Sit back, put your feet up and tune in to one of the epic OpensJuly 20, 2018 Opinion
The first two days at Carnoustie have provided a leaderboard that provides few clues to the identity of the winner. Steve Carroll reckons it's shaping up to a tremendous weekend
Tell me who is going to win The Open. No, please, give me a hint. I haven’t got a clue.
Isn’t it fantastic?
A year ago, it felt like Jordan Spieth’s to lose (and he very nearly did). At Royal Troon in 2016, it was already evident at halfway that Henrik and Phil were about to engage in a personal duel on the Ayrshire shore.
This time, though, it’s all up for grabs.
And right in the mix are two home hopes we can all try and cheer on to become Champion Golfer of the Year.
At the risk of further enraging everyone in Scotland, football may not have come home but The Open has a serious chance of travelling to England in the hands of Tommy Fleetwood.
Imagine. He’s shot 71 and 65 and is still convinced he hasn’t played his best golf. We’ve already seen what he can do round Carnoustie when he does get it all together.
Released from the burden of driving past lampposts, bus shelters and billboards with his image on every one, as he did last year when the local hero at Royal Birkdale, he’s now got the title shot he has always wanted.
“Last year was definitely a bit more difficult than this year in terms of expectation not coming very quickly for me, struggling with my game, and that was a home Open,” he said.
“I can’t lie about it, if I could pick one tournament in my life to win, it would be the Open.”
He should be very excited about his prospects. He’s come through what’s been perceived to be the worse half of the draw and posted the kind of numbers we haven’t seen since Hoylake four years ago.
“I have to focus on these [next] two days first,” the Northern Irishman insisted as he tried to stay in the present.
“Obviously, I’d love to be able to hand the Claret Jug back to Martin Slumbers on the 1st tee of Portrush next year.”
Fleetwood and McIlroy – along with the South African duo of Zander Lombard and Eric Van Rooyen – are the exceptions in a leaderboard that, as we’ve come to expect, has a distinctly American feel to it.
Kevin Kisner was serenely heading to the locker room until finding the Barry Burn on the last. He’s still right at the head of affairs but I fear that won’t be the only time he sends a ball swimming.
If that’s disrespectful then so be it. He can wave the trophy in my face on Sunday evening and blow raspberries – or whatever expression comes easier to hand.
DJ is on a plane back to the States but it’s another Johnson who represents a very clear and present threat to McIlroy and company.
A baked Carnoustie, and it’s still pretty firm despite the Friday flurries of rain, sets up perfectly for 2015 Open champ Zach.
Take distance out of the equation, place a premium on short iron accuracy and putting and he remains one of the best players in the world.
Pat Perez was 200/1 at the start of the week. He’s a bit shorter now. Underrated by everyone but himself, he’s got the bravado and the game to win it all.
Have we even mentioned Tony Finau? He may have fortuitously found himself in the final group at Shinnecock Hills after the USGA’s shambles in New York last month but he didn’t fold after a shaky start.
He will only have learned from that experience.
Rickie Fowler, the self-confessed links lover with all the shots, is yet to fully fire but is still well in the hunt.
“This golf course does a really good job of not necessarily giving you a fairway,” he explained of the test Carnoustie provides.
“Even when you are laying up short, it’s still not very wide and you still have to worry about the ball bouncing sideways or forwards and going too far and ending up in a bunker.
“If you do miss the fairway, and you’re laying up and you end up having six iron in from out there, it becomes kind of a gamble.”
Let’s not forget Spieth. He’s spent two days trying extremely hard to blow his chances of a repeat win.
But even though he can’t keep a driver on the property, he’s somehow managed to find a way to hang on to the coat-tails of the leader.
What heart, what determination, what a player.
Is there anyone we’ve missed? Absolutely.
And there’s probably another half dozen players on the fringes who are one low round away from getting in the mix – a certain T. Woods among them.
So sit back, put the feet up, and don’t stray from the television. It’s going to be a hell of a weekend. It could be one of the best Opens climaxes ever.
More from NCG at The Open