Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The Open: How will Ulster's fab four do?

Golf is probably the toughest sport to predict. So much of it, especially at The Open, is down to the conditions and who is lucky enough to go out in the best weather.

Also how many times have you been left amazed by some unknown coming from nowhere to win a major?

No matter, it’s time to put heads on chopping blocks as four Telegraph experts give their predictions on the prospects of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Darren Clarke or Gareth Maybin lifting the Claret Jug on Sunday.

STEVEN BEACOM

Rory McIlroy: Is desperate to emulate McDowell’s major success. Has a good record at St Andrews and could go close, very close. If he is in contention entering the final day, I believe he could win it. Wouldn’t it be great to see him and Tiger Woods going toe-to-toe on the back nine on Sunday?

Graeme McDowell: The Portrush man has quite rightly celebrated his stunning US Open success. Winning back to back majors is a big ask but Graeme has the confidence and ability for a top 10 finish.

Darren Clarke: Did brilliantly to qualify for the Open with his performance at the Scottish Open. Needs to start well at St Andrews. If he does, a top 15 place is on.

Gareth Maybin: Will love playing at St Andrews and has the game to do very well. I guess Gareth’s first target will be to make the cut. I reckon he’ll do that and if he finishes in the top 25, he will have done exceptionally well.

ROBERT FENTON

Rory McIlroy: Has an affinity with the course and that sees him as 16-1 second favourite. Anticipated poor weather and high winds should not be a drawback to young Rory who is particularly good on links courses. He can go very close but may just fall short. A top four spot is well within his grasp.

Graeme McDowell: It would be sensational if McDowell won his second successive major but while he has been cut to 33-1, the stats are against him. Under no pressure and should be relaxed throughout but will be satisfied if in the leading 20.

Darren Clarke: Got into the event at the last moment with that second at Loch Lomond. Form is very much in-an-out and more out than in. Don’t think he will survive the cut.

Gareth Maybin: The Ballyclare man is a 300-1 outsider and that reflects his chances. Has enjoyed a good year but surviving to the third day will be a success.

PETER HUTCHEON

Rory McIlroy: This is Rory’s first Major on a course he truly knows well. His strength is his aggressive play — and that can also be his downfall. The newly lengthened Road Hole could stand between him and a first Major.

Graeme McDowell: His easy-going nature belies an inner core of steel. He’s relishing life as US Open champion and has not completely turned around his career simply to be a one-hit wonder. He is the course record holder at St Andrews (62) and will be a contender come Sunday afternoon.

Darren Clarke: This is a step too far for a man who should have at least a couple of Majors to his name. His putting crumbled under pressure on Sunday at Loch Lomond and is just too unreliable these days.

Gareth Maybin: Made the cut at the US Open and will do the same here. A solid all-round performer, Gareth is still learning his craft and a first win — although not this week — isn’t far away.

BILLY WEIR

Rory McIlroy: While out playing earlier this week, my slightly challenged chum confidently announced that the Holywood man had never recorded a round of more than 30 at the Home of Golf. With previous form like that, he must be a major contender. Top 10 finish.

Graeme McDowell: It’s gonna take some great golf shots from a great golfer on a great golf course for the man from Portrush to add a second Major to his collection. But fuelled by a fortnight of the good life back home and with some great cardigans to contend with the gale off the North Sea, then he can storm into the top six.

Darren Clarke: Destined to fall into the Monty category of great players never to win a Major and that’s not going to change this week. Will make the cut — just.

Gareth Maybin: The Open (slap anyone who dares to call it the British Open immediately) throws up some huge surprises and Maybin could sneak into the top 30.

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