10 players to watch in this week's Open Championship
SOUTHPORT, England — Henrik Stenson is known as "The Iceman", and a year on from landing his first major title after an epic British Open duel with Phil Mickelson, the Swede was his usual laid-back self on Tuesday, July 18.
Two days before the start of his title defense at Royal Birkdale, Stenson said he had mixed feelings about the pressures of being the champion.
"I never felt it was a big problem not having won one, even though I badly wanted to win one," he told reporters.
"But I never walked around feeling like, oh, I'm one of those guys on that list that potentially are the best players not to have won a major. I didn't really feel that part.
"Once you win one, obviously that's off your shoulder. Given how long and successful a career I've had, I think that's pretty much what we're aiming for, a few more chances to win more major championships."
Stenson beat American Mickelson with a sparkling final round of 63 at Royal Troon 12 months ago, carding a record British Open score of 20 under par to become the first Scandinavian man to win a major.
Here's a look at 10 golfers, including Stenson, to watch this week:
1. Jon Rahm, Spain — When Rahm came out of Arizona State last year, Mickelson said he already was one of the best players in the world, and it turns out Lefty was right. The rookie has won on both major tours this season and has finished in the top 10 in seven events on the PGA Tour this season. He has climbed to fifth in the FedExCup Rankings and No. 7 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
2. Jordan Spieth, United States — Wanting to get an early start on his links preparation ahead of the 146th Open Championship this week at Royal Birkdale, Spieth will be playing for the first time since he claimed his 10th victory on the circuit three weeks ago in the Travelers Championship. Spieth is fourth in the FedExCup standings and also No. 3 in the world.
3. Dustin Johnson, United States — The top-ranked player in the world and FedExCup points leader has not cracked the top 10 since being forced to withdraw on the eve of the Masters because of a back injury. Before that, he was proving he is the best player in the world with six top-10 results, including victories in the Genesis Open, the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
4. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan — Following his runner-up finish behind Brooks Koepka in the U.S.Open last month at Erin Hills, his fifth finish in the top two this season on the PGA Tour, Matsuyama is ranked No. 2 in the world and also is second in the FedExCup point standings.
5. Sergio Garcia, Spain — The Masters champion has rested since finishing one shot behind Andres Romero of Argentina in a tie for second in the BMW International Open in Germany last month, and should be fresh as he tries to claim the second major title of his season and career this week. Garcia, No. 5 in the world, ranks second in the European Tour's Race to Dubai point standings.
6. Justin Rose, England — Even though he has won 18 times as a pro, including the 2013 U.S.Open at Merion, Rose is remembered almost as much for his last shot as an amateur, when he chipped in for a birdie on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale to finish in a tie for fourth in the 1998 Open Championship. The 2016 Olympic gold medalist has not won on the PGA Tour since the 2015 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
7. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland — Although he remains No. 4 in the world, McIlroy has struggled recently with missed cuts in three of his last four starts, including the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, the Irish Open of which he is the host, and the Scottish Open last week. He has missed time because of a rib injury this year but is a four-time major champion.
8. Stenson, Sweden — Stenson is No. 7 in the world, with his best results this season a tie for second in the WGC-HSBC Champions, a tie for seventh in the Valspar Championship and a tie for 10th last month in the BMW International Open.
9. Rickie Fowler, United States — With four top-10 finishes in his last five starts on both sides of the Atlantic, Fowler might finally be ready to capture his first major championship. After tying for second in the Memorial Tournament, he tied for fifth in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills and tied for third in the Quicken Loans National. The 10th-ranked Fowler has seven top-10 results in the majors in his career and it's time to win one.
10. Adam Scott, Australia — It's hard to believe that Scott has only one major title, becoming the only Aussie to win the Masters in 2013 when he beat Angel Cabrera of Argentina with a birdie on the second playoff hole. Once the top-ranked player in the world, he has slipped to No. 15.