British Open 2015: Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Ahead of the Open Championship

Ben Alberstadt@benalberstadtFeatured ColumnistJuly 12, 2015

British Open 2015: Ranking the Top 25 Golfers Ahead of the Open Championship

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Whether you call it the British Open or The Open Championship, the season's third major is here.

    The world's best golfers are taking ocean liners across the sea to arrive at St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. Wait, that was 75 years ago. They're all taking planes, many of them private, from all over the world. And a few gentlemen have a shorter commute: from within the United Kingdom. Regardless, the objective is the same: raise the Claret Jug at the Home of Golf

    We considered three things in putting together a power ranking of the best players teeing it up at the Old Course:

    1. Average odds from 15 major sportsbooks (via Oddschecker)
    2. A player's Sagarin ranking (a measure of quality of play over the past year)
    3. A player's Official World Golf Ranking (a measure of quality of play over the past two years)

    These items were weighted with "average odds" getting the highest weight and evaluated alongside recent play and past British Open performance.

    With Rory McIlroy unfortunately out with an injured ankle, here are the top 25 golfers expected to take part in the British Open. 

25. Lee Westwood

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR): 34

    Best of 2015: Lee Westwood has just one top-10 finish on the PGA Tour this season: a tie for ninth at the WGC-Cadillac Match Play. He's made nine of 11 cuts, however, and totaled seven top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Unimpressive play recently and lackluster work on and around the greens at Chambers Bay drop the British Open veteran a few spots from where he might be otherwise. It's his vast experience on links-style courses that books his passage into this ranking.

    British Open History: Westwood has competed in the British Open 20 times. He's made 14 cuts. Most notably, he finished second at St. Andrews is 2010 and tied for third at Muirfield in 2013. Westy has totaled six top-25 finishes. 

24. Francesco Molinari

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    OWGR: 42

    Best of 2015: His last time out, Francesco Molinari finished sixth at the French Open. On the PGA Tour, he's made 10 of 13 cuts. The Italian's best finish: a tie for third at the Memorial. 

    Why He's Here: Molinari's comparatively better recent form earns him the edge over Westwood. While the tournament is not being played at the same venue this year as last, a top-20 finish in his most recent Open and a top 10 in his last start are encouraging signs. Plus, Molinari is a green-in-regulation machine, hitting 72.5 percent in regulation this year. 

    British Open History: Molinari has made four of seven Open cuts. He tied for ninth at Muirfield in 2013 and tied for 15th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

23. Kevin Kisner

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    OWGR: 36

    Best of 2015: Kevin Kisner has the inglorious distinction of having lost in three playoffs this season. He's totaled six top-10 finishes in 22 starts and finished second (in a playoff) at the Greenbrier Classic in July.

    Why He's Here: True, it's Kisner's first British Open this year. However, he's been so good recently that he merits entry onto this list. His torrid pace, which includes top-10 finishes in three of his last five starts, earns him placement ahead of Westwood and Molinari. 

    British Open History: This will be Kisner's first British Open.

22. Ian Poulter

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    OWGR: 28

    Best of 2015: Ian Poulter has missed just one cut in 13 starts on tour this season. His best finish came in March at the Honda Classic, where he finished tied for third. Poults has totaled four top-10 finishes and tied for 54th at the U.S. Open in his most recent start. 

    Why He's Here: Poulter locks up the No. 22 spot on the strength of consistent play this season and a spate of decent showings at the season's third major. Poulter has the putter working this season (19th on tour, strokes gained: putting) too, which will serve him well at St. Andrews.

    British Open History: Englishman Ian Poulter has recorded 10 cuts made in 14 stats. He finished second in 2008 and tied for third in 2013. 

21. Shane Lowry

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    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    OWGR: 46

    Best of 2015: In five starts on the European Tour this season, Shane Lowry hasn't missed a cut. Stateside, he's made seven of 10 cuts, including a ninth-place finish at the U.S. Open. 

    Why He's Here: A better showing at last year's Open gets Lowry the look before Poulter as does his quality effort at Chambers Bay. While he's not brilliant statistically, you have to expect the Irishman to be comfortable on a links course. 

    British Open History: Lowry has teed it up three times at the Open. His best showing came last year when he finished tied for ninth. 

20. Branden Grace

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    OWGR: 31

    Best of 2015: Branden Grace has tasted victory twice on the European Tour this season (Alfred Dunhill Championship, Qatar Masters). He's made seven of nine cuts on the PGA Tour this season and contended at the U.S. Open before faltering late and finishing tied for fourth. 

