LONDON, July 14 (Reuters) - Tony Jacklin, winner of the 1969 British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, identifies five players to watch in the July 19-22 major championship at Carnoustie:
RORY McILROY (Northern Ireland)
“Rory is an exceptional ball-striker but I watched him during last week’s Irish Open and in the first six or seven holes he missed four putts of six or seven feet, and he knows as well as anybody that you can’t do that and win.
“He is prodigiously long and a fine iron player but we all know golf is a masquerade, it’s the putter that talks the loudest. When you have 26 putts a round, that’ll do it all day long.
“When Mike Weir won the U.S. Masters in 2003, he had 90- something putts. When Rory’s putter is on fire, he’ll string a ton of birdies together, but it’s about finding that moment of inspiration to get it all started.”
“Jordan is the defending champion but he’s been out of sorts with the putter this year.
“Whether he’ll rise to the occasion, we’ll have to wait and see. If he gets a good first round under his belt and gets a bit of inspiration, he’s the sort of guy who could win.
“Jordan has proved he can play links courses. I don’t like to see a guy struggling the way he has but it’s a hard game and sometimes tough to figure out.
“I wouldn’t be favouring an American at Carnoustie this year other than Jordan, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson or Zach Johnson.”
RUSSELL KNOX (Scotland)
“Russell had a great week on links when he won the Irish Open last week and will be popular right now with the Scottish galleries.
“He’s a good player and it’s clear he should have been in the last European Ryder Cup team in 2016. The changes they have made to the selection process for this year’s event shows they’ve quietly realised they got it wrong last time.
“It’s important to have your best players teeing it up against the powerful Americans in the Ryder Cup and two of the best players last time out, Knox and Paul Casey, weren’t there and Europe paid the price.”
FRANCESCO MOLINARI (Italy)
“Francesco has not had great success on links courses but he sometimes looks like a machine out there. He just missed out on winning his home open in Italy at the start of June but bounced back with an eight-shot victory at the Quicken Loans event in Maryland.
“That was incredible golf he produced and, don’t forget, he also won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May. The only downside is that kind of golf is not necessarily rewarded on a links course.
“Hitting the ball straight like he’s been hitting it, you are going to keep getting rewarded, especially on an American-style layout with receptive greens and kind fairways.
“A links course is often not receptive to a good shot, anything but. I’d love to see Francesco do well at Carnoustie because he’s a great guy and good for the game.”
DANNY WILLETT (England)
“No Englishman has won our Open since Nick Faldo in 1992 but Danny seems to be back on something like the form we know he can produce after spending a year and a half in the wilderness.
“I almost thought he’d packed up playing but he’s certainly shown a couple of weeks of better form and must be close to getting it right again.
“Someone like him, if he gets off to a good start, might get inspired with a home crowd behind him. The same applies to any British player, if the fans get behind them, their chances can soar.”
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Tony Jacklin is the event host for the Farmfoods British Par 3 Championship at Nailcote Hall in Coventry from Aug. 7-10 (britishpar3.com) (Reporting by Tony Jimenez Editing by Toby Davis)