The Open betting: Alex Noren can sneak in under the radar
Sergio Garcia and Branden Grace also fancied to perform well at Carnoustie
By Ben Coley
Last Updated: 16/07/18 6:57pm
Carnoustie returns to The Open rota for the first time in over a decade and it is going to be a firm and fast test for the best players in the world.
Some will relish it, others will not, but one way or another it is hard to justify getting stuck into the market leaders given that pure links golf levels the playing field, increasing the likelihood that the form book is turned upside down.
Victory for Alex Noren could hardly be called a surprise, given that he won yet again in Paris recently, but he is away from the very front of the market and looks an ideal type to sneak in under the radar.
Noren is a former Scottish Open winner who has also won twice in England as well as once in Wales, while his ability to tough out a score can be traced right back to a top-20 finish on his Open debut a decade ago.
His short-game is working wonders right now and the hard-working Swede is primed to add to a pair of top-10 finishes in the major best suited to his game.
It was long considered that Sergio Garcia's major breakthrough would come in an Open but now that he has taken care of business elsewhere, the Spaniard may at last get his hands on a Claret Jug.
Garcia endured a really disappointing spring but has found form at just the right time, finishing 12th in Germany and eighth in France, and he was famously runner-up here in 2007.
Branden Grace is another for whom fiery conditions hold no fears and victories in the Dunhill Links and Qatar Masters tie in well with Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington, the last two Carnoustie champions.
Grace, a regular major contender these days, carded the lowest round in major history at last year's Open but will not mind a bit if, as expected, conditions are a good deal tougher here.
US players have not made much of an impact at Carnoustie in recent years and it could be left to Phil Mickelson to lead the challenge for them this time.
With a win and two runner-up finishes in the Open since the start of the decade, Mickelson is now a genuine links specialist and can return to the form which saw him win a WGC title in the spring.
Finally, with as many as 10 places offered each-way, keep some change back for Stewart Cink and Shaun Norris.
Cink has placed in two of his last three starts and is an Open champion who was sixth here in 2007, while Norris is hugely speculative but arrives in form, is accurate from tee-to-green and could just sneak a place payout.
Of the favourites, Rickie Fowler might be the one but he is short enough for a player still seeking that first major success, especially given a lack of experience at this demanding venue.