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Previewing Rickie Fowler and Other Pokes at The Open



This week’s 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale in England promises to be the quirkiest tournament of the season to date, and depending on how sideways the wind blows, one of the quirkiest in recent memory. The juxtaposition of nasty gorse and flat-as-a-tabletop fairways will stun viewers brave enough to awaken themselves at 12:30 a.m. for the first tee shots in the air.

As has been the case in the past few major championships, Oklahoma State has a fair number of alums involved in the festivities. Rickie Fowler is the headliner, but Peter Uihlein, Alex Noren and Charles Howell III are all playing sneaky great golf. Let’s take a look at their chances individually.

Rickie Fowler (Best finish: T2 in 2014): Fowler is my pick to win the tournament this year. I wrote more about why here. Birkdale is going to take drivers out of the hands of the game’s elite, and Fowler is a terrific driver of the ball with his long irons and 3-woods. I’m in love with his ball flight, and I think he’s got the temperament to win an Open. He would only accentuate the list of seven straight first-time major winners.

Also, the Ricktator could jump to No. 2 in the world with a W.

Charles Howell III (T28 in 2011): This is Howell’s first Open since 2012, and he got in by way of finishing second at the Quicken Loans National a few weeks ago. Howell only has one top 10 at a major (T10 at the 2003 PGA Championship), but I expect him to grind his way to a made cut and some more world rankings points.

“I remember there’s a lot of rough around there and you had better drive it straight,” said Howell recently. “But I remember the shots (Padraig) Harrington hit coming down the stretch. It was a wonderful Open last time, I know it will be again this time. I love The Open, it’s a phenomenal tournament and I’m thrilled to be there.”

Alex Noren (T9 in 2012): Noren was actually T5 after 54 holes at Birkdale the last time The Open was played here in 2008. He’s not had the most success at majors in the past, but his last 12 months on the European Tour have been absolutely stunning. Zero surprises if he contends this week.

Peter Uihlein (T48 in 2011): Uihlein contended at the French Open a few weeks ago before eventually losing to Tommy Fleetwood. He’s strung together a really good few years on the European Tour, and I love his odds this week at 125-1. It’s a lot to ask him to win a major without any finishes in the top 10 this year, but he has the talent and the pedigree to do it.

I wrote myriad pieces for CBS in the lead up to The Open and chatted more about Fowler and Co. on my golf podcast earlier this week. See those of you who are getting up for it in a few hours.

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