    Why He's Here: The first player in our ranking with a win under his belt this season, Grace's near victory at the U.S. Open has raised his profile considerably as a major contender. It's that showing which earns him the 20th spot in our ranking. 

    British Open History: The good news: Grace hasn't missed a cut in four Open Championship appearances. The bad news: He hasn't finished better than tied for 36th. 

19. Brandt Snedeker

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    OWGR: 25

    Best of 2015: Brandt Snedeker won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February. He tied for second at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and finished eighth at the U.S. Open. Overall, Sneds has made 16 of 19 cuts with a total of eight top-10 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: The best golfer on our list thus far (from an OWGR standpoint), Snedeker has recorded top-10 finishes in his last four starts. Thus, he's in the midst of a steady surge beyond anything the players immediately above him are doing. With more control over his ball flight since moving to coach Butch Harmon, Snedeker is better equipped for the challenge of a British Open. 

    British Open History: Snedeker tied for third in 2012 at Royal Lytham and made three of six cuts overall.

18. Brooks Koepka

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    OWGR: 22

    Best of 2015: Brooks Koepka won the Waste Management Phoenix Open in early February. He also tied for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic. Koepka has made 13 of 14 cuts this season with a total of eight top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Twelfth on tour in strokes gained: total, Koepka is an all-around player in a way the previous entries on this list are not. It's this fact, coupled with an 18th-place finish at the U.S. Open, that earns him the No. 18 spot. 

    British Open History: In two British Open starts, Koepka has made the cut once. The Florida native tied for 67th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

17. Patrick Reed

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    OWGR: 15

    Best of 2015: In addition to finishing second at the Valspar Championship, Patrick Reed won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January. Reed has made 18 of 20 cuts and totaled 11 top-25 finishes. He tied for 14th at the U.S. Open. 

    Why He's Here: Reed has been a better golfer over the last two years than Brooks Koepka, as indicated by their respected OWGR numbers. Reed's tie for 14th at the U.S. Open is a good sign of his growing comfort with links golf. And returning to the same continent as the 2014 Ryder Cup can't hurt, as Reed led all Americans with three wins in four matches. Reed is 14th on tour in strokes gained: total and 11th in birdie average.  

    British Open History: Last year, in the first Open of his career, Reed missed the cut at Royal Liverpool. 

16. Louis Oosthuizen

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    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    OWGR: 16

    Best of 2015: Louis Oosthuizen has totaled five top-10 finishes in 14 starts on the PGA Tour this season. He recorded his best finish in the the most recent major, finishing tied for second at the U.S. Open. The South African has made 10 of 14 cuts. 

    Why He's Here: King Louis is a recent past champion (2010) and a contender at the most recent major earns him the 16th spot in our ranking. It's only his lackluster work with the putter (159th in strokes gained: putting) that keeps him from placing better in this ranking. 

    British Open History: The man who won the Open Championship the last time it was contested at St. Andrews, Oosthuizen has made four of eight cuts at the event. He tied for 36th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

15. Matt Kuchar

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    OWGR: 17

    Best of 2015: While he hasn't won on tour this season, Matt Kuchar has recorded a second-place finish (Humana Challenge) and a third-place finish (Sony Open). He's made 16 of 17 cuts and tied for 12th at the U.S. Open. 

    Why He's Here: Kuch's strong showing at the links-ish Chambers Bay is a good indicator that he might be ready to continue his progress toward contending in an Open Championship. Unlike Oosthuizen, Kuchar has putted well this season and is 21st in strokes gained: total. 

    British Open History: Kuchar has made just four of 10 cuts at the Open Championship. However, he's made four of his last five, including a tie for ninth in 2012. 

14. Jimmy Walker

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    OWGR: 12

    Best of 2015: Jimmy Walker has won twice in 16 starts on the PGA Tour this season, most recently at the Valero Texas Open in March. He's also finished second twice and totaled six top 10s. Walker has missed the cut only once this season. 

    Why He's Here: Walker doesn't have a lengthy track record at the Open, so his decision to head over early for the Scottish Open is a good one. The man is a tee-to-green force and is only usurped by players with more Open experience and staggering recent success.

