5 contenders to lift the Claret Jug at the Open


Zach Johnson will defend his Open title next week as the year's third major championship takes place.

But who's in the frame to lift the Claret Jug at Royal Troon? We take a look at some key contenders...

1. Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy lifts the Claret Jug at the Open

When McIlroy started the French Open with an erratic 71 and then revealed he was dealing with 17 different swing thoughts as he battled to eradicate the "bad habits" which had crept into his game, his chances of regaining the Open title he won in 2014 appeared slim. However, the four-time major winner shot 66 in the second round and recovered from a front nine of 40 with a back nine of 30 in round three. He eventually finished third and should be in better shape at Troon after 10 more days of practice.

2. Louis Oosthuizen

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen celebrates with the Claret Jug

Oosthuizen's Open record after lifting the Claret Jug in 2010 was nothing to write home about, but the South African lost a play-off for the Masters in 2012 and finished second in the 2015 US Open after a record last 54 holes at Chambers Bay. He followed that by losing out in a three-man play-off for the Open at St Andrews - scene of his win five years earlier - and is adept at links golf.

3. Branden Grace

Branden Grace watches the ball after teeing off

Grace does not possess a stellar record in the Open, but has been threatening to claim a maiden major title for the past two seasons with three top-five finishes in his last five starts. Was tied for the lead with Jordan Spieth before driving out of bounds on the 70th hole of the 2015 US Open and was third in the US PGA two months later, as well as finishing fifth at Oakmont in June.

4. Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson holds the trophy after winning the US Open

Johnson admitted that winning his first major title was a monkey off his back - and followed it with a third World Golf Championship title two weeks later - so it would be no surprise to see the big-hitting American contending again at Troon. The Open was the only major in which he did not finish inside the top 10 in 2015, although he led at halfway before fading to a tie for 49th. Has the power to decimate the front nine at Troon if it plays downwind.

5. Sergio Garcia

Sergio Garcia celebrates a successful putt at the Open

After Johnson won at Oakmont, it would somehow be fitting if Garcia could also shed the unwanted "best player not to have won a major" tag at Troon. Nine of the 36-year-old Spaniard's 20 top-10 major finishes have come in the Open, including second place to McIlroy in 2014 and a tie for sixth last year. Garcia was also fifth at Oakmont and is long overdue.