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British Open, Capsules

July 10, 2015

A capsule look at 20 players in the British Open, to be played July 16-19 on the Old Course at St. Andrews (listed in predicted order of finish):

DUSTIN JOHNSON

Age: 31.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 9.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: Cadillac Championship.

2015 majors: Masters-T6. U.S. Open-T2.

Open memory: Two shots behind on the par-5 14th at Royal St. George’s in 2011, he tried to lay up with a 2-iron and hit it out-of-bounds. He finished three shots behind Darren Clarke.

Backspin: Johnson is coming off another major kick in the gut when he missed a 4-foot birdie putt to force a playoff at the U.S. Open. He is equipped better than most to bounce back from heartache, sometimes quickly. He tied for 14th at St. Andrews in his debut in 2010, had a chance in 2011 and played in the last group on Saturday a year ago at Royal Liverpool.

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JORDAN SPIETH

Age: 21.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: Masters (2015), U.S. Open (2015).

2015 wins: Valspar Championship, Masters, U.S. Open.

2015 majors: Masters-Won. U.S. Open-Won.

Open memory: Winning the John Deere Classic for his first PGA Tour win and going straight to Muirfield for his first Open.

Backspin: Not since Arnold Palmer in 1960 has anyone gone to St. Andrews with a shot at the Grand Slam. Spieth will face increasing pressure on a links course where history is evidence in every direction. In his favor is his great bunker player and superb putting. Against him are the odds. No one — not Palmer, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods — has won the four professional majors in one year.

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SERGIO GARCIA

Age: 35.

Country: Spain.

Worldwide wins: 22.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T17. U.S. Open-T18.

Open memory: Catching the edge of the cup on a 10-foot par putt on the 18th hole that would have won the Open at Carnoustie in 2007. He lost in a playoff.

Backspin: Has assumed the role as the best to have never won a major, and it appears to be weighing on him. He’s among the very best drivers of the golf ball, his iron play is superb and he has the game for links golf. What’s especially true for the Spaniard is the putting. He needs at least a reasonable week. He challenged Rory McIlroy briefly at Hoylake last year. He’s at five other chances. But while he’s not getting old, it’s getting late.

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RICKIE FOWLER

Age: 26.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 3.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: The Players Championship.

2015 majors: Masters-12. U.S. Open-Cut.

Open memory: Opening with a 79 at St. Andrews in his debut, following with a 67 to make the cut and closing with a 67 to tie for 14th.

Backspin: Fowler got the critics off his back with his victory at The Players Championship — especially how he won, with a fearless brand of golf — and in his short history at the majors, he plays links golf the best. He played bogey-free in the final round with McIlroy last year. He just didn’t do enough to challenge him. His game has slacked off since The Players win.

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BUBBA WATSON

Age: 36.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 8.

Majors: Masters (2012, 2014).

2015 wins: Travelers Championship.

2015 majors: Masters-T38. U.S. Open-Cut.

Open memory: Opening with a 69 at Royal St. George’s in 2011 — his first round under par in five chances at the Open.

Backspin: St. Andrews is a test of imagination. Watson is all about imagination, and so the Old Course would seem to be a good fit for him. It’s worth having expectations for Watson, though his record in links golf is not great. He has missed the cut three ties and has yet to crack the top 20 in this other three. He needs to find his happy place quickly to have a good week.

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JIM FURYK

Age: 45.

Country: Unites States.

Worldwide wins: 20.

Majors: U.S. Open (2003).

2015 wins: RBC Heritage.

2015 majors: Masters-Cut. U.S. Open-T42.Open memory: Closing with a 65 at Royal Liverpool last year to tie the course record and finish fourth.

Backspin: Furyk has a roller-coaster affection for the British Open — five straight years making the cut, followed by five straight years leaving early. He was a late but serious contender at Royal Birkdale in 1998, and his record-tying round at Hoylake last year gave him a good finish. A dose of wind would help his chances at St. Andrews.

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PHIL MICKELSON

Age: 45.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 45.

Majors: Masters (2004, 2006, 2010), British Open (2013), PGA Championship (2005).

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T2. U.S. Open-T64.

