Rahm, Koepka Or Spieth? Simon Dyson Analyses The Open Championship's Contenders

Former pro Simon Dyson talks us through who to look out for at Royal St George's this week
16:58, 14 Jul 2021

The oldest golf tournament in the world gets underway tomorrow as the world’s finest players meet at Royal St George's. There are a whole host of world class golfers in this field so we caught up with former professional golfer turned coach, Simon Dyson to get the lowdown on who to back, and who to avoid this week. 

US Open winner and world number two Jon Rahm leads the betting, is that fair?

Yeah, no surprise for me. He has shown a lot of class in the last two months. From his memorial withdrawal to then coming back and winning his first major and then he has done well in links golf before he has won the Irish Open. 

[He had a] good performance last week in Scotland, showed some good form and just every time I look at his game, I see no weaknesses at all. So he is unbelievable off the tee, I don't think a lot of people give him enough credit for 100 yards and in, which he is unbelievable at - I've seen his stats and he has got every single aspect of the game to win a British Open, so there is no surprise that he is leading the betting.

Brooks Koepka is also in the running, what do you make of his chances and could his ongoing feud with Bryson Dechambeu affect either of them?

No, I don't think Brooks is like that. I think he has got the mentality, I think he has got a very steely selfish mentality that you need to have to be the best golfer in the world. His strategy and his attitude is as good as anybodys, he can push off bad holes and bounce back with birdies which again the best players in the world do.

Brooks Koepka
Brooks Koepka

He is like Jon Rahm for me. You look at his whole game and the repertoire that he has got and there is not one thing that stands out that could hold him back. So, again for me, I look at someone like Brooks Koepka and it is a matter of time until he wins the British Open. It is not if, it's when.

Jordan Spieth was the winner in 2017, can he repeat that here?

Yeah. He has shown some really good form this season, we know the struggles that he has had from the back end of last season, beginning of this season, but it is no surprise to me that someone like Spieth can win a British Open. 

His imagination, his variety of shots, he has got it all and around the greens you look at someone like Phil Mickelson, who has won a British Open, you need all that. You need that variety of shot and just the imagination and thinking of different ways to get the job done and he is as good as anybody in world golf. When he gets that putter rolling, like we saw at Birkdale, no one can touch him.

There’s been no major win for Rory McIlroy since his incredible 2014 - what can he do here?

We all know what Rory is capable of. I would say a lot has happened in the last six/seven years for him. He has had a lot going on off the course, whereas before it was purely golf, now a lot of things are different. He is married, he has got a child, priorities change. 

Everyone wants him to still be this driven golfer who wants to succeed and I bet he does, but other things come into it. There are other factors that kind of, not make you not as bothered, because every tournament he tees it up in, he wants to win, but I saw a comment that he made the other week and he said "the beauty of golf is that there is always next week." Whereas, when I was playing I used to look at it like that, but now I'm coaching, I think ‘well, that is not the best attitude to have.’ 

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy

Putting all your focus on this week and imagine there is no next week. You see so many guys who have one week left to keep their card, and they do it because there is no more next week whereas if players had more of that mentality right 'this week or nothing' - it is different. Like you said about Rory, we all know what he is capable of, when he is on, he is unbeatable. Hence why he has got all the tournaments and majors to his name.

Any other leading contenders we should consider?

I look at someone like Justin Rose who could do really well around here. He reminds me a bit of Brooks Koepka, but not so much with his game but how he approaches the game and his attitude and his strategy, how he picks a strategy for a course and no stone is left unturned. 

None of these boys do that, they don't just have a practice round and go 'oh yeah, course is alright'. They are looking at everything on that course and he does that as well. I think when you are trying to win a major like this, it really does help if you have already won one. I know the last time it was played here Clarkey won his first one, but the course really suited him then, it was windy and bouncy, it is a links course - he grew up on that. He will have been rubbing his hands together when he woke up that Thursday morning and saw the weather ten years ago. 

