The Open Championship is probably the most unpredictable of the four majors. Weather conditions and a links setup that many players don't usually face can yield a surprise leader in a matter of hours, and cast the favorites and heavy hitters aside. We've seen older players contend on Sunday and unknown qualifiers win it all. That makes it a particularly tough major to handicap, but we're going for it.
Here are all 156 players in the field at Royal Liverpool, categorized and ranked based on their chance to win the 143rd British Open.
1. Justin Rose -- The Englishman hadn't done much since his 2013 U.S. Open win at Merion, but after letting that first major settle and overcoming an early-season shoulder injury, he turned it back on after the Masters. Now, he comes to the Open having won his last two starts and right back near the top of the golf world. Despite his underwhelming track record at the Open, and his admitted total unfamiliarity with this course, he's going to be one of a couple betting favorites.
2. Rory McIlroy -- Can he overcome these odd second-round woes? After setting a course record in Scotland last week, McIlroy went out and posted a Friday round that was 14 shots worse. He did the same thing at Memorial too. Whatever he's doing on Thursday nights, he should do the opposite this week at Hoylake. The Ulsterman hasn't stacked up a ton of wins, but he's having a very solid season and that form is good enough to be one of the favorites, even if his high ball hitting ways are not best-suited for links golf, a style he's said he is not a fan of despite his roots.
3. Adam Scott -- The No. 1 player in the world has been relatively quiet this summer, making only two starts since the May win at Colonial that solidified his spot atop the rankings. A second and third place finish in the last two Opens are hard to ignore, and unless there's some major weather when he's out in the first couple rounds, he should be in one of the last few groups on Sunday.
4. Henrik Stenson -- The Open was where the Swede really started to pick things up and begin that drive to become probably the best player in the world at the end of 2013. But even though he was exorbitantly wealthy following a sweep of the PGA and Euro Tour playoffs, he seemed out of gas once the calendar flipped to 2014. He's been steady in his past few starts, but hasn't been the consistent force we saw in that complete resurgence last year. Stenson has finished third or better in three of the last five Opens he's played, so he's a good bet to be there on Sunday.
5. Martin Kaymer -- He's gone wire-to-wire at the preceding two biggest events in the game. Kaymer is a German machine right now, and an off showing in an event in his native country shouldn't change much from the form we last saw at Pinehurst. It's hard to think of someone not named Tiger Woods taking the Players and back-to-back majors, but Kaymer is the kind of clinician who could do it.
6. Sergio Garcia -- He has to win one at some point, right? Garcia continues to play some of the best golf in the world but just hasn't factored at the season's first two majors. Even though we have so much history with Sergio at this point, he's still just 34 -- the same age Phil Mickelson won his first major. So there's still plenty of time for a Hall-of-Fame career. Given his form over the past year, and his record at the Open, he's got to be one of the favorites at the start of the week. That can change quickly with El Nino though.
7. Rickie Fowler -- Is he really the best American hope at Hoylake? Fowler has expressed an affinity for links golf, and continued to play well last week at the Scottish Open coming off that second-place finish at the U.S. Open. He now seems totally comfortable with his Butch Harmon redesigned swing, and should contend again at the third major of the year. He's got a 5th place finish at the Masters, and a 2nd place at the U.S. Open, so he's got to then trend right into that first major title this week. Avoiding those blow-up holes and keeping the short-game steady will be the difference between a win and another good result.
8. Jason Day -- This spot is obligatory and reserved at this point for Day. In 14 total career starts at the majors, he already has seven top 10s, including four of his last six. Day's season went off the rails a bit after winning that WGC Match Play in February, thanks to a thumb injury. He didn't look particularly good at Congressional, bombing out and missing the weekend like Tiger. But whether it's a backdoor top 10, or he goes to the wire with the leaders, it's hard to bet against Day being a factor at the majors.
9. Graeme McDowell -- Another Euro playing well at the right time (that Ryder Cup could be a massacre, huh?). McDowell won the French Open two weeks ago, watching Kevin Stadler crumble and claiming his 13th pro win. With a Ryder Cup spot likely settled, he'll now try to lock up a second major title.
