Open Championship: 5 worldwide sleepers could steal the Claret Jug

Open Championship: 5 worldwide sleepers could steal the Claret Jug

Henrik Stenson after winning the Claret Jug past year.

Of those seven winners since Johnson, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have gone on to become No. 1, while defending champion Henrik Stenson has spent 250 weeks ranked in the top 10 in his career. Mickelson carded a bogey-free 65 to come up just short.

However, Stenson responded with a birdie on the next and the pair traded blows in a manner reminiscent of the "Duel in the Sun" between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at nearby Turnberry in 1977.

"As focused and in the moment that I was the last four, five holes, I don't think I've ever been that on the golf course", he said nearly 12 months on, in a conference call organised by the PGA Tour. I didn't really feel part of that.

Wasn't it just? Stenson had been close to breaking his major duck before, finishing tied-third at the Open in 2008 and 2010, then second in 2013.

It was a thrilling denouement to a fabulous four days of golf, with Stenson becoming the first Swede to win a major. The only question that remains is who will be at the top of the leaderboard when that drama ensues? This one not so much.

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Perhaps Sir Nick Faldo thought this was the only way an Englishman would ever get his hands on the Claret Jug again. "Last year was the best year of my career. Just brings back nice memories talking about it".

Should he win another Open this week at Royal Birkdale, Stenson has bigger plans for the Claret Jug. He finished tied-third there nine years ago.

"The jet-ski was probably the goofiest and most fun we've had with it". Successfully defend this week, and Stenson has promised to take it skydiving. "If I would have hit the same amount of shots, but I wouldn't have rolled in as many putts from 10, 15 feet, obviously the score would have been a whole lot different". "We've had some. good talks and good evenings together".

Even in the wind and rain of Royal St Georges in 2011 Clarke finished at minus five, while Phil Mickelson finished three shots better than par when winning at a bone dry Muirfield in 2013. When Mark O'Meara won in 1998, he was the reigning Masters champion at the time. "We'll have to wait and see".

"I invited him to a little after-party and he got to drink out of the Claret Jug - that was a special moment for sure. My daughter had some Coca-Cola and my son had some Sprite out of it, so there's been various drinks". Heading to Birkdale, it will be nearly three years since McIlroy last won a Major title, at 2014's PGA Championship, a year that also saw him hoist the Claret Jug at nearby Royal Liverpool. Not surprisingly, it retained its allure. I'm writing this from the media center here at Royal Birkdale, and right outside there are very few clouds, and it's about 74 degrees Fahrenheit with a 10 miles per hour breeze.

The young guns will have something to say about that, of course and hotly fancied tips like the rampaging Jon Rahm, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and the local Southport lad Tommy Fleetwood are among those who could keep the streak of maiden Major winners going. The only factor holding him back could be his lack of competition golf.

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