British Open 2013: Golf's Top Dark-Horse Players Ready to Impress
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The fields at today's golf tournaments are so talented and deep that a seemingly endless number of players have a decent shot at winning.
I certainly wouldn't be surprised to see a favorite like Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson hoist the Claret Jug this year, but I also wouldn't be surprised if a dark horse stormed to the top of the leaderboard to steal the British Open crown.
After all, I didn't see a lot of people predicting Ernie Els to win last year's Open Championship.
There are 15 golfers currently listed at Bovada with odds at 33-1 or lower. I am considering everyone outside of that range to be a dark horse. Here are my three favorites.
Odds according to Bovada on July 16. All stats according to PGATour.com.
Matt Kuchar, 40-1
I'm surprised to see Matt Kuchar as far down the odds list as he is. After all, it was just a month ago when Kuchar was one of the clear favorites to win the U.S. Open.
However, he does have several factors working against him now that he didn't then. For starters, he's cooled off. He was rolling into the U.S. Open fresh off his win at the Memorial, which followed a runner-up finish.
Since then, he's finished 28th at the U.S. Open and has only played once since, which resulted in a 49th at the Alstom Open de France.
There is also his lackluster track record at the British, which is highlighted in this tweet by Golf Digest's Mike O'Malley:
Matt Kuchar in the Open: MC, MC, MC, MC, MC, T-27, MC, T-9 (last year at Lytham).— Mike O'Malley (@GD_MikeO) July 12, 2013
However, I for one am not overly worried about any of this. Sure, Kuchar doesn't have much of a track record at this event, but he isn't the same golfer he used to be.
In 2009 and 2010, Kuchar rebuilt his swing.
Since then, he's become perhaps the most steady player on the PGA Tour. Last year, he proved he could take that new swing and find success at links golf. And while he's been struggling a bit the last month, he has been far too consistent to think he won't have his game ready for this major.
Kuchar has already accomplished a career first by winning multiple PGA events this year, and he has a great chance to add his first major.
Zach Johnson, 80-1
After following Zach Johnson this season, I'm surprised at myself for putting him on this list. He's had a terrible year.
He has four missed cuts and just two top 10s.
Which of these guys will finish higher on the leaderboard?
However, his two top 10s have come in his last five starts, and he is fresh off a second-place finish at the John Deere Classic.
Last year, Johnson won that event and parlayed his hot hand into a ninth-place finish at the Open.
However, it's not just the result that gives me hope for Johnson, but the way he played. The typically masterful putter has been struggling with the flat iron for most of the year. He found his putting stroke last week, as he finished the tournament with a nice strokes gained-putting mark of 1.477. He also had a sand save percentage of 100.
Both of those skills will serve him well this week, and I fully expect Johnson to be in the mix for the title.
Billy Horschel, 100-1
No one's odds surprised me more than Billy Horschel. Sure, he is an inexperienced golfer making his first trip to the British Open, but he's having an outstanding year.
He's 11th on the PGA in scoring average, ninth in all-around average and fifth on the money list.
He is just 107th in sand save percentage, which could be a bit of a problem at Muirfield, but he is 23rd in both greens in regulation and strokes gained-putting.
While he's short on experience, Horschel got a full taste of major pressure while in contention for the U.S. Open. He eventually finished in fourth and did a nice job managing his game despite not having his best stuff on Sunday.
Maybe that was due to the octopus pants he wore? This tournament, the octopus pants are gone, but he does have a unique look planned for Sunday, and he tweeted it:
I'm not sure golfing in a cardigan and tie is the best sporting attire, but who am I to question this fashionable up-and-comer?
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