2018 British Open field: Root for these nine golfers at Carnoustie this week

With each major championship comes a new set of reasons to root for certain golfers. Rory McIlroy and the Masters. Phil Mickelson and the U.S. Open. Those are white whales that have already past for yet another year. This week's 147th Open Championship presents a new batch of players and storylines melding together to give us myriad points of entry to pull for certain guys. 

I've made a list here of the top nine in the field who have a great chance to win -- obviously it would be incredible if an amateur won this event, and if one is in the final five pairings on Sunday, I'll be shouting encouragement through my television in his direction. But for now, I'm taking into consideration the best players in the world and why you can (or even should) cheer them on to the Claret Jug this weekend.

1
Rickie Fowler
I've always felt The Open would be Fowler's first major championship win, and a tough test like Carnoustie presents him with a great opportunity. Fowler is as easy to root for as anyone in sports, and what better initial triumph than a wind-whipped, nasty brawl with one of the preeminent links courses on the planet. If he's the lead horse coming home on Sunday, everybody will try and ride with him.
2
Tiger Woods
Wait, Tiger  at No. 2? Really?! Yeah, really. In a lot of ways, The Open is Tiger's most prolific major success. Sure, he's only won three of them, but his cerebral nature and proclivity for solving the most complex questions in this sport portend a future in which Woods can contend at (and win?) Open Championships into his 50s (as long as the back holds). Can you imagine the fervor if he's tied with somebody like Ian Poulter over the final few rounds?!
3
It has now been a full year since Spieth has won a golf tournament, and I'm not sure if it's more shocking to me that his wild back nine at Royal Birkdale was a full 12 months ago or that he doesn't have a win since then. One of my colleagues thinks Spieth is going to win enough Claret Jugs to feasibly tend a low-rent bar, and after last year's virtuoso performance, I'm not sure I disagree. He galvanizes like few others and going for two in a row certainly merits the adulation.
4
Rory McIlroy
McIlroy is at a stage in his career where a major victory at a place like Shinnecock Hills or Carnoustie would be monumental for his legacy. Given his history of winning at ... easier events, a title at Carnoustie where he had to battle the elements along with 155 other players would likely feel like two. It's often easy to back a legend, and that's what McIlroy would be if he takes major No. 5 before turning 30 (if he's not already there).  
5
Tommy Fleetwood
Can I interest you in a super-engaging young English stud with Ryder Cup stardom imprinted all over his being contending for the championship that he grew up watching as a child? If I can, then you should read this on Fleetwood from last month's U.S. Open where he had to agonizingly watch player after player come home behind him to see if his final round 63 would hold up. It didn't. He lost by a stroke, but he gained a lot of fans.  
6
Justin Rose
Rose hasn't had the Open Championship career it seemed like he was going to have when he broke in as an amateur at the 1998 Open at Royal Birkdale. He has just one top 10 since that time, but you can bet nearly all of Scotland would be behind a man who has experienced heartbreak at recent major championships.   
7
I'm here for the shenanigans. I'm here for the traj. I'm here for it all, and I have no idea what to expect from Lefty at major championships these days. What I do know is that Mickelson kissing the case that holds the Claret Jug seconds before teeing off is dream-like content for both viewers and those of us covering the thing. Seeing a redemption of sorts at the other Open after the mess he made of his national one would warrant some much-deserved praise.  
8
Paul Casey
Call me a lower-case "J" journalist, but I think it's cool when players from the home country of an event win. I know Casey isn't Scottish, but winning The Open is such a big deal for players from the U.K., and it hasn't happened since Nick Faldo did it in 1992. This would be a sweet capper to what has probably been an underrated career for Casey.
9
Sergio Garcia
Garcia cried in 1999 after shooting 89 at Carnoustie. Then he nearly won the thing there in 2007. His career has come full circle now, and the once-loathed figure has become a cult hero of sorts. A win here would be a nice representation of just how far he's come both as a golfer and in the way that we perceive him. It's, gasp, kind of easy to pull for.

So who will win the 2018 Open Championship, and what massive long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to find out and see the full leaderboard from the model that nailed the Masters.  

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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