The 2015 British Open is set to begin early Thursday morning, and the expectations for favorites and sleepers alike are boundless as predictions are made for the year's third major.
The Open Championship at the Old Course of St. Andrews is an event unlike any other in the world, as the sport returns to its esteemed home at one of the most tradition-rich courses on the planet. Playing there tends to bring out the best in some of the top golfers, as seven of the last eight winners there already had a major on their resume.
Let's take a closer look at the most notable favorites and sleepers and what can be expected from them.
2015 British Open Odds
Odds courtesy of Odds Shark.
Favorite: Jordan Spieth
It's safe to say expectations haven't been this high for an American at St. Andrews since the heyday of Tiger Woods. With the chance to win the elusive Grand Slam in 2015, the 21-year-old phenom Jordan Spieth is a massive favorite.
Even if Rory McIlroy hadn't injured his ankle and withdrawn from the tournament, Spieth still would have been the center of attention at St. Andrews. And as if winning the first two majors of the year (including the Masters in historic fashion) wasn't enough, he also was one of just a few Open contenders to play in the John Deere Classic last weekend.
Spieth won the event in a playoff.
There's one obvious shortcoming for Spieth in that he hasn't played the iconic course in an Open, but he's heeding the advice of some experienced vets, as ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski reported:
The Old Course typically rewards good ball-strikers who also excel on the greens, and that's exactly the type of golfer Spieth is proving to be this year. He ranks third on strokes gained from tee to green while hitting 63 percent of his fairways and ranking as the eighth-best putter on tour.
Spieth is absolutely locked in with his putter, and two weeks of working on his game in between the U.S. Open and John Deere Classic didn't keep him from continuing his winning streak. Nothing less than a week near the top of the leaderboard and a Sunday in the final pairing should be expected from the young American.
Favorite: Rickie Fowler
Spieth isn't the only young American star who has entered St. Andrews coming off an impressive win and near the top of the list of favorites.
Joining him is Rickie Fowler, who unlike Spieth, is searching for the first major of his career after numerous near-misses. But like his fellow American, Fowler won a big tournament Sunday, taking the Scottish Open over a heap of British Open contenders.
He may not be on a winning streak like Spieth, but Fowler is still getting results stemming from his title at The Players, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Fowler might actually have an advantage over Spieth in the tee box, at least in 2015, as he's hitting the ball an average of 294 yards per drive and ranks 27th in total driving. But his inconsistent putting could elude him in another major, as he's giving up minus-.067 strokes on the greens—which ranks 126th.
The California native will need to get his flat stick in order if he wants to be around the top of the leaderboard come Sunday. Without that, he'll flirt with the cut line.
Sleeper: Matt Kuchar
Had it not been for Fowler's magnificent finish at the Scottish Open, Matt Kuchar would be the American joining Spieth as recent winners entering the British Open field. And his game sets up quite well to deal with the rigors of St. Andrews.
Kuchar won't make up any strokes in the tee box in the same fashion as Dustin Johnson and other big ball-strikers, but his accuracy will set him up for favorable shots at flagsticks. That will play into Kuchar's biggest strength—the putter.
He's on fire with the flat stick so far in 2015, ranking seventh in strokes gained on the greens and eighth in eagles. A 13th-ranked sand-save percentage will also aid him in his quest to keep low scores throughout the four rounds.
If Kuchar can putt the way he has throughout 2015, he'll have a great chance to surprise some folks and post the best Open finish of his career.