10. Dustin Johnson -- He's the most naturally talented American golfer on the planet, but still frustratingly without a major. Dustin isn't exactly on fire, but he doesn't need to be in order to get inside the top 10 at the start of Sunday. Once he gets there, however, we're just one bombed drive off the course from a double or triple and his chances imploding in an instant. That putting we saw at Pinehurst, where he still finished tied for 4th, was also ghastly.
11. Ian Poulter -- Update: Poulter is playing with a wrist injury this week, caused by a shot from an awkward lie last week at the Scottish Open. After and MRI came back negative, he said he would play but do so on painkillers. He's probably someone to stay away from and would have been ranked much lower than 11th.
12. Jim Furyk -- He might not win, and you may be bored by him at this point, but his play over the last 12 to 16 months consistently puts him inside the top 10 at all the big events.
13. Hideki Matsuyama -- We hear a lot about Jordan Spieth and all the young guns under 30 and under 25. He might be the best one of them all and has a win at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial to trump most of the other young guys not named Rory McIlroy. Last year, he finished top 10 back-to-back at the U.S. Open and British Open to really rocket onto the scene. Watch him contend again this year.
14. Matt Kuchar
15. Phil Mickelson -- The defending champ is here just because of his career body of work and the respect that deserves. He's had a pretty miserable season, but one that he said on Monday hasn't bothered him or had him too angry to this point. As is always the case with Phil, any recent form can be set aside quickly and he could make a run. But the putting is still a problem and should inhibit any serious title defense.
16. Bubba Watson
17. Lee Westwood -- The Englishman is running out of chances and hasn't played very well all year. But his record of contending in his native championship is hard to ignore
18. Miguel Angel Jimenez -- The Mechanic keeps getting it done at 50 years old, on the PGA Tour, Euro Tour, Champions Tour, and at the major championships. He was near or on the top of the leaderboard on the weekend last year, and we'll be treated to more good golf from the most entertaining and enjoyable player in the world.
19. Jordan Spieth
20. Luke Donald
21. Charl Schwartzel
22. Jimmy Walker
23. Tiger Woods -- Much like Phil, he's listed here largely out of respect for the career body of work. We can't really expect him to contend this week, can we? He looked shaky in different phases of the game at different points during his truncated two-day stay at Congressional. Failing to win his 15th major this week would officially drop him behind the pace set by Jack Nicklaus, who won his 15th major at the Open the same age of 38. That seemed unfathomable six years ago when Tiger got his 14th title at Torrey Pines. This is the site of his last Open win, but the course should play much different and Tiger's game is just not in shape, regardless of his health.
24. Angel Cabrera -- He's always a threat at the majors, whether he's played poor golf or any golf at all in the lead-up. This year, however, he comes to the Open off his first ever non-major win on the PGA Tour, a title at the Greenbrier two weeks ago. An event is better when El Pato is involved, so here's hoping he's around again on the weekend.
25. Victor Dubuisson
26. Hunter Mahan
27. Jamie Donaldson -- The Welshman is a relative unknown in the States, but his results at the WGC events and recent majors should have made him a familiar name.
28. Zach Johnson
29. Louis Oosthuizen
30. Ernie Els
31. Shane Lowry
32. Keegan Bradley
33. Brandt Snedeker
34. Patrick Reed
35. Jonas Blixt
36. Jason Dufner
37. Webb Simpson -- Much like Bradley, Snedeker, Reed, and Dufner, Webb is part of an extremely talented American group in this category that's just not of the top class right now. They've got the ability to win every week they tee it up, but the returns at recent majors have been lacking.
38. Thomas Bjorn -- The great Dane is another veteran who has totally revived his game in 2014, right alongside Miguel Angel Jimenez. It looks like Bjorn will make the Euro Ryder Cup side, which is a huge surprise given the competitiveness for those 12 spots. He's now an authority figure and leader on the Euro Tour, and will be at home playing on the links.
39. Brendon Todd -- Is he the hottest American golfer on the PGA Tour? Todd has not let up since the Dallas Metroplex two-step and that win at the Byron Nelson. In six starts since mid-May, he has a win, three top 5 finishes, a top 10, and a T17 at the U.S. Open. So yeah, no one besides Justin Rose is probably hotter right now than Todd. If he had any kind of history at the Open, or even the majors (the U.S. Open was his first ever), then he would be among the favorites.