    British Open History: The Baylor alum has only teed it up twice in the British Open. He tied for 26th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

13. Paul Casey

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    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    OWGR: 24

    Best of 2015: Paul Casey has made 12 of 16 cuts on the PGA Tour this season, finishing second twice in playoffs (most recently at the Travelers Championship). The Englishman has tallied a total of six top-10 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Casey has been steady this season, and his tie for third last time the Open was contested at St. Andrews is a leg up on Jimmy Walker. Casey is 13th in strokes gained: total, an indication of the overall quality of his play. 

    British Open History: Casey's best British Open finish came in 2010 when he tied for third. He's made eight of 12 cuts with three top-25 finishes. 

12. Jim Furyk

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    OWGR: 5

    Best of 2015: Jim Furyk ended a lengthy dry spell when he won the RBC Heritage in April. The Pennsylvania native has made 10 of 12 cuts this season with a total of four top-10 finishes. Recently, Furyk tied for fifth at the Memorial. 

    Why He's Here: Furyk beats out Casey thanks to a larger volume of quality play at the Open Championship in his career. He's also playing good golf having made five of his last six cuts. And as the tour's ultimate plodder, he has the mettle, patience and creativity to take on an Open Championship venue. Furyk's driving accuracy (10th on tour) will be a major boon at a course where wandering off line lands you in the fescue. 

    British Open History: Furyk has made 12 of 19 cuts at the season's third major. He tied his career-best showing in the tournament with a fourth-place finish last year. He's cracked the top 10 six times. 

11. Phil Mickelson

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    OWGR: 21

    Best of 2015: Phil Mickelson has made 10 of 13 cuts on the PGA Tour this year. Among his six top-25 finishes: a tie for third at the FedEx St. Jude Classic and a tie for second at the Masters. 

    Why He's Here: Lefty looks to have fallen in love with links golf late in his career, and if he'd played better at Chambers Bay, the 2013 British Open champ would be inside the top 10 in this ranking. 

    British Open History: Mickelson won the British Open at Muirfield in 2013. He tied for second in 2011 but hasn't had tremendous success outside of these two showings. Still, he's recorded eight top-25 finishes in 21 appearances. 

10. Sergio Garcia

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    OWGR: 10

    Best of 2015: Sergio Garcia hasn't missed a cut on the PGA Tour this season, and he finished second in a playoff at The Players in May. The Spaniard has recorded a total of six top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: A big performance at Royal Liverpool last year earns Garcia a long look. However, middling play recently and suspect putting indicate he could turn in an average finish at St. Andrews. 

    British Open History: In 18 career appearances, Garcia has made 14 cuts. He finished tied for second at Royal Liverpool last year and has totaled four top-five finishes in the competition. 

9. Rickie Fowler

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    OWGR: 9

    Best of 2015: Rickie Fowler offered a statement victory at The Players Championship in May and has notched a total of five top-25 finishes in 13 starts this season. 

    Why He's Here: You'd like to see Fowler a little higher in this list, what with his big win at The Players and his strong showing at an Open venue last year. However, Fowler has missed the cut in his last two starts (including the U.S. Open). 

    British Open History: Fowler tied for second at Royal Liverpool last year. He tied for fifth at Royal St. George's in 2011. He's made the cut four times in five tries. 

8. Hideki Matsuyama

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    OWGR: 14

    Best of 2015: Hideki Matsuyama has made 16 of 17 cuts on the PGA Tour this season, totaling an impressive eight top-10 finishes. His best work: a tie for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a tie for third at the Frys.com Open and a tie for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. 

    Why He's Here: Second on tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green, Matsuyama is a formidable ball-striker. His tie for sixth in his first Open offered a clear signal that he can contend in this golf tournament. And with some time off after tying for 18th at the U.S. Open, Matsuyama ought to be poised to play very well given his pedigree. Oh, and the young Japanese national is second on tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green. 

    British Open History: Matsuyama impressively tied for sixth in his Open debut at Muirfield in 2013. He tied for 39th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

7. Bubba Watson

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    Darren Carroll/Getty Images

    OWGR: 3

    Best of 2015: Twice a winner on tour this season, Bubba Watson has missed just one cut in 11 starts. The left-hander's victories came at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November and the Travelers Championship. Watson also tied for second at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He's totaled eight top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Watson would be in the top five on this list if he didn't have a violent aversion to links golf. With his power, shot-shaping ability and overall creativity, he should thrive on the courses of the Open rota. 

    British Open History: Watson and the Open Championship haven't exactly been the best of friends. He's made just three of six cuts and did his best work in 2012 when he finished tied for 23rd. 

