AFP Sport takes a look at eight of the players to watch at this week’s 144th Open Championship which begins on Thursday at St Andrews:


Jordan Spieth (USA) 

Age – 21

World ranking – 2

– All eyes will be on the 21-year-old Texan who has turned the 2015 season on its head by winning the first two majors at the Masters and US Open. He will be attempting to become only the second man, after Ben Hogan in 1953, to win the first three Grand Slam events to open the year. Fresh from a playoff win at last weekend’s John Deere Classic, Spieth can also snatch the world number one spot from injured Rory McIlroy with a win on Sunday at St Andrews. 


Justin Rose (ENG)

Age – 34

World ranking – 7

– The popular South African-born Englishman enjoyed his greatest success at the Open back in 1998 when he finished in a tie for fourth place as an amateur. Early struggles in his career were soon forgotten as he rose to number three in the world in 2013, winning his first major the same year at the Philadelphia-hosted US Open. It was the first major won by an Englishman since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters. A gifted links player and winner of the 2014 Scottish Open, Rose will be looking to produce his best golf on a course where he won the 1997 St Andrews Links Trophy, also as an amateur. 

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods (USA)

Age – 39

World ranking – 241

– The iconic 39-year-old American always draws massive galleries wherever he plays and this week will be no different on a course he describes as his favourite in the world. Once the dominant force in golf, Woods has struggled in recent seasons and underwent back surgery in late 2013 that also saw a further dip in form. Second on the all-time list of major wins with 14, but still four short of Jack Nicklaus’ record, Woods has no immediate plans to retire as he chases a first tournament victory since 2013. When he won the Open at St Andrews in 2000, he crushed the field by eight strokes while his second Open Championship victory, also on the Old Course in 2005, saw him canter home with a five shot winning margin. A third Open title in 2006 followed at last year’s venue, the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. 


Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)

Age – 32

World ranking – 17

– The soft-spoken South African stunned the world of golf in 2010 when he won the British Open at St Andrews with a brilliant performance against the odds. Coming into the tournament, the now 32-year-old had made the cut only once in eight major appearances. However he had the tournament of his life to win by seven shots and lept into the global golfing spotlight. A former world number four, he has seven wins on the European Tour and came close to winning the US Open earlier this year at Chambers Bay where he finished tied for second with Dustin Johnson and just one shot behind champion Jordan Spieth. 

Tom Watson

Tom Watson (USA)

Age – 65

World ranking – 1124

– One of the legends of the game, Tom Watson is set to play in his final British Open this week at the age of 65. Winner of eight majors, including five British Opens (75, 77, 80, 82, 83), the Kansas City native thrilled golf fans with his riveting rivalry against fellow great Jack Nicklaus during a golden era in the game in the 70’s and 80’s. In 2009 at the age of 59, he led the Open, at Turnberry, for much of the tournament and had a chance to win on the final day with an eight foot putt on the 18th before losing in a playoff against fellow American Stuart Cink. Watson has also won six majors on the senior circuit and played in four Ryder Cups, captaining the US team to victory in 1993 but was on the losing side as captain in 2014 against Paul McGinley’s European side at Gleneagles.  


Phil Mickelson (USA)

Age – 45

World ranking – 21

– One of the most popular players to ever play the game, ‘Lefty’ is a contender to win at every tournament he enters. The burly 45-year-old from San Diego is only missing the US Open to complete his Grand Slam set and has agonisingly finished second a record six times. Has won over 40 PGA tournaments and reached a career high of world number two on several occasions. Won his first Open in 2013 when he became the first player to win the Scottish and British Opens in consecutive weeks. He began the final day five strokes off the lead but produced a magical 66 to win by three shots ahead of Sweden’s Henrik Stenson. 

Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler (USA)

Age – 26

World ranking – 5

– The Californian is still looking for his first major success after a series of near misses and finishing runner-up last year at the British and US Opens, third at the USPGA and fifth at the Masters. Arrives at St Andrews in a rich vein of form having come from behind to win last weekend’s Scottish Open at Gullane. Also won his second PGA event in May when he defeated Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a playoff at the Players Championship in his resident state of Florida. The 26-year-old is firmly established in the world’s top ten and only needs a Grand Slam breakthrough to further enhance his reputation as one of the stars in the game. 


Jason Day (AUS)

Age – 27

World ranking – 8

– Australian Jason Day has finished runner-up at major tournaments on three occasions, the 2011 and 2013 US Opens as well as the 2011 Masters. However his results on European soil have yet to produce a victory and his best result at the British Open was a tie for 30th in 2011. His Asian looks are down to his mother who was from the Philippines and he once gained inspiration from reading a book about Tiger Woods. The 27-year-old from Queensland reached a career high ranking of world number four in 2014 thanks to victory in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship that same year. Tragically lost eight family members, including his grandmother, in November 2013 during Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. 

– Agence France-Presse

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