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Stephen Gallacher: My talented trio to watch for in 150th Open at St Andrews

Jon Rahm is one of my picks this week at St Andrews
Jon Rahm is one of my picks this week at St Andrews

The star-studded line-up for the Open is so impressive you could stick a pin on the page when it comes to choosing a potential winner but I’ve managed to whittle the list down to three.

Given my track record you should probably take all of this with a pinch of salt but for what it is worth my three to watch are Jon Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood.

St Andrews is one of Tyrrell’s favourite courses to play and his record there is amazing. I played with him one year in the Dunhill Links and he played the course beautifully.

If you place any stock at all in previous performances being a predictor then you have to put him among the favourites.

Tommy is a guy I always fancy on a links course so it should come as no shock to anyone that I’m putting him forward again as a potential Open champion.

He’s so good at links golf and he has the game to win at the Home of Golf. He can flight the ball or keep it low when required and his iron play is up there with anyone.

If he putts well this week he will not be far away.

As for Jon, what can I say about him at this point? He won the US Open last year and finished third in the Open at Royal St George’s.

He is a man who is destined to lift the Claret Jug at some point and why not this week? He has been knocking on the door for so long it seems inevitable.

Why no talk of Schauffele?

Xander Schauffele won the Genesis Scottish Open from a superb field on a brilliant week in East Lothian.

I’m fascinated at seeing Rory McIlroy rated as the favourite by the bookmakers. He is at his best when the going is soft but Shane Lowry has told me he has never seen St Andrews so hard and fiery.

How anyone could overlook the man with the hottest form in golf too is remarkable.

Xander Schauffele made it three wins in a row when he claimed the Scottish Open title at The Renaissance Club on Sunday.

Having won the JP McManus Pro-Am when up against incredible competition at the beginning of the week and the Travelers Championship on the PGA Tour, I’m stunned to see him barely receive a mention.

The biggest threat he faces is from himself. Does he have enough left in the tank after a stunning couple of weeks? We’ll have that answer soon enough.

Just seeing Tiger Woods part of it all is fantastic and I’m sure everyone will want to see him do well.

Big week for Aberdeen’s golfing duo

Then of course there is Paul Lawrie having the honour of hitting the opening ball and Aberdeen’s David Law making his first appearance at a major in arguably the biggest one he’ll ever play in his career.

I hope David soaks it all in and enjoys it. He has practised with Paul who I am sure will have passed on some valuable tips.

The secret to playing in a major is trying to ignore the fact you are playing in a major.

Strip away the bells and whistles, which are all fantastic by the way, and David is playing on course he knows well. Had it been Birkdale or Royal St George’s it would have been tougher for him.

If David can ignore the enormity of it all and focus on the challenge of playing the course and its myriad of challenges, he can have a memorable week.

Tiger is spot-on with his LIV Golf critique

Tiger Woods at his press conference at The 150th Open at St Andrews.

It has felt as if everyone has been waiting for Tiger Woods to have his say on LIV Golf and he certainly made it worth our while after breaking his silence on the new rival tour.

He touched on various aspects of the new tour, criticising the 54-hole format, the decision by PGA Tour members to resign and join the new tour, and the guaranteed money for every player in the field.

He also touched on the possibility of not competing in majors as a consequence of their actions.

I echo pretty much all of what he said. A 54-hole format is more suited to older players, not young guys, and while I agree competition is healthy I’m a traditionalist in the same vein as Tiger and Rory McIlroy, who has also had much to say on the subject.

I’m sure I’m not the only one pleased a player of Tiger’s standing in the game has come out and spoken passionately in defence of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour.

When you see pictures of Lee Trevino, Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus on the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews you realise just what it means to those players to be part of Open folklore.

I could be wrong but I cannot see a day where any player will be reeling off one of their LIV Golf wins with misty-eyed grandeur.

My whistle-stop tour of the north-east

I had contemplated going to the United States this week to compete in the Barracuda Championship but decided against it.

Had it been on the Eastern Seaboard as opposed to California I would have gone but the next DP World Tour event is the Cazoo Classic at Hillside in England.

I love playing Hillside but I don’t think I would have been able to give it my best if I didn’t get there until the Tuesday night.

It was a tough call to make in the end but as way of preparation for next week I’ve enjoyed a busman’s holiday of sorts.

I’ve spent this week on a north-east tour instead by visiting Banff, Peterhead and Fraserburgh. I’ll play at Renaissance this weekend then head for Southport.