The last major of 2021 and the final major championship for the next nine months is nearly here, and there's plenty to get behind this week during the 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George's. The stars of the sport are going to fill up the majority of the talking points this week -- as they should -- but there is certainly a hierarchy when it comes to who you should be rooting for among the top players.
With so many big names coming into this edition of the oldest major from different angles, we need to straighten some of the stories behind them and what each has at stake in Sandwich over the next several days. Let's start with somebody who's going to make history no matter what happens this weekend at Royal St. George's as we look at a list of nine golfers you can cheer on throughout the week.
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
|The Englishman is on the cusp of setting the record for major futility, as Shane Ryan eloquently pointed out here. Westy is playing his 88th major, and if he fails to hoist the Claret Jug, that will be the most ever played without winning one. If he wins, he'll be the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1992 to take this tournament and the first since Tony Jacklin in 1969 to win on English soil. All of this is in addition to what would be the perfect cap to what has been an underrated and tremendous career. There are a hundred reasons to pull for Westwood in what would become the year of the old man major winner.|
|Maybe it's just me, but D.J. could use some recompense for all his heartbreak over the years. And while it is certainly not the most infamous version, his out-of-bounds ball in 2011 definitely qualifies. He could also join Jordan Spieth as a three-time major winner of the Masters, U.S. Open and Open Championship as both would be going for the career slam at Southern Hills next May. Odds: 15-1|
|The Irishman held the trophy for two years but only got one win out of it after the 2020 Open was canceled because of COVID-19. His last Open win was so heartwarming and genuine that it would be extremely difficult to pull against him taking the Claret Jug home for a third year. Odds: 33-1|
|Hear me out! Poulter has become much more endearing as he ages, and his story from assistant pro to touring pro is extremely underrated when we talk about how the best players in the world came to be the best players in the world. You know there's no championship he would love to win more, and a Claret Jug would certainly be more meaningful to him than almost anyone else in the field. Odds: 60-1|
|Speaking of meaningful, McIlroy called this event "the biggest and best of them all" a few days ago. What a place to snap what is about to be an eight-year major drought if he fails to again drink from the Claret Jug. McIlroy has in recent years become a bit of a north star for professional golf as a whole, and as far as stars go, I'm not sure another champ would be more popular among players and those inside the sport than him taking a second Open. Odds: 16-1|
|The ultimate runner-up has been beaten by a total of two golfers at the last two majors and now has six (six!) second-place finishes at major championships over the course of his career. "Deserves" is a tricky word in golf, but if it applies to anyone, King Louis is the man to whom it applies. Odds: 30-1|
|Two of Spieth's three major wins have been two of the most dramatic majors of the last decade. When he's involved at all, the chance of overall theatrics from the tournament as a whole is extremely high, and a win here would be a great ending to what has been a multi-year traipse in the desert. A win at the Texas Open is one thing, but a win here in Sandwich at The Open is entirely another. Odds: 20-1|
|If history is what you seek, Rahm is a good fit. Two straight majors and a seemingly unending runway into 2022 and beyond would be something to dream on as we enter the lengthy nine-month stretch between this year's Open and next year's Masters. Odds: 7-1|
|If there's something to dislike about Hovland, I have yet to discover it. His tee-to-green game is only outpaced by his consistent geniality. Though he's not someone whose world is upended by much at all, but I have to think an Open at age 23 right before his first Ryder Cup would do it. Odds: 40-1|
Who will win the Open Championship, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that's nailed seven golf majors, including Jon Rahm's epic U.S. Open victory.