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Power Rankings - The Open Championship

Jordan Spieth. Yes, Jordan Spieth. I'm just preparing you for what you'll be hearing everyday in the run-up to The Open Championship. Jordan Spieth. Well, his name and Rickie Fowler's, since there needs to be some sort of manufactured rivalry. There's not a whole lot else to talk about in the world of golf with Rory McIlroy set to miss The Open at St. Andrews, Tiger Woods appearing to be nothing more than decent and the third ranked player in the world, Bubba Watson, never having finished better than 23rd in this major. Jordan Spieth.

St. Andrews, though, provides the perfect backdrop for the ascendance of a new era of golfers. With players like Phil Mickelson, the aforementioned Tiger Woods, and many more sliding into the tail-ends of their careers, St. Andrews stands like an undying testament to the game which has wrought such fame. There's no denying that St. Andrews has changed over the years. In fact, this years course promises to be different yet, with Martin Hawtree, of Trump International Golf Links fame, overseeing the latest series of alterations. Though mostly subtle, the largest is sure to draw the ire of players and purists alike. For the 144th Open Championship, the R&A has constructed a sprawling bleacher complex behind the 18th green complex in addition to a massive set overlooking the 1st, 17th and 18th holes. Pretty sure that wasn't what Old Tom Morris had in mind.

Conditions this week promise to be some of the softest ever seen at St. Andrews for an Open Championship. The course is, get this, green. That's right. Green. Not brown, golden, green-brown, or any other more earthy color. Green. St. Andrews appears to be on pace to be more verdant than the typically lush U.S. Open for this year, as Chambers Bay proved to be one of the driest American championships yet. The Old Course measures 7,297 yards and plays as a par-72 for this year's iteration. Expect occasional low scores in spite of changes designed to steer the field in the opposite direction.

For those of you not familiar with my Power Rankings, I'll be listing the Top-15 with their Total Aggregate (TA), a number that combines recent performance with course history and some select other metrics, and the change (CHG) from the last tournament they participated in. Total Aggregate is out of 100, with a lower number indicating a better ranking. 

