The Open Championship: SB Nation’s Playing Through staff reveals who will win the Claret Jug

The golfing world turns its attention to Royal Liverpool in Northwestern England, where the world’s best players will battle for the Claret Jug at the 151st Open Championship.

The Playing Through crew has done an admirable job of picking winners this season, as the team accurately predicted Brooks Koepka’s victory at Oak Hill and Viktor Hovland’s triumph at the Memorial.

Check out who the team thinks will hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday:

Kendall Capps, Editor

I am taking Tommy Fleetwood to capture his first major championship. This week, Fleetwood is the hometown hero. He is originally from Southport, Merseyside, England, about 30 miles—or 49 kilometers—up the road from Royal Liverpool.

The huge Everton F.C. supporter has played very well as of late, as he has finished in the top six in three of his last four events, including a runner-up finish at the RBC Canadian Open.

Fleetwood is strong off the tee, as he ranks 7th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained overall and in strokes gained: tee-to-green.

He is among the leaders in back-nine scoring this year too, ranking 10th on tour as he has averaged 34.76 on his second nines. That’s a sign he can close.

Fleetwood has the game to win a major and finally breaks through this week. With the victory, Fleetwood will become the first Englishman to win the Claret Jug on English soil since Tony Jacklin won his only Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s in 1969.

Tommy Fleetwood, England, Royal Liverpool, The 151st Open

HOYLAKE, England — Tommy Fleetwood of England and Tyrrell Hatton of England walk on the 4th hole during a practice round prior to The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 18, 2023.
Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Jack Milko, Writer

Something tells me that Rory McIlroy breaks his nine-year major championship drought at Royal Liverpool this week, especially considering how he won the Scottish Open.

McIlroy eviscerated The Renaissance Club from tee to green last week, showing the world that his game is at its peak. The shot he hit on the 72nd hole Sunday, a low 2-iron into a “60-yard wind,” is one of the best shots of the PGA Tour season. McIlroy admitted afterward that it was the best shot he hit all year.

The Northern Irishman has racked up six straight top-10s dating back to the PGA Championship, which includes a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open. He has played solid golf, even though his putter has sometimes disappointed him.

The 2014 Champion Golfer of the Year ranks second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee and leads the tour in driving distance. His iron play has also been otherworldly.

Considering he knows his way around Royal Liverpool, I am taking McIlroy to win his second Claret Jug this week, putting an exclamation point on his wild year in golf.

Rory McIlroy, Royal Liverpool, England, The 151st Open

HOYLAKE, England — Rory McIlroy stands with his bag on the 16th green during a practice round prior to The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 18, 2023.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Savannah Richardson, Writer

Viktor Hovland will win his first major championship this week as the 25-year-old will take the Claret Jug back home to his native Norway.

Dating back to last year’s Open Championship at St. Andrews, where he tied for fourth, Hovland has three top-ten finishes in majors.

The Norwegian has had a terrific 2023 season and is due for a major breakthrough.

He tied for 2nd at the PGA Championship, won his biggest tournament to date at the Memorial, and has racked up seven top-tens.

Although he has not recorded a top-ten since Oak Hill in May, Hovland still managed to make the cut at the U.S. Open, Travelers Championship, and Scottish Open.

Last week in Scotland, Hovland carded a 7-under 63 on Friday to briefly put himself in the mix. But he faded away Sunday in the tough conditions and tied for 25th.

Alas, he bounces back with a vengeance this week, using his superb ability off the tee and improved short game to conquer Royal Liverpool.

Viktor Hovland, PGA Tour, Genesis Scottish Open

NORTH BERWICK, Scotland — Viktor Hovland of Norway plays his second shot on the 10th hole during Day Two of the Genesis Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club on July 14, 2023.
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Luke Robitaille, Social Producer

My pick is Rickie Fowler, as he finally wins a major championship.

The former Oklahoma State Cowboy is playing solid golf. He bounced back this season from his recent struggles with authority.

Fowler won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in a playoff, tied for 5th at the U.S. Open, and has finished in the top ten in eight events in 2022-2023.

He also shot the lowest round on the PGA Tour this season, a 10-under 60 on Saturday at the rain-soaked Travelers Championship.

Fowler most recently tied for 42nd at the Scottish Open, the first event he finished outside the top 20 since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

But that result is somewhat misleading. Fowler fired three sub-70 rounds before shooting a 4-over 74 on Sunday in brutally tough conditions.

His recent hot stretch stems from his iron game, as he ranks 7th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approaching the green. He has also hit 69% of his greens in regulation, which ranks 17th.

Fowler has the game to get it done, as he will hoist the Claret Jug Sunday. Considering he could not enter the field in 2022, Fowler will go from ineligible to champion golfer of the year in just 12 months.

Rickie Fowler, Royal Liverpool, England, The 151st Open

HOYLAKE, England — Rickie Fowler plays a shot on the 2nd hole during a practice round prior to The 151st Open at Royal Liverpool Golf Club on July 18, 2023.
Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Who do you think will win the 151st Open Championship at Royal Liverpool? Comment below and let us know!

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko for more golf coverage. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough too.

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