The 2016 British Open is nearing. As is the case with any tournament, it’s important to know who the best players are heading in.
Obviously, the 2016 Open Championship has plenty of the world’s top-ranked golfers heading in with a good deal of momentum. But in other cases, the hottest golfers may not be the names that one would normally think of.
Headed into the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon, who are the 10 hottest golfers in the world?
1. Dustin Johnson
In golf talk, this is a gimme. Johnson has won each of his last two starts. That, of course, includes Johnson’s first major at the U.S. Open.
"The shot of his life!"
Mic drop from Dustin Johnson. https://t.co/IjYf5K6Umh
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 20, 2016
The major victory also goes a long way in removing any doubt that might have existed about Johnson in the big tournaments. We know now that he not only has the mental makeup to close a major championship out, but to pull it off under tough circumstances (more on that here).
No golfer has won the U.S. Open and British Open in the same season since Tiger Woods in 2000. D.J. certainly has the talent to do that and heads to Royal Troon as the hottest golfer in the world.
2. Jason Day
Dustin Johnson enters the Open Championship as the world’s hottest player. That said, Jason Day has unquestionably been the world’s best player in 2016. Within the calendar year, Day has missed only one cut and had another tie for 27th. In his other 11 events, he has not finished outside of the top-25. He’s also won three times.
If Johnson is on form, there aren’t many golfers in the world who have the raw talent to keep up with him. Day is one of them.
But perhaps we shouldn’t focus on what Day can do when he’s on form. After all, majors often come down to who can grind the best. At the U.S. Open, Day clearly didn’t have his best game. For a good portion of his first two rounds, it looked as though he might miss the cut.
He not only made the cut but came back to finish in a tie for eighth place. If a guy can contend at Oakmont when he’s far from at his best, he’s one of the hottest golfers in the world.
3. Sergio Garcia
While Sergio Garcia may not have the 2016 resume to match Johnson or Day, he’s contended an awful lot this year. He has finished in the top-10 in six of his 12 worldwide starts in 2016. That doesn’t even include a win and a tie for fourth in his last two starts of 2015.
In his most recent two starts, Garcia finished in a tie for fifth. In the start before that, he won the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Sergio Garcia has now tied Seve Ballesteros for most wins by a Spanish-born player.
He's your winner in Dallas. 🏆 https://t.co/steVDWr7wY
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) May 22, 2016
One of the more recent ties for fifth came at the U.S. Open.
Obviously, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out Garcia’s major history. He’s never won a major in his career, and with that, some skepticism is natural.
Still, we’d also be remiss if we didn’t point out how hot Garcia has been for a while. Expect him to be a factor at Royal Troon.
4. Jordan Spieth
It’s hard to overlook Jordan Spieth in a major. The former world No. 1 certainly has a knack for showing up on the biggest stages.
But while his 2016 doesn’t quite stack up to 2015, Spieth hasn’t exactly struggled through 2016. He’s won twice, recorded four more top-fives and another top-10. In his two of his most recent outings, Spieth has a win at the DEAN & DELUCA Invitational and a tie for third at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Again, it may not look great compared to 2015. But offer that season to every golfer in the world and you’ll be able to count those who’d say “no” on one hand, with room to spare.
Some fantastic play from both Johnson and Day has “relegated” Spieth to No. 3 in the world. Still, considering his recent form and career play in the majors, he has to be considered a real threat here. He’s one of the world’s best and hottest golfers heading into the British Open.
5. Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy has fallen to No. 4 in the world. He hasn’t won a major since the 2014 PGA Championship. Something is clearly very wrong here, right?
Not so much.
Rory McIlroy's last eight events entered show a surging golfer peaking at the right time. pic.twitter.com/3XJKtTPpQK
— Sportsnaut (@Sportsnaut) July 12, 2016
With one missed cut and nothing else worse than a tie for 12th in his last eight starts, McIlroy’s game is sharp.
McIlroy is one of the world’s most talented golfers. That is nothing new. But he’s also one of the world’s most consistent players and is almost always a factor coming home on Sunday.
Don’t expect anything drastically different at Troon.
6. Henrik Stenson
In his last 10 tournaments, Stenson has two missed cuts and had another withdraw that surely would have ended in a third. If you keep only that in mind, it’s hard to call him one of the hottest golfers in the world.
But in four of those seven other tournaments, Stenson has a win and three top-four finishes. Keeping that in mind, it’s impossible to say that Henrik Stenson is anything other than one of the world’s hottest players.
Like Sergio, Stenson has had a career with plenty of major disappointments and at this point, no triumphs.
But it doesn’t change the fact that he has been one of golf’s best players in 2016. He absolutely enters the Open Championship as one of the favorites.
7. Alex Noren
Headed to Troon, it’s safe to say that Alex Noren’s most recent memories are good.
King of the castle!
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 10, 2016
With that win, Noren jumped 50 spots in the Official World Golf Rankings.
But the memories were pretty good before that, too. In his seven starts before the Scottish Open victory, Noren recorded a tie for sixth, an eighth-place finish, a tie for ninth and a tie for 12th.
Nobody will ever call Noren the sexiest name in golf. But as he heads into his first British Open since 2013, things are definitely headed in the right direction.
8. Branden Grace
Over the last few years, Branden Grace has established himself as one of golf’s best grinders. While Grace has yet to win a major, that attribute will help him eventually break through.
But to talk exclusively about Grace’s skills as a grinder does a disservice to the run he’s been on this season.
In April, Grace won the RBC Heritage. In the five tournaments since, he’s tied for fifth, ninth, and 10th. Grace also has three top-fives and another tie for 20th in his last five majors.
It’s that kind of form that’s helped Grace get to the top 10 in the world rankings. It will also help Grace get into contention over the weekend, when majors are often decided by who plays the toughest golf. Betting against Grace in that contest would be ill advised.
9. Andy Sullivan
Admittedly, things didn’t look great for Sullivan, who missed his third cut in four events at the Irish Open. Since then, it’s been a different story for the 36th-ranked golfer in the world.
Sullivan is five-for-five in made cuts since the Irish Open. The worst of those finishes was a solid tie for 23rd. In his two most recent events, Sullivan finished tied for fifth at the French Open and tied for sixth at the Scottish Open.
Unlike everyone else on this list, Andy Sullivan doesn’t have the recent wins that these other players have. But he’s had a stream of steady finishes. That is vital in golf.
In majors, getting yourself into contention is a big first step. Sullivan’s recent finishes indicate that he’s ready to do that. If the English golfer is around for the weekend, anything can happen down the stretch.
10. Hideto Tanihara
No Japanese man has ever won a major. If Hideto Tanihara finds himself in contention to be the first, do not be surprised.
The last two times Tanihara has started a tournament, he’s won. Those two victories didn’t exactly come out of left field, either. Prior to his two victories, Tanihara had four top-five finishes (and another tie for sixth). That run included a second place at the New Zealand Open.
— #NZOpen (@NZOpenGolf) March 12, 2016
The odds may say that Tanihara is a longshot. His play in 2016 says otherwise.
Most of the world’s attention goes to the American and European Tours. Playing primarily in Japan, it’s easy for Tanihara to fall under the radar. But not many golfers enter the Open Championship in better form.