British Open 2012: Encouraging Performances That Will Get Better at Next Major

Tim KeeneyContributor IJuly 25, 2012

LYTHAM ST ANNES, ENGLAND - JULY 21:  Rickie Fowler of the United States walks off the seventeenth green during the third round of the 141st Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club on July 21, 2012 in Lytham St Annes, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Baby steps to a major championship. That's all it takes. 

While plenty of golfers will undoubtedly be disappointed that it was Ernie Els who took home the Claret Jug—not them—they can't dwell on the Open Championship.

Phil Mickelson, who shot an anemic plus-11 and missed the cut by eight strokes, might dwell a little bit. However, for those players who put together a solid tournament, their arrow is only pointing up.

The PGA Championship is only a few weeks away, so let's take a look at whose solid Open Championship performances will propel them to a better finish at Kiawah Island. 

Matt Kuchar

Kuchar took a few steps back during the weekend, shooting two rounds of 72, but a ninth-place finish further proves he is one of the most consistent golfers on tour this year.

Kuch, who is currently ranked ninth in the world, has made all 15 cuts this season. He also won at the Players Championship—the fifth major—and has finished in the Top 10 at both the Masters and the Open Championship. 

He's now made the cut at 10 of 11 career majors, and that includes four Top-10 finishes. If nothing else, you know he'll be around on the weekend. and he's going to take home the win at some point. 

Rickie Fowler

Fowler managed to finish in a tie for 31st, which is far from terrible, but he did so in fairly quiet fashion. 

The 23-year-old didn't shoot a round under par. As a result, he was never really in contention, but his tournament was far better than it sounds.

After a rough opening two days, Fowler shot an even par on the weekend when so many other golfers around him faltered, proving that his lack of experience means nothing on the biggest stage. 

Fowler has now made the cut at all three majors this year to go along with his five Top-10 finishes on tour. He has taken a huge step forward this year and doesn't seem to be faltering. I'd be willing to bet he cracks the Top 10 at the PGA next month. 

Luke Donald

The No. 1 golfer in the world is undoubtedly getting tired of coming up short in majors, but there are certainly some positives to take away from his week at Royal Lytham. 

First, with the exception of Friday's one-over 71, he shot every round at par or better. That's an achievement that very few golfers can claim. If he could have just put together one big round, he really would have been in contention for the Claret Jug.

Second, on Sunday, when many of the top golfers were struggling immensely, Donald coolly shot a one-under 69 for one of the best scores of the day. That proves he can put it together when it really counts.

Donald probably hasn't quite had the season he was expecting, but this was by far his best major of the year. Expect yet another beautiful tournament from him in a couple of weeks.