Open memory: Closing with a 66 at Muirfield in 2013 to win the Open.

Backspin: This will be the fifth time Mickelson has played an Open at the Old Course, though he doesn’t appear to be a quick study. In his four previous tries, he has finished a combined 51 shots behind the winners. His miss off the tee typically is left, which shouldn’t hurt him at St. Andrews. And while he’s still dodgy with the short putts, his lag putting would seem to keep him in the game. Then again, nothing is predictable about Phil.

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LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN

Age: 32.

Country: South Africa.

Worldwide wins: 10.

Majors: British Open (2010).

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T19. U.S. Open-T2.

Open memory: Leading the final 48 holes at St. Andrews in 2010 and winning by seven shots.

Backspin: The South African got the good end of the draw when he won in 2010, but he also played remarkable golf. He shot 29 on the back nine at Chambers Bay and finished one shot behind Spieth in the U.S. Open, but he didn’t carry that form over to his next two tournaments. Still, his health (back and neck) is improved and he believes big things are in store for him. If that’s the case, he should rate as one of the favorites at St. Andrews.

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PAUL CASEY

Age: 37.

Country: England.

Worldwide wins: 15.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T6. U.S. Open-T39.

Open memory: Getting within three of the lead on Sunday at St. Andrews in 2010, and then driving the green on the par-4 ninth. Louis Oosthuizen also hit the green and made a 50-foot eagle putt, and that was that.

Backspin: For a player who hasn’t won this year, Casey is giving himself chances — Honda Classic, Riviera, Match Play and a playoff loss at the Travelers. He tied for third at St. Andrews in 2010, though he was the only one who gave Oosthuizen a battle.

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BRANDT SNEDEKER

Age: 34.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 6.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

2015 majors: Masters-Cut. U.S. Open-8.

Open memory: Tying the 36-hole major championship record at 130 in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Backspin: Snedeker wasn’t even sure he would get back to the British Open until he won at Pebble Beach. He loves links golf, tying the 36-hole Open record at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s in 2012. And he showed enough at the U.S. Open that he’s worth watching. Don’t be surprised to see him paired with Tom Watson.

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MARTIN KAYMER

Age: 30.

Country: Germany.

Worldwide wins: 15.

Majors: U.S. Open (2014), PGA Championship (2010).

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-Cut. U.S. Open-Cut.

Open memory: One shot out of the lead going into the weekend at Royal St. George’s in 2011. He went 73-73 on the weekend and tied for 12th.

Backspin: He might be emerging from a mini-slump at just the right time. Coming off a big year in 2014 by winning the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, the German missed six cuts in nine starts until he finished fourth in the French Open. His best finish in an Open was a tie for seventh at St. Andrews in 2010.

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HENRIK STENSON

Age: 39.

Country: Sweden.

Worldwide wins: 12.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T19. U.S. Open-T27.

Open memory: One of four players who had a share of the lead in the final round at Muirfield in 2013 until Phil Mickelson took over in the final hour. Stenson was runner-up.

Backspin: Stenson’s season took an abrupt turn for the worse when he became ill ahead of the Masters and went six straight tournaments without being in contention, including the U.S. Open when he was verbally irritated by the course conditions. He has three top 3s in the Open, the most of any of the majors.

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JASON DAY

Age: 27.

Country: Australia.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: Farmers Insurance Open.

2015 majors: Masters-T28. U.S. Open-T9.

Open memory: Missed the 2012 Open after the birth of his first child.

Backspin: Coming off a remarkable performance at Chambers Bay when he had vertigo on the weekend, tied for the 54-hole lead to get into the last group and then faded to a 74 to tie for ninth. Has not played since then, and the Open is the one major where he has not seriously contended.

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ADAM SCOTT

Age: 35 (on day of first round).

Country: Australia.

Worldwide wins: 25.

Majors: Masters (2013)

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T38, U.S. Open-T4

Open memory: Losing a four-shot lead with four holes to play in 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Backspin: This was headed for a troublesome year until he hired old caddie Steve Williams for the summer, closed with a 64 at Chambers Bay and finished two shots behind Jordan Spieth in the U.S. Open. Still to be determined is whether he can take that form and confidence to St. Andrews without having competed since the U.S. Open.

