Expert predictions: Our staff picks British Open winners and sleepers

July 16, 2018

Finally British Open week is here, and we asked our experts to select their winners and name a sleeper who is destined to turn some heads. Check out ours picks below.

Who will win the British Open, and who is your sleeper pick to contend?

Dylan Dethier: To win: Marc Leishman. Most underrated player in the world? He’s been in and out of form this year but I like the way the course and reported conditions set up for his clever game and easy demeanor. Sleeper: Peter Uihlein. He’s coming off a string of strong finishes across the PGA and European tours and his globe-trotting game remains relatively unheralded. Good showing at the Irish Open and three top fives at big Tour stops this season have me buying Uihlein stock.

Alan Bastable: Rickie. When Rickie arrived in Scotland last Monday, he didn’t beat his jet lag with a nap at the hotel: He beelined for a round at North Berwick. Dude just loves links golf, and he has all the shots to manage the humps, swales and shifting winds. (See his five top-30 finishes and just one missed cut in his eight career Open starts.) It’s his time — and let the record show I made this pick before his fine play at Gullane! Sleeper: Mark Calcavecchia. Hey, you asked for a sleeper! If Tom Watson could nearly win at 59, Calc can do it at 58.

Alan Shipnuck: Winner: Justin Rose. This Open is going to be all about ball-control and Rose has the tightest tee-to-green game on the planet. He needs one more big one to burnish a Hall of Fame candidacy and this feels like the week. Sleeper: Xander. He might be the most underrated player in golf and has been in good form all season, including a 6th-place finish at Shinnecock. Schauffele was 20th in his Open debut last year and I expect him to crack the top 10 this year.

MORE: Betting odds to win the British Open

Jeff Ritter: I’ll take Jon Rahm. Yeah, I know, temperament issues. But earlier this year at Augusta he cracked his first major-championship top five and recorded another Tour win. The U.S. Open may always be a poor fit, but he’s a threat in any of the others. Why not now? Plus, a European has to win one of these last two majors before the Ryder Cup, don’t you think? My sleeper is Scotsman Russell Knox, who’s having one of his best seasons. He looks like a guy peaking at the right time. Beware the hot golfer.

Josh Berhow: Still one of the most underrated players in the game, Reed’s last three major starts: 4th (U.S. Open), 1st (Masters), tied for 2nd (PGA). The guy simply brings his best stuff when the big-time events roll around, and I think his creative and gritty game bodes well for what Carnoustie will demand. As for a sleeper, give me another Masters champ, Danny Willett! Some could argue this is a deep sleeper, but Willett’s form is getting better. Six missed cuts in seven starts has been followed by two top 20s at the Irish and Scottish.

Rory McIlroy British Open
Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler are both among the favorites to win the British Open at Carnoustie.

Joe Passov: Winner: Tommy Fleetwood. He came close at the U.S. Open with a final-round 63, and he just happens to hold the competitive course record at Carnoustie, another 63, set in 2017 at the European Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Sleeper: Ian Poulter. Three top 10s this year on the PGA Tour, including a W in Houston and a pretty decent British Open record, including a T14 in 2017, T3 in 2013, a second-place finish in 2008 and a T27 in 2007, the last time the Open was held at Carnoustie.

Josh Sens: DJ. He was the hottest player in the game headed into the U.S. Open and had that title within his grasp, only to get edged by his gym buddy. Nothing about DJ has changed. He is still the best player in the world, in good form, heading to the kind of brutal ball-striking test that suits him just fine. For a sleeper, I’ll take Francesco Molinari. He quietly finished in the top 10 at last year’s Open and is in sound form this year headed into Carnoustie, fresh off a runaway win at the Quicken Loans and a T2 at the Deere.

Jessica Marksbury: Winner: Sergio. Before his Masters win, I always thought his major victory would come at the Open, given his stellar track record of performance. But there would be some serious poetic justice if he became the Champion Golfer of the Year at the site where his heart was broken by Padraig Harrington 11 years ago. Sleeper: Alexander Levy. Not only is he playing well this year on the European Tour, he has a lot to play for, as the French player with the best chance of teeing it up at this year’s Ryder Cup in Paris. And speaking of poetic justice, wouldn’t a Frenchman taking the title make an awesome Van de Velde retribution story? I’d love to see that.

Tim Reilly: Tommy Fleetwood becomes a full-fledged star this week. A lot of casual golf fans probably watched him closely for the first time when he stormed up the leaderboard Sunday at the U.S. Open. It’s Fleetwood’s week and a top young European player winning the British Open will heat up the Ryder Cup debates. Sticking with friends from overseas, I like Matthew Fitzpatrick as a sleeper…if Fleetwood let’s me down. He’s been playing well and has come away with strong showings at several of the last big events. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 23-year-old finds himself near the top of the leaderboard.