British Open Field 2012: Best Darkhorse Candidates to Win

Jeremy Los@@JeremyALosFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2012

British Open Field 2012: Best Darkhorse Candidates to Win

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    The Open Championship is the most storied championship in golf, with the game’s most iconic names engraved onto the Claret Jug.

    Much of the focus this week will be put on the big-name players, and many will label them the favorites to lift the prized trophy on Sunday afternoon.

    However, the Open Championship has proved in years past to be susceptible to surprise winners, and a handful of dark horses wait in the wing this year, poised to be the next surprise winner of this great championship.

Sergio Garcia

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    Sergio has long been seen as one of the top players never to have won a major, coming tantalizingly close on numerous occasions.

    After hitting a low-point in 2010, Sergio’s game has undergone a bit of a resurgence as of late, and the former sensation has become relevant again on the European and PGA Tours, as well as in majors.

    Sergio has been close to breaking through at the Open before, losing a heartbreaker to Padraig Harrington in a Playoff in 2007 at Carnoustie, and has historically played really well in the oldest major championship (6 Top-10s).

    The Open Championship is one that suits Garcia’s game the best: his low penetrating ball flight is able to cut through the worst weather Mother Nature has to offer, and his often-suspect putting is not as exposed as it would be in the Masters or the US Open. 

Fredrik Jacobson

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    Freddy Jacobson is one of those players that, no matter which major, always seems to find himself near the top of the leaderboard heading into or during the weekend.

    Overall, Jacobson has a rather pedestrian record at the Open Championship, with just three Top-20 finishes (best being a 6th in 2003) in 10 career starts. However, two of his best finishes have come in his last three starts, including a T-16 at last year’s Open. 

    His grinding style is not the flashiest, but it gets the job done. Jacobson’s short game is top-notch; he is a fantastic putter, and one of the better players in the world with a wedge in his hand. 

Marc Leishman

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    The 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has been playing rather well this season, winning at the Travelers Championship and notching five Top-25 finishes.

    With his top major finish being a T-48 at the 2010 PGA Championship, Leishman has a major championship resume that is severely underwhelming; however, the British Open has shown numerous times that it is conducive to first-time major winners.

    Growing up in Australia should have provided Leishman with some knowledge of how to play links courses, as many Australian players spend time on the countless links courses throughout the country.

    If Marc is going to make a surprise run at the Claret Jug this week, he will have to lean on his wedge play and solid scrambling ability. 

Nick Watney

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    As one of the top young Americans in the game today, Nick has already become an established star in the game. However, he has yet to break through for his first major victory.

    This season has been somewhat underwhelming for the four-time PGA winner, but, with strong showings in his last three outings, a breakthrough appears to be on the horizon.

    Watney has a solid record at the Open Championship, finishing T-7 in 2010 and only finishing outside the Top-35 once.

    Nick’s power and strong putting should be enough to keep him in contention throughout the week, and, with a lucky bounce or clutch putt or two, he could finally breakthrough for his first major victory.

Francesco Molinari

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    One half of the famed Molinari brothers, Francesco comes into the Royal Lytham playing some of the best golf of his pro career.

    The European Tour star is one of the hottest players in the world right now. He is coming off back-to-back runner-up finishes at the Scottish Open and Open de France, and he found the winner’s circle back in May.

    Molinari’s controlled style of play will enable him to make a run this week, as the course will feature thick penalizing rough and won’t be playing particularly long for major championship standards, at just over 7,000 yards fully stretched.

    Playing mainly on the European Tour will undoubtedly help the Italian, as he will be accustomed to the weather and style of play necessary to walk away with the Claret Jug.