For me, someone like Rose could go really well or Ricky Fowler. Ricky is a world class player, started playing a little bit better, but he is an amazing links golfer, he has won the Scottish Open, done amazing in the British Open, so it'd be great to see him win his first major in this. He is my favourite, I love watching him. I just love the way he goes about everything, he is quite cool and laid back and just gets on with it and actually looks like he is enjoying his golf, which he should be.

The last winner of this event was Irishman Shane Lowry. What are his chances of going back-to-back and what has happened to him since then?

He has been playing okay. It is tough to go back-to-back, really difficult. So, I think he could do well. Personally, I don't think he will win it but we all know he is capable. I just look at his form and his form has been good but nothing has stood out, not like Jon Rahm or anybody like that. You can see why he is favourite, whereas with Shane, he has put some good performances in and some very good rounds of golf in, but hasn't won since he won it.

At Royal St George's for the first time since 2011, can Darren Clarke do it again? 

He has been playing really well on the Champion's Tour in America, but it’s a very different type of golf. 

Darren Clarke
Darren Clarke

The weather is going to be really nice, which would actually not be in Darren's favour, like I said it blew and it rained [when he won it] and that is his type of golf, having to rain his slight shots down and shape them and stuff, whereas it could be quite 'target-golf' this week. I think that is why a lot of the Americans are favourites really.

Quite the year for the Italians with Euro 2020 win, Eurovision as well, can Francesco Molinari bring it home for the Italians and continue their sporting success?

Yeah, I mean why not? I watched Francesco play, I've grown up watching him play, even played with him and on a course where you really need to keep it in play because of the thick rough, he is as good as anybody. If he gets rolling that putter like he did a few years ago and went on that golden run, why not?

Most likely British winner?

Tommy Fleetwood. I really love to see him get his first major, he has been close a few times. He is a world class player. Goes about his business really well, nice lad and I don't think anyone would begrudge him his first major.

Could Richard Bland shock the world again? He won the Betfred British Masters on his 478th attempt at a European Tour win.

A very different tournament, very different field. But an amazing story for him to get his first win after all of those. I know he went back to Challenge Tour, tried to get his card back, did, and then just a really good story. It is nice to hear things like that, people - determination, never giving up, because a lot of guys are very quick to give up. He hasn't and he has got the rewards for it.

What other outsiders do you fancy?

Not really anyone! I always think one of the big boys wins tournaments like this. We have seen Louis Oosthuizen, I know he is not going to be an outsider but I expect him to do pretty well this week as well.

Look at his game, there is not a lot wrong with it and he is number one in putting which is half the game basically. If you are number one in that you are always going to be doing okay. The big boys always step up to this sort of occasion.

Louis Oosthuizen
Louis Oosthuizen

Look at his game, there is not a lot wrong with it and he is number one in putting which is half the game basically. If you are number one in that you are always going to be doing okay. The big boys always step up to this sort of occasion.

The weather looks reasonable for the duration, what effect will that have on some of the front-runners, will it benefit anyone in particular?

I think it'll really benefit everybody. We all like to play in the sunshine don't we? Not wind and rain. It has been raining so the course won't be as bouncy as it normally would be, and then the greens will be quite receptive. 

Links courses don't have sub-air systems or anything like that so you are going to expect the greens to be receptive, so that is where I think a lot of the shots will be a bit more target shots instead of if it was rock-hard, where you would have to be pitching it 40 yards short down wind. 

Of the front-runners, who will benefit from playing on this particular course?

Somebody like Brooks Koepka. You've got to have a strategy around this course, it is not your normal links. It is not the most glamorous of courses in the Open rotation. There are a lot of blind shots, trusting in your shots, not double guessing yourself. Someone like Brooks, it will really suit.

If you had to choose a player to watch, who would that be? 

That would be Patrick Cantlay, I really like how he plays. If you went and watched him you would learn a lot from how he conducts himself and how he approaches and executes shots. I think he is a very very good player and a little bit of a dark horse this week.

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