the Scottish Open meant as much to him as the Open itself. He played in a marquee group, gained a lot of attention and missed the cut. But he’s had a great season and was second at Hillside on the links, proving himself an audacious link performer in the process. Might be stronger this week for the frustrations of last Friday.
Reborn last year with a win on the Challenge Tour bleeding into more success on the main circuit, but that form has ground to a halt and he has failed to make a top 40 in six attempts. Famously tied the first round lead as an amateur in 2011 on debut, finished T30 and only returned last year when T47.
Qualified for the Open debut last year and was a bit taken aback by the experience, posting 74-76 to miss the cut. Since then he has been prolific in Asia (two wins and a host of top tens) and was T2 after 54 holes at the PGA Championship, impressing with his chutzpah.
Thrashed a sensational 60 two weeks ago in the Irish Open at Lahinch to grab the 54 hole lead and although he faltered (only slightly) in the final round his T4 was enough to grab this spot. He was T7 at the Old Course in 2010 and T16 at Hoylake in 2006, his only two top 30s in the championship in seven starts.
Like Rock he grabbed a spot at the Irish Open (he finished T7) and he’s excited to return to Royal Portrush because he shot a second round 65 on his way to a top ten in the 2012 Irish Open and he’s no stranger to an Open top 20 either – he was 19th in 2008 at Royal Birkdale.
He carded a magnificent 60 to win the Scottish Open this time last year and played nicely for the rest of the year, but this calendar year had been dire with not one top 30. It seemed he’d break that with tidy starts in both the Irish and Scottish Opens but he proved his aversion to those heights by recording two T34s.
A tournament debut for the winner of European Tour events in both of the last two seasons. His three Irish Open efforts on the linksland led to missed cuts, but he was T14 at Gullane in last year’s Scottish Open and T4 last week at The Renaissance Club.
The winner of the Dunhill Links Championship in 2014 he has been reborn this season, logging five top tens. He was T8 at Hillside, T19 at Lahinch and T69 last week at The Renaissance. He also won an Irish Challenge Tour event last season and was T2 at the Qatar Masters, a good pointer for links golf. Only 1-for-5 in the Open with T24 at Turnberry the outlier.
Missed his last three cuts in what is probably an inevitable hangover from the remarkable 12 month career breakthrough which saw him leap from Sunshine Tour journeyman to Masters contender. Winner of the Qatar Masters is interesting, but struggles in the last fortnight is a worry.
Really should have won the 2017 Scottish Open at Dundonald Links when leading impressively through the final round only to stumble very late and lose the play-off. Had been T8 the year before that at Castle Stuart and was T30 at Portstewart. Twice played the Open, in 2016 and 2017, missing the cut both times.
His father passed away earlier this month; Norris honored his wishes and stayed on at the Japan PGA Championship to finish (collecting T4). T62 and T61 in the last two Opens, but blasted a brilliant 65 on day three of the debut at Royal Birkdale.
An Open debut and an emotional one because he should have played the course in the Eisenhower Trophy as an amateur but failed a drug test. The reason was that he took medication for various health reasons related to the accidental drinking of acid when he was a child. T2 at the Qatar Masters, a maiden winner of the Valderrama Masters and T34 last week in the Scottish Open.
Five to show caution with:
He has a victory on the links at Kennemer but if you talk to the Dutch journalists they’ll tell you that he’s no great fan of seaside golf. No championship top 40 in six starts.
If you wanted proof that The Renaissance Club, home of last week’s Scottish Open, is not a proper links test then the sighting of Lipsky on the leaderboard during the second round was it. Even then he contrived to miss the cut. He’s 1-for-14 on links, the exception T58 on the Old Course in his Open debut in 2015.
The Englishman’s pedigree is that of a links and Open specialist. He finished top five at Royal Birkdale in 2008 and at Turnberry a year later, but he has faced injury problems since the end of last season and is now 0-for-6 in 2019.
The Ryder Cup didn’t help the Frenchman, who also sought a better swing and has somewhat lost what he had. No great links pedigree, admits he prefers target golf, and hasn’t made a strokeplay cut in six starts.
T4 at Portstewart, T2 at Ballyliffin and won near Portrush on a parkland course on the Challenge Tour so likes the area, but missed seven straight cuts.