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The Open Championship 2024 Preview - Royal Troon, Scotland (July 18-21)

The Open Championship 2024 Preview - Royal Troon, Scotland (July 18-21)

Posted by Jamie Martin on 10th Jul 2024

The greatest week of the year is here! The Open Championship is the OG of majors and is golf at its rawest. Quirky links courses and often bleak weather place the onus on shotmaking and creativity; throw in the bouncy turf, firm greens and general unpredictability and it adds up to the most entertaining tournament on the calendar. Who will hoist the Claret Jug at Royal Troon? We can’t wait to find out!

Can Brian Harman defend?

Golf currently seems slightly more difficult for Brian than it did 12 months ago. The mild-mannered left-hander cruised to a six-shot win at Hoylake last year after icing the tournament on Saturday, making for a generally dull and anti-climactic final round. In fact, Harman’s dominance saw him almost become the Open killjoy, his victory triggering a degree of apathy not seen since Stewart Cink beat Tom Watson at the 2009 Open. You feel if Rory or Tiger had dominated in a similar fashion the golf world would’ve hyperventilated in admiration. But as the great minds of our time often theorise, “it is what it is”. No-one has successfully defended the Open since Padraig Harrington in 2007-08 but Harman’s T9 at the Travellers last month was his best result since he was runner-up at the Player’s in March. If Brian does repeat at Troon, he’ll enter the pantheon of the game's all-time greats.

Does Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele or Bryson Dechambeau have the best chance of winning a second major in 2024?

I’m taking Scottie purely because he’s a birdie machine but you have to respect Xander’s commitment: he’s playing the Scottish Open the week before to acclimatise. If Troon is fast, fiery and unpredictable, it may reduce Bryson’s capacity to control his golf ball. Bryson has removed the complexity out of his swing and game by focusing on one repeatable swing. It worked perfectly at the US Open pressure test at Pinehurst but a wild and woolly Troon is a totally different proposition. Regardless, all three will be playing with house money this week.

Open Championship 2024 Xander Schauffele

What’s the winning score this week?

20-under. But if the wind blows all four days, 12-under could get it done.

What’s going on inside Rory’s head at the moment?

Hopefully the hamster wheel has stopped spinning! Two missed putts either side of three feet on the back nine on Sunday at Pinehurst would’ve left a significant bruise, not to mention a gaping hole where Rory’s heart once was. But the good news for Rory is his frailties are mainly metaphysical and if he can keep out of his own way, Royal Troon sets up well for him. The course has been lengthened almost 200 yards since it last hosted the Open, but Rory’s length should see him blasting his driver over most of the bunkers. However, putting is a completely different beast to what happens in the long game, which Rory knows painfully well. Links golf also asks difficult questions, which could heap additional strain on Rory’s fragile mindset post Pinehurst. His best chance might be to freewheel early on Sunday, post a low number and then hope it holds up. That seems fair after #Pinehurt, but the golf gods will inevitably disagree.

Why does the Open throw up such random winners?

That’s just part of the Open’s charm! The tournament’s honour roll of less pedigreed champion golfers features players such as Lawrie, Hamilton and Curtis, an alumnus that saluted around the turn of the century. But to be fair, almost every winner since then has either been, or become, a world beater. Brian Harman’s victory last year was slightly out of left field, with the noted short baller only amassing two wins in 10 seasons on the PGA Tour. However, he doesn’t qualify as a random winner: he was the 26th best golfer in the world entering the Open yet completely flew under the radar.

Which Aussie will fire at Troon?

I would've been backing Cam Davis given his recent Rocket Mortgage win but there’s a slight hitch: he’s not in the field yet. Davis couldn't lock-in a last-minute start still via the Scottish Open and his world ranking fell just outside the cut-off to see him tee it up at Royal Troon. Although Adam Scott almost won the Scottish Open on the weekend, I’m going to select Cam Smith to lead the Aussie assault. The Queenslander won the Open at St Andrews two years ago and surely has at least another major or two in him. If the wind blows it’ll only enhance Cam’s chances, as his elite short game and wedge control is simply mesmerising. Cam is joined by fellow Aussies Adam Scott, Min Woo Lee, Jason Day, Elvis Smylie and amateur Jasper Stubbs in the Open Championship field.

Open Championship 2024 Cam Smith

Why are Open courses nearly always brown?

The short answer is dry turf creates firm and fast greens and fairways. Troon hasn’t browned off just yet. But if it doesn’t rain in the lead-up, the course should be a delightful shade of brown and rather crispy when the field greets the starter on Thursday. While Augusta’s verdant surroundings are lush and beautiful, there’s a certain wild charm about the Open’s baked out playing surfaces. Hoylake in 2006 was peak tan for an Open Championship but the fickle Scottish weather will dictate how suntanned Troon gets this year.

Why is the Open the best major to watch?

The Open Championship isn’t as demanding as the US Open but places a premium on the ability to play every kind of shot. Shaping the ball right and left, flighting different trajectories and even running the ball along the ground are all necessary at the Open. And controlling spin rates in strong winds is a necessary skill, along with efficient course management. The history of the tournament and the cool courses make Open week unique. The quaint little towns that surround each venue come alive but fortunately the experience hasn’t been mythologised like the Masters and Augusta. Open fans are allegedly the most knowledgeable too. But the Open is the best major simply because it’s the most fun to watch.

Who’ll wear the worst pants/shirt combo?

John Daly. And it won’t even be close.

Open Championship 2024 John Daly

What’s more frustrating: watching a guy like Jon Rahm flounder or the fact David Duval is actually playing this week?

