Sunday at the British Open is setting up to be a properly scrummy affair, as 19 largely capable players sit within five shots of the trio of leaders that includes the defending champion. With the pressure and the wind speeds each about to ramp up, there’s sure to be a spot of madness as a loaded leaderboard dukes it out for the capital C title of Champion Golfer of the Year. But fear not! I present (13 possible versions of) your 2018 British Open final round storylines.
13. The Webb.com Tour rolls on
Webb Simpson already won the Players Championship this season, which, to quote Tiger Woods from earlier today, is “obviously the fifth major, possibly.” If he’s capable of that type of dominant victory, why not a low Sunday number? In this situation the wind stays down and the short-and-straight Simpson pounds fairways and greens to shoot 62 and come from the clouds.
12. Roses are red (numbers)
The weather stays miraculously calm between 1:45 p.m. ET (Rose’s tee time) and 2:45 (the final group) and this steady son of England takes full advantage with four birdies, then holds on tight. Including Rosie’s clutch 18th-hole birdie to make the cut on Friday, the World No. 3 has played 19 spectacular holes in a row. How ’bout some more?
11. The Classy-in-Defeat Revenge Tour
All-time nice guy and heartbreaking 2017 runner-upper Matt Kuchar channels the rage that has been building within since Jordan Spieth black magicked his way to last year’s claret jug.
Using the same mojo that saw him rally from seven shots down to win the French Open in his last start, underrated Swedish star (and World No. 11!) Alex Noren goes spooky low, busting his surprisingly terrible major championship record.
9. Channelling TPC Deere Run
Zach Johnson, who has somehow mastered the polar opposite styles of the John Deere Classic and the Open Championship, shakes off a sketchy Saturday finish and, as conditions get hellish, manages his way around Carnasty better than the rest of the leaderboard’s uncouth bombers.
8. Rising Rory
Summoning the form that saw him run and hide with the trophy on Sunday at this spring’s Arnold Palmer, Rory McIlroy does everything he’s already been doing plus finds a few more fairways and makes a bucket of putts, shoots seven under and re-stakes his claim to the golf throne.
7. Seeing Red
Rather than laying back to 220 on a bunch of medium-length par 4s, Tiger Woods runs back his Saturday game plan as lesser irons players (and weaker minds) wilt in the wind. Terrified by the very mention of his name and the sound of the Tiger roar, the leaders wave the white flag as Woods comes in hot.
6. Shades of Shinnecock
Tommy Fleetwood-inspired British hooligans take shifts throughout the night playing ding-dong-ditch and leaving flaming bags of excrement, Billy Madison-style, on the front porch of the “frat house” that’s home for several contenders this week, leaving sleep-deprived co-leaders Spieth and Kisner off their game. Fleetwood does his part with a dart-throwing demonstration and roars into the lead, holing the final putt that just slid by at Shinny.
5. Papa Francesco
Francesco Molinari does the exact same thing he has been doing for the last couple of months and posts a score in the mid-60s (his cartoonish last 11 rounds: 67, 65, 65, 62, 65, 66, 70, 64, 70, 72 and 65) all while staring down the Man in Red playing alongside him.
4. Goin’ to the Chappell
Although the ink has barely dried on Saturday’s scorecards, the Golf Community seems to have settled on exactly one thing: Kevin Chappell will not win the British Open on Sunday. For that very reason Chappell, who has plenty of game and will be comfortable alongside his buddy (and fellow Kevin) Kisner, wins.
3. The Roommate
Wedged ‘twixt the swarms following Tiger in front and Spieth behind, Kisner keeps his head down, his putter hot and rides the from-nowhere heater that he’s been on this week all the way to the top of the British Open leaderboard. Also, given his reported needling of Tiger about his, uh, photo scandal, I think there’s a good chance he gets in Spieth’s head if they’re eating cereal in front of the telly Sunday morning.
2. X marks the spot
Hard-hitting, soft-speaking Xander Schauffele dominates his Class of 2011 showdown with Spieth and joins Justin Thomas as ’11’s latest major champion. In the process he would become the first major winner whose name starts with an X and officially joining the game’s upper echelon. He’ll be there to stay a while.
1. The Return of the Boy King
Like a cat playing with his food, Jordan Spieth allows Schauffele, Kisner et al to hang around and even allows a McIlroy/Woods charge to gain momentum before announcing his arrival with a 40-footer for eagle at 14 and two dagger birdies down the fearsome finishing stretch to ultimately win the 2018 British Open by three and elevating his “high and tight” Carnoustie barber to cult hero status.