Jordan Spieth’s main rivals are singing his praises ahead of the British Open but have vowed to do their best to ruin his grand slam dreams.
American Rickie Fowler, fresh off a Scottish Open victory and a runner-up finish to world No.1 Rory McIlroy in last year’s British Open, leads the charge of those trying to stop the 21-year-old phenom from becoming just the second man in history to claim the first three majors of the year.
Fowler concedes he has a way to go to match it with the injured McIlroy and No.2 Spieth, who between them hold all four major trophies.
But a win in the Players Championship in May and locally last week have him primed for another assault on the Claret Jug.
“A good start would be to become a major champion, and that’s something that I’ve always dreamed of and have wanted to accomplish,” said the fifth-ranked Fowler of the chase of his rivals.
“The way obviously Jordan has been playing amazing golf and Rory has been doing that for quite some time, I do have some work to do.
“I need to continue winning. I think that’s the biggest thing, and putting myself in positions to win.”
Fowler closed like a freight train for his two wins this year, giving the 26-year-old confidence he can be there when the whips are cracking.
After a disappointing missed cut at the US Open, he closed last week’s Scottish Open with three birdies in the final four holes for a one-shot win.
Fellow American Bubba Watson, a two-time Masters champion, believes he can lift to the challenge but laments his inability to hit straight when it’s come to past Open championships.
While his self-taught wild swinging curve shots work wonders on many courses, most notably Augusta National, the world No.3 has missed three of six British Open cuts and never been better than 23rd.
“Watching Jordan Spieth, watching McIlroy, watching these great players win, I want to be up there and have a chance on Sunday,” Watson said.
“On paper, St Andrews is probably not the best for me with all the conditions you add to it; a little bit of water, I don’t really play good in the rain because I move the ball so much.
“The way I like to move it in heavy winds is pretty difficult.
“For me, it is harder to hit the straight shots because I don’t see the straight shots.
“I’ve got to learn that around here. I haven’t done it very well yet.
“So hopefully in the near future I can learn it and still make some putts where