As the British Open starts super early Thursday morning, the chase for another major championship commences.
Trying to figure out who will contend at majors is quite the inexact science, but it’s certainly a fun exercise as we get geared up to see the world’s best players vie for a career-altering triumph.
Most such conversations usually end up revolving around Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and whoever’s the world No. 1 at the time (Adam Scott right now). Of course, 2014 U.S. Open champion Martin Kaymer and streaking Justin Rose are favorites of bettors, too.
But for the sake of having some variety, let’s take a look at people that won’t gobble up pre-tournament attention but have a chance to be in contention come Sunday.
After all, the British Open produced four first-time major winners — Padraig Harrington (2007), Stewart Cink (2009), Louis Oosthuizen (2010) and Darren Clarke (2011) — in the five-year span from 2007 to 2011.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five players who could pull a surprise at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England:
World Golf Ranking: 6
Top major finishes: 2nd (2011 U.S. Open), Tie-2nd (2013 U.S. Open, 2011 Masters), 3rd (2013 Masters), Tie-4th (2014 U.S. Open)
Why to watch: Day has been knocking on the door at major tournaments for some time. He won the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this year and seems primed to break through at a major soon.
World Golf Ranking: 16
Top major finishes: Tie-2nd (2011 British Open), Tie-4th (2014 U.S. Open), Tie-5th (2010 PGA Championship)
Why to watch: Johnson has a history of major near-misses, including three years ago at the British Open and his final-round 82 after leading the U.S. Open through three rounds in 2010. His strong game, plus those disappointments, could fuel him to a signature victory.
World Golf Ranking: 25
Top major finishes: Tie-2nd (2014 U.S. Open), Tie-5th (2011 British Open), Tie-5th (2014 Masters)
Why to watch: Fowler’s bold style of play lends itself to a wild variety of results, including top-five finishes at his last two majors and a missed cut at last year’s British Open. But it also puts him in contention on big stages.
World Golf Ranking: 35
Top major finishes: Tie-3rd (2012 British Open), Tie-3rd (2008 Masters)
Why to watch: When Snedeker is on his game, he is one of the best golfers in the world. His victories include the 2012 Tour Championship and the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He’s been in the top 20 at the last two U.S. Opens, tied for 11th at the British Open a year ago and was a major contender at The Open in 2012.
World Golf Ranking: 63
Top major finish: Tie-14th (2010 British Open)
Why to watch: Holmes earned a big-time victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., this May, then followed it up with a tie for 17th at the U.S. Open. He was ranked 509th as recently as March and has risen quickly on the strength of seven top-25 finishes in his past 12 tournaments.