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IAN POULTER

Age: 39.

Country: England.

Worldwide wins: 14.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T6, U.S. Open-T54.

Open memory: Leaving brown grass in the shape of footprints at Royal Birkdale in 2008 from putting so long in one spot on the practice green. It worked. He was runner-up.

Backspin: Poulter has had two chances to win this year on the PGA Tour, at the Honda Classic and the Colonial. He has gone nearly three years since his last win. Links golf usually affords him his best chance. Will be playing an Open at St. Andrews for the fourth time.

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JUSTIN ROSE

Age: 34.

Country: England.

Worldwide wins: 14.

Majors: U.S. Open (2013).

2015 wins: Zurich Classic.

2015 majors: Masters-T2. U.S. Open-T27.

Open memory: Chipping in on the final hole at Royal Birkdale in 1998 to tie for fourth at age 17. Turned pro the next day and missed his next 21 cuts.

Backspin: The Open is where Rose first came to fame as a 17-year-old, yet that remains his only top 10. He missed the cut at St. Andrews in 2010, and he failed to qualify for the Open in 2000 and 2005 at the Old Course. Won in New Orleans this year, and lost in a playoff at Memorial after losing a three-shot lead in the final round.

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BROOKS KOEPKA

Age: 25.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 2.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: Waste Management Phoenix Open.

2015 majors: Masters-T33. U.S. Open-T18.

Open memory: Going from his third Challenge Tour win in Scotland to a qualifier outside London the next morning to qualify for his first Open in 2013. He wound up missing the cut at Muirfield.

Backspin: He has made the cut in all six majors since his Open debut in 2013, but the power player from Florida has shown little more than that. He has played St. Andrews four times during the Dunhill Links. His power should help, and given his ball flight, wind won’t hurt. Maybe this is the major he makes a move.

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TIGER WOODS

Age: 39.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 90.

Majors: Masters (1997, 2001, 2002, 2005), U.S. Open (2000, 2002, 2008), British Open (2000, 2005, 2006), PGA Championship (1999, 2000, 2006, 2007).

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-T17. U.S. Open-Cut.

Open memory: Not hitting into a bunker all week at St. Andrews in 2000, finishing at 19 under to break Nick Faldo’s record to par and becoming the youngest player to complete the career Grand Slam. A good week all round.

Backspin: He won two Opens at St. Andrews before turning 30, and Woods figured to be the first player to win three times on the Old Course. That was before his life and game caved in on him ahead of the 2010 Open. Now he is rebuilding again, and at age 39, it figures to take some time. He played OK at Augusta National. He had his worst score over 36 holes at the U.S. Open. St. Andrews gives him a reasonable chance. But right now, he makes news for making the cut.

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PATRICK REED

Age: 24.

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 4.

Majors: None.

2015 wins: Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

2015 majors: Masters-T22. U.S. Open-T14.

Open memory: Playing part of his practice round at Royal Liverpool with Tiger Woods.

Backspin: Reed has good memories of Scotland, though not necessarily links golf. He was the top points-earner for the Americans last year at Gleneagles, and amused the Scots by placing his finger over his lips to silence them after winning a hole. He shared the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open until a weekend fade. In his only other British Open, he shot 78-71 and missed the cut last year.

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TOM WATSON

Age: 65

Country: United States.

Worldwide wins: 43.

Majors: Masters (1977, 1981), U.S. Open (1982), British Open (1975, 1977, 1980, 1982, 1983)

2015 wins: None.

2015 majors: Masters-Cut.

Open memory: A 7-iron to 3 feet on the 18th hole at Turnberry for a one-shot victory over Jack Nicklaus in the “Duel in the Sun” in 1977.

Backspin: His career in the British Open — and this being is 41st and final appearance — merits a mention. Six years ago, he had an 8-foot putt on the final hole to win at Turnberry and wound up losing in a playoff against Stewart Cink. Of all the aging champions, he has the best shot at making the cut in his finale. Watson won the Open on every Scottish links in the rotation except for St. Andrews. He finished two shots behind Seve Ballesteros in 1984.

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