A foot injury ruled Rahm out of the US Open but the Spaniard seems to have a case of buyer’s remorse after joining the LIV Tour this year. Rahm didn’t fire a shot at the Masters or PGA and is still battling to win his first tournament on the LIV Tour. They say form is temporary and class is permanent so Rahm will find it again, but his current frustration no doubt eases each time he opens his banking app. As for Duval taking someone else’s spot in the field, his record at the Open over the past 15 years reads like a morse code transmission. But as the 2001 Open champion, he’s earned his spot.

Chances of another Henrik/Phil Duel In The Sun?

You’d love to see the veterans go at it again but, honestly, the chances of that happening are akin to Patrick Cantlay completing a round in under four hours. In other words, no chance. At the 2016 Open the Swede and Lefty blew off the rest of the field to go head-to-head in one of the Open’s greatest final rounds, now known as the epic Duel In The Sun No.2. However, both are deep in the LIV Tour abyss this season and will be just hoping to make the weekend. Phil is always a must-watch, even more so when he’s struggling, and has a knack for emerging out of nowhere. Unfortunately, Stenson is living up to his “Iceman” nickname for all the wrong reasons: his game is simply frigid at the moment. Duel In The Sun No.3 has a nice ring to it but don’t expect Henrik and Phil to feature.

Is Royal Troon the least appealing course on the Open rota?

It’s definitely up there. Troon is somewhat maligned for its flattish terrain and out-and-back layout, which makes it a less intense examination in the seabreezes compared to the more meandering layouts on the Open rota. The Postage Stamp hole and its Coffin Bunker are Troon’s most famous landmarks, however, the course has a run of uninspiring holes on the back nine. This year Troon will feature the shortest and longest holes in Open history: the par three Postage Stamp (8 th hole: 123 yards) and the par five known as Turnberry (6th hole: 623 yards).

Open Championship 2024 Postage Stamp

If Rory is facing a downhill, snaking three-and-a-half footer to win the Open at Troon and could phone a friend to take it, who would he choose?

Ian Poulter because apparently "The Postman" always delivers. Rory would probably have to buy him another Ferrari to convince him though, because Ian isn’t in the field at Troon.

Max Homa doesn’t seem like a guy who’d enjoy getting wet playing links golf?

Nah, but who does! Homa would make a great Open winner. His humour is slightly offbeat and his year spent with the Claret Jug could possibly rival Shane Lowry’s epic antics. The Irishman won the Open in 2019 and was allowed to drink Guinness from the famous trophy for an extra year after the tournament was cancelled in 2020. For golf’s sake, let’s hope Max has a decent tournament.

Can Tyrrell Hatton win the Open Championship?

He’ll have his best shot this year. Hatton, one of golf’s most popular personalities, has been trending in the right direction. He claimed the individual win at LIV Nashville last month after showing promising signs at the US Open and compiling a top 10 at the Masters. Unfortunately for Tyrrell his lead-in event was LIV Andalucia at Valderrama in Spain, rather than having a tune-up up on a true links course. Tyrrell finished third at Valderrama and has proved he’s more than capable. But he'll need to take another step up to beat the likes of Dechambeau, Scheffler, Morikawa et al. in Open week.

Open Championship 2024 Tyrrell Hatton

Who is a roughie for the Open Championship?

Tom McKibbin. The 21-year-old hails from the same Belfast golf club as Rory McIlroy and finished 41st in his major debut at last month’s US Open. McKibbin will be teeing it up in his first Open Championship this year, snatching a spot via his runner-up finish in the Italian Open a couple of weeks ago. His talent is obvious and he currently sits top 10 in the Race To Dubai but can Tom impress on the big stage at Troon this year? If he does he’ll become one of the youngest winners in the history of the Open Championship.

Is this Tiger Woods’ last Open Championship?

Given the way Big Cat was talking at the US Open last month, the end does seem nigh. However, the flat terrain of Open courses will ease the burden on Tiger’s body compared to other championship courses. And the style of golf the Open demands means Tiger should be more competitive, with his legendary ability to shape and control the ball through the air. Tiger should have a few more Opens in him, but for the sake of his aching and beaten-up body, let’s hope Troon isn’t cold, wet and miserable this week.

Which Swede could repeat Henrik’s 2016 heroics this year?

This is an easy one… it has to be Ludvig Aberg. The 24-year-old showed major-winning potential with a runner-up in his major debut at the Masters in April. And despite slipping in the final round at the Scottish Open on the weekend, he showed his class. It's easy to forget Ludvig has been a pro for less than a year but if he brings his A-game, he’ll become the first player since Collin Morikawa in 2021 to win the Open on debut.

Open Championship 2024 Ludvig Aberg

Can it really be called an Open Championship if the wind doesn’t blow?

No disrespect to Collin Morikawa’s Open win at a placid Royal St George’s in 2021 but the Open is way more fun when the weather turns nasty. Because modern equipment has vanquished many classic layouts, a stiff seabreeze and greens with a goldilocks level of firmness are the only things stopping the Open becoming a bomb and gouge birdie-fest. Being able to flight and control the ball in the wind is still the skill that separates great players from the good ones. The problem is golf is an outdoor sport. Relying on the weather to show up is troublesome because sometimes it just doesn'tt. But whether the wind blows or not, the champion golfer of the year is still the champion golfer of the year.

What do we do until the Masters 2025?

I know the feeling. It’s an immense bummer the major season is over in the blink of an eye. Those heady mornings spent watching the Masters in April are still fresh in the memory. But after the Open you can wind down with the Olympic golf tournament at Le Golf National in Paris. And the Women’s Open Championship will be played at St Andrews this August, which is pretty cool. Don’t get too depressed, the 2025 Masters will arrive before you know it.

Written by Jamie Martin

is currently locked in a battle to keep his handicap hovering around the mid-single digits. Despite his obvious short-game shortcomings, Jamie enjoys playing and writing about every aspect of golf and is often seen making practice swings in a mirror.