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Power Rankings

  1. Jordan Spieth - TA: 16.29, CHG: (+19.8) - For those of you that have been reading these long enough, and for that, I'm so sorry for your brain cells. You'll possibly have recognized that my system doesn't always favor the absolute hottest player. This time it has. Critics, back about... oh say... a year ago, harped on Spieth, suggesting his inability to overpower golf courses would prevent him from winning majors. Masters? Check. Longest U.S. Open course in history? Check. While I still won't call Chambers Bay a true links course, since I believe they should come with a certain amount of tripe and people speaking a form of English intentionally indecipherable, Spieth has proven that his sheer will and determination can win anywhere.
  2. Hideki Matsuyama - TA: 16.71, CHG: (-1.6) - In all the hubbub about Tiger, Spieth, Rory, DJ, Rickie, Phil and so on, it's easy to forget Hideki Matsuyama. Let me tell you, don't. His sixth place finish in his last Open attempt should be all you need to know, but if it isn't, there's also the fact that he's finished in the Top 25 in every start since missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open more than five months ago. Not many weaknesses here.
  3. Dustin Johnson - TA: 20.25, CHG: (+8.2) - Fearfully, I endorse this position for him. He's either chomping at the bit to get back out there and redeem himself or the scar tissue from yet another tremendous loss will weigh him down as he hunts for his first major. Fortunately, DJ has plenty going in his favor. He's great in the wind, the course is playing soft-ish and his ridiculous arsenal of shot-shapes should more than suit him here. I'm pretty sure mental injuries count when they say "fear the wounded golfer".
  4. Zach Johnson - TA: 20.88, CHG: (+2) - At just 7,297 yards, the opposite-Johnson needs to just play his game to have a shot. ZJ has finished in the Top 10 in his last two Open Championships and has made his last eight cuts while chasing the Claret Jug. Hasn't won yet this year, something he's done just about every year since his maiden win back in 2003. Coming off a T3 for his annual bag of free money at the John Deere Classic.
  5. Francesco Molinari - TA: 21.88, CHG: (-0.2) - I hope this doesn't come off as patronizing, but don't mistake him for his brother, Edoardo. I know some of fairweather fantasy players float in for the majors, which is fine, just know that there are two Molinaris in the field and only one is worth his weight in spaghetti. That goes for you frequent players, too. Its been a while since these two have been in the same field. He's got Top 15s in his last two Open Championships and is riding a wave that has seen him make nine consecutive cuts coming into this tournament.
  6. Keegan Bradley - TA: 24.13, CHG: (+14.2) - Hmm. Mhmmm. Yep, sure, Keegan Bradley it is. I've consulted the Magic 8-ball, receiving an answer of "Go play in traffic." My 8-ball is a jerk. He's 3-for-3 in his career at The Open, never finishing worse than 34th and clocking two Top-25s.  Add in that he's made his last five cuts, placing better than 39th and as high as 8th in each, and he might be the best golfer everyone isn't playing.
  7. Shane Lowry - TA: 24.5, CHG: (+13.8) - Do not call this a home game. in the same vein, never suggest an Irishman is a Scotsman. As an half-blood Irishman myself, I take exactly zero umbrage, but Irish nationals might. Either way, Lowry's game has been steadily improving over the last year and change but he's still missing that significant victory to finally announce that he's truly arrived. His T9 at Chambers Bay seems to indicate that he's ready, as does the T6 at the BMW PGA Championship.
  8. Brandt Snedeker - TA: 24.75, CHG: (+8.4) - Between Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, its hard to find anyone more likeable that hasn't picked up a major victory. Snedeker is in form and given how much he was quoted as enjoying Chambers Bay, I don't imagine it is much of a leap for him to feel comfortable at St. Andrews. Having finished 3rd in the Open last year and 11th the year prior, Sneds is looking as good as he ever has with four consecutive Top 10s in his last four starts.
  9. Kevin Kisner - TA: 26.5, CHG: (+0.6) - Wouldn't it be fitting for the only guy in history to lose three playoffs in a year to win in a golf duel-to-the-death playoff on the game's birthing ground? His 35th at TPC Deere Run isn't a lapse in form, just an indication that he's more of a grinder than a scoring machine, so fear not! Don't jump ship on just yet, as he's finished no worse that 38th since missing the cut more than three months ago at the Shell Houston Open.
  10. Henrik Stenson - TA: 28.25, CHG: (+6.5) - After ascending the world rankings to second place behind only Rory McIlroy, Stenson seemed poised to make the leap to dominance. Instead, he plateaued, riding a steady wave of unflappable Swedish calm right up until he three-putts away his victory. Coming of a second place finish at the BMW International Open, Stenson has a hot hand heading into what should be his best major. 
  11. Adam Scott - TA: 28.5, CHG: (+6.8) - I've actually been somewhat depressed not seeing his technically perfect swing on TV as he's muddled through putter difficulties. He's back to the broom-stick and has Steve Williams back on the bag, so his head's in a good place. It helps that he's finished in the Top 5 in his last three Open Championships and happens to be coming off a T4 at a links-esque U.S. Open.
  12. Robert Streb - TA: 30.63, CHG: (-2) - This is probably my biggest curveball tonight, so stay with me. Sure, this is his first Open Championship and just his third major overall, but this guy has game. Just take a moment a look through his stats page here. His weaknesses, if you could call them that, are in his proximity-to-hole and scrambling categories, both of which are somewhat mitigated by the football-field sized greens at St. Andrews. If he can conquer his nerves, he'll be around deep into Sunday.
  13. Matt Kuchar - TA: 32.13, CHG: (+6.4) - Slowly becoming something of a links specialist in the latter years of his career. Post a T12 at the U.S. Open and followed it up with a T2 at the Scottish Open on top of he solid track record at the Open Championship. Kuchar is almost always consistent, but he tends to streak into his victories. Just know that he's trending upward, finishing progressively better in each start coming in since a missed cut at The Players.
  14. Sergio Garcia - TA: 36.25, CHG: (+1.8) - His T2 at The Open last year essentially assured him a spot here. Everyone but Sergio truly believes he'll get it done one of these times and St. Andrews should be the best place for him to get over the hump. Sergio has finished in the Top 25 in four of his last five starts, including a playoff loss to a red-hot Rickie Fowler at The Players. I'm hopeful, if only because the world doesn't need another Lee Westwood. (Sorry, Lee.)
  15. Rickie Fowler - TA: 38.71, CHG: (+1.6) - Two wins in his last five starts are offset somewhat by two missed cuts in the same period. Rickie is talented, without a doubt, but one thing I've noticed from Butch Harmon's latest pupils is a startling inconsistency. When his student are on, hold on tight, because they're on. When they aren't expect some big misses. I'd like to believe that Rickie's T2 last year and his win last week make him a perfect candidate, but I'm equally worried that he'll miss bit as he did at the U.S. Open.
Thanks for Reading!
Kyle Donovan