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Five outsiders worth a punt to win The Open at Royal Portrush this week

Crowds flock to yesterday’s practice rounds at Royal Portrush
Crowds flock to yesterday’s practice rounds at Royal Portrush
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Every year, without fail, at least one player emerges from relative obscurity to be a contender at The Open Championship.

Links terrain is the ultimate equaliser when it comes to golf, meaning players who traditionally cannot compete with the biggest hitters in the field suddenly vault into the picture.

So what better than to look at some of the players that may make a massive impact at Royal Portrush, particularly at a venue where not too many in the field have vast experience.

The qualifying criteria for a player to be on this list is that they must be outside of the top-50 players in the world rankings and also not have won in the last two years.

So here are five players who could be bolters this weekend...

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Byeong-Hun An (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Byeong Hun An

World Ranking: 56th

Best Result: 2015 BMW PGA Championship (1st)

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Best Open Finish: 26th (2014, Royal Liverpool)

Odds: 125-1

The youngest winner of the US Amateur when he triumphed in 2009, there was so much promise for An that has never been realised. The peak of his career came in 2015 when winning at Wentworth, and he then lost a play-off for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, but since then good results have been hard to come by for the 27-year-old. His record at The Open is patchy, at best, with a couple of missed cuts thrown in there, but with the pressure of his amateur career slowly fading, An is due a bounceback. It could be at Portrush.

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Ryan Palmer takes part in a practice round at The Open at Royal Portrush (Glyn Kirk/AFP)

Ryan Palmer

World Ranking: 68th

Best Result: 2004 Funai Classic (1st)

Best Open Finish: 30th (2011, 2015, 2016)

Odds: 200-1

On the face of it, Palmer's results in The Open over the years don't exactly paint a pretty picture for the 42-year-old, but he's got a game that translates across all kinds of courses and has the experience of winning big tournaments when the chips are down too. He nearly ended an eight-year wait for a trophy a year ago when he was in a play-off at the Farmers Insurance Open, but at some point will surely give himself a real chance at picking up another trophy. With the chance to do it at a Major, it could be this weekend.

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Joaquin Niemann during a practice round at The Open at Royal Portrush (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Joaquin Niemann

World Ranking: 79th

Best Result: 2018 the Memorial Tournament (6th)

Best Open Finish: debut

Odds: 100-1

The Chilean hotshot could have played in last year's Open as an amateur, but instead declined the invitation to go professional, so he will have the glorious memory of playing his first Open Championship at Royal Portrush. A former World Amateur No.1, Niemann hasn't quite lived up to that billing on the PGA Tour so far, although he does have a small smattering of top-10 finishes to his name. At some point, though, his amateur form has to translate into the pro game, and what better week for it to happen than this one?

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Zach Johnson celebrates with the Claret Jug after winning the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews (Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
 

Zach Johnson

World Ranking: 111th

Best Result: 2015 Open Championship (1st), 2007 Masters (1st)

Best Open Finish: 1st (2015, St Andrew's)

Odds: 150-1

Yes, incredibly the 2015 champion golfer of the year makes this list. Why? Mainly because he hasn't done anything of note since that victory at St Andrew's. A 12-time winner on tour, and a two-time Major champion having also donned a Green Jacket, Johnson has all the credentials to win at Royal Portrush and could easily do so. He's played in five Ryder Cups and, as already outlined, has the experience of closing out a Major on two occasions, while his game is suited to the links. But how much has that confidence wavered over the years? Enough to see him fall outside the world's top-100 at least.

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Chris Wood during a practice at The Open at Royal Portrush (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Chris Wood

World Ranking: 182nd

Best Result: 2016 BMW PGA Championship (1st)

Best Open Finish: 3rd (2009, Turnberry)

Odds: 400-1

He has previous in this event having won the Silver Medal in 2008 at Royal Birkdale, and then a year later he picked up a third-placed finish at Turnberry to continue his love of his home Major. Since then, however, things have tailed off considerably in terms of his Open form, his best result a tied-17th two years ago, with a missed cut and a withdrawal among his other finishes since. A three-time winner on the European Tour, Wood hasn't tasted victory since the 2016 BMW PGA Championship and has slid a whopping 160 places in the world rankings having at one point been 22nd. Was part of the 2016 Ryder Cup team as well, just in case you'd forgotten.

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