6. Jason Day

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    OWGR: 8

    Best of 2015: Jason Day took home the Farmers Insurance Open trophy in a playoff in February. The Australian also tied for third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He's totaled five top-10 finishes in 12 starts with just two missed cuts. 

    Why He's Here: It's not his past brilliance at the Open Championship that earns Day the sixth spot, but rather it's his overall skill and a recent run of quality play. If he's well, expect Day to try to overpower the Old Course in the same way Dustin Johnson surely will. 

    British Open History: Day has made it to the weekend all four times he's teed it up in the Open Championship. He's never finished better than a tie for 30th, though, which he did in 2011. 

5. Adam Scott

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    OWGR: 11

    Best of 2015: Adam Scott's best finish this season came in his most recent start: a tie for fourth at the U.S. Open. He also tied for fourth at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Scott has recorded eight cuts made in 10 starts with four top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: The Australian lands in the fifth spot thanks to a combination of recent quality play, great form at the Open Championship recently and improved putting. Scott still has to be keen to avenge his 2012 Open disappointment, which saw him bogey the final four holes to lose by one. Scott is still one of the tour's great ballstrikers (sixth on tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green), so he ought to be able to control his trajectories into St. Andrews' large, undulating greens as well as anyone in the field. 

    British Open History: Scott has had a great run recently at the Open. He finished second in 2012, tied for third in 2013 and finished tied for fifth last year. He's made 11 of 15 cuts at the event. 

4. Justin Rose

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    Andrew Redington/Getty Images

    OWGR: 7

    Best of 2015: Justin Rose won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April. He also tied for second at the Masters and finished second in a playoff at the Memorial. Rose has made eight of 12 cuts this season with a total of four top-25 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: It's an odd reality that Rose has never put together a better performance at the Open than he did as a fresh-faced lad in 1998. Still, he has plenty of experience in the event, makes birdies and saves par out of the bunker. All will be critical this week. He also seems to have developed something of a killer instinct as his play at the Zurich Classic and the Memorial indicated. 

    British Open History: Famously tying for fourth as an Amateur at the Open Championship in 1998, Rose hasn't had great success in the competition as a professional. He's made eight of 13 cuts but recorded just that one top-10 finish. 

3. Henrik Stenson

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    Paul Thomas/Getty Images

    OWGR: 6

    Best of 2015: Henrik Stenson hasn't missed a cut this season. His best finishes: second place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Hero World Challenge. He's finished inside the top 25 six times in nine starts. 

    Why He's Here: Stenson, perennially among the top choices to win a major, has done good work recently at the Open Championship. Third on tour in strokes gained: total, Stenson definitely has the tools, and he's dramatically improved his putting this year. 

    British Open History: Stenson has made eight of 10 cuts at the Open. He finished second at Muirfield in 2013 and tied for third in 2010, the last time the tournament was contested at St. Andrews. 

2. Dustin Johnson

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    OWGR: 4

    Best of 2015: Dustin Johnson won the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March. He also nearly won the U.S. Open, his most recent start, but ultimately tied for second. The bomber has made 11 of 14 cuts this season with an impressive seven top-10 finishes. 

    Why He's Here: Perched in the second spot is the heartbroken bridesmaid of the U.S. Open. DJ's work from tee to green has been frightening. Rest assured, he won't be playing St. Andrews quite the way Old Tom Morris drew it up, but he has the tools to dismantle this course like no other if conditions are mild. 

    British Open History: Johnson tied for second at Royal St. George's in 2011. He tied for ninth in 2012 and finished tied for 12th at Royal Liverpool last year. He's made five of six cuts in the competition.

1. Jordan Spieth

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    OWGR: 2

    Best of 2015: The white-hot Jordan Spieth is four-time winner this season. Most notably, he captured the Masters in April in dominant fashion as well as the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. The 21-year-old left no doubt he's the favorite heading into St. Andrews by winning the John Deere Classic in a tiebreaker on Sunday, a feat that included a career-best 61 in the third round.

    Why He's Here: As with our pre-Masters ranking, Spieth is the only choice for the top spot. Winner of the first two majors this season, Spieth was always going to enter the Open Championship as the co-favorite with Rory McIlroy. With McIlroy's injury, however, Spieth is the top man. 

    British Open History: Spieth has teed it up twice at the Open Championship and hasn't threatened victory either time. He finished tied for 44th in 2013 and tied for 36th at Royal Liverpool last year. 

    All stats via PGATour.com