40. Joost Luiten
41. Mikko Ilonen
42. Bill Haas
43. Marc Leishman
44. Kevin Na
45. Paul Casey
46. Stephen Gallacher -- This Scot doesn't have a great history at the Open, but he's making a push to get on the Euro Ryder Cup team and a good showing here on Europe's biggest stage would make another big impression. He's consistently finished inside the top 10 all season on the Euro Tour, including a T4 last week.
47. Francesco Molinari
48. Billy Horschel
49. Ryan Moore
50. Harris English
51. Kevin Stadler -- The baby walrus typically wouldn't be a good pick in foreign waters, where he's not competed much. But that showing at the French Open, which he should have won, makes him an interesting option down the board at 200/1.
52. Graham DeLaet
53. Robert Karlsson
54. Fredrik Jacobson
1st Major Win?
1st Major Win?
55. Russell Henley
56. Gary Woodland
57. Brooks Koepka -- He, along with Peter Uihlein, is one of the better examples of an American prospect going abroad to get professional reps. Koepka found success and captured four Challenge Tour wins overseas, and now he's competing at the biggest events in the game. Since his T4 result at the U.S. Open, he's struggled in two European starts but he's an interesting longshot option.
58. Ryo Ishikawa
59. Chris Wood
60. Bernd Wiesberger
61. Kevin Streelman
62. Thongchai Jaidee
63. Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano
64. K.J. Choi
65. Erik Compton -- The two-time heart transplant survivor was the best story at the U.S. Open, but this is his first ever British Open start.
66. George Coetzee
67. Peter Uihlein
68. Matteo Manassero
69. Matt Every
70. Brendan Steele
71. J.B. Holmes
72. Billy Hurley III -- The Navy product is playing some of the best golf of his life, and earned a late spot by qualifying at the Greenbrier. The recent form makes him a possibility to contend, but again, he doesn't have any experience at a major championship.
73. Nick Watney
74. Matt Jones
75. Richard Sterne
76. Scott Stallings
77. John Senden
78. Chris Stroud
79. Ryan Palmer
80. Pablo Larrazabal
81. Brendon de Jonge
82. Branden Grace
83. Charley Hoffman
84. Chris Kirk
85. Thorbjorn Olesen
86. Ross Fisher
87. Boo Weekley
88. Kiradech Aphribarnrat -- The Barnrat is back after taking some time away to become a monk at a Thai Buddhist temple. He missed out on the U.S. Open, and he's a longshot here, but if he gets in the mix, he'll become a fan favorite.
89. D.A. Points
90. Gregory Bourdy
2014 British Open
2014 British Open
Just Happy To Be Here
Rafa Cabrera Bello
Chesson Hadley -- At the start of the season, it looked like he would be one of the better young American players on the PGA Tour. He got a win in Puerto Rico and inched up the world rankings to join the big boys. But since the start of May, it's been ugly and he's missed the cut in seven of eight starts.
Dawie Van Der Walt
Y.E. Yang -- The 2009 PGA Champion is still playing these majors thanks to that 5-year exemption earned from the win at Hazeltine, but he's done very little since that upset of Tiger Woods.
Brian Harman -- The last man into the field, Harman picked up a win at the John Deere Classic late Sunday in Illinois, grabbed his passport and changed his travel plans. He's a very good young player and obviously trending well, but the lack of experience and late trip across the Atlantic puts him at a disadvantage. Enjoy your first major.
Past Champions and Elder Statesmen
The Open Championship is one of those majors where an older guy can still compete with the young bombers. If the conditions are right, some of these veterans can use that experience to carefully maneuver around a links setup while the younger, more talented players struggle to adjust. The most well-known and recent example is Tom Watson's contention at Turnberry in 2009, a win that could have been the greatest major victory in the history of golf. Greg Norman also made a run after Watson, and several of the names on this list pop up on the leaderboards throughout the week.
So most of these former champions have a chance to at least make some noise, and perhaps get on the first page of the leaderboard on Sunday. But winning it all is a separate matter.
John Daly -- We all want him to be there on the weekend. But while Daly might make some noise at some point in one of the first two rounds, it'll be a challenge to make the cut. He's not been a factor at this event since that 1995 win.
Mark Wiebe -- He's not a former Open Champion, but he earned his spot by winning the Senior British last year at Birkdale.
This is a less-decorated group of amateurs than we're used to seeing at some of the majors. As usual, just making the weekend is the goal for these four at this point.