The Open Championship history is littered with shattered dreams full of unforgiving hazards. No matter where a player makes their debut it won’t be a soft landing, but this week is as tough as it gets.
Host of the 2018 Open Championship, Carnoustie is situated on the eastern windswept shores of Scotland and features narrow fairways-narrowed even further by their speed-gnarled, overgrown roughs, bunkers that could swallow a truck whole and temperamental weather that knows no mercy. Enough to reduce professionals and amateurs to emotional ruins, Carnoustie on a good day is one of the toughest tracks in the world. During the Open, these guys will face everything “Car-nasty” has to offer.
34 professionals and 4 amateurs make their Open Championship debut this week. It is fair to say that most of the players who are on their maiden journey will not likely be in the broadcaster’s conversations, nor are any of them close to the betting favorite, but neither was a certain Frenchman in 1999. Who will write the next great Open Championship story line? Could it be one of these newcomers?
4 Newcomers To Watch
Patrick is one of two players in the top 20 of the FedEx Cup Standings (currently 15th) making their Open Championship debut this week and has the best odds to win (125/1) of all those players. His career has unfortunately been marred by the tragic loss of his friend and Caddie, Chris Roth, in 2016, and by a debilitating back injury that has forced him away from the game four times since 2012.
His talent has never been questioned, now healthy and re-energized by the game of golf the former world amateur No. 1 has made the cut in 14 of 16 starts on the PGA Tour in 2018, including his first career PGA Tour victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. If he can stay healthy, it will be fascinating to see just how high this talented player can rise.
Andrew Landry is the other player in the top 20 of the FedEx Cup Standings (currently 19th) making their Open Championship debut. 2018 also saw Landry earn his first career PGA Tour victory at the Valero Texas Open. A true wildcard, Landry has made one more cut (10) than he has missed this season, but half of those made cuts led to top-10 finishes.
Andrew played himself into a chance to qualify outright for the Open Championship. It all came down to a 12-foot putt on the 72nd hole of the Quicken Loans National, but the putt was left begging and Andrew was unable to capitalize on his opportunity.
In order to punch his ticket to the Open, Landry needed a player to drop out of the field. Ultimately, he received his spot spot in the Open, a withdrawal of Bernd Wiesberger moving him into the field. A streaky player with nothing to lose, Andrew is exactly the kind of person who could get hot and find himself in contention on the weekend, or he could be on a plane back to the States early.
Another name from the PGA Tour you may be familiar with is Luke List. Just outside the top 20 in the FedEx Cup Standings, Luke is still in search of his first career victory. His play in 2018 has produced promising results and List seems trending in the direction of his breakthrough win sooner rather than later.
List is an absolute bomber and if he finds fairways on Thursday and Friday his length could be a huge weapon on the baked out, brown fairways of Carnoustie. He is unproven and he hasn’t played his best golf in the biggest tournaments this season, and the moment of the Open Championship may prove too large for this unproven pro, but this wouldn’t be the first time a little-known player came to Carnoustie and gave the fans a thrill of a lifetime. Now would it?
If you don’t know who Shubhankar Sharma is, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Neither did Phil.
"He probably thought we were media and said, ‘Not right now. After the round." 😂
Shubhankar Sharma will NEVER forget the first time he met Phil Mickelson. 👍 pic.twitter.com/K1U4ARlmrv
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 4, 2018
Shubhankar has burst onto the international scene in the past year, amassing two European Tour titles. He also held a 54-hole lead over a prodigious field at the WGC Mexico Championship until the eventual winner, the guy who didn’t know Sharma was a golfer, ended up taking home the title.
Sharma received notoriety for his invitation to the Masters and also qualified for the US Open, but so far has been unable to make the cut in the first two majors of the year.
His PGA Tour career has gotten off to a rocky start, but he is one of the youngest players in the field every week. Shubhankar has a bright future ahead of him and will be looking to get himself a nice birthday present for his 22nd birthday this Saturday, a made cut and a weekend tee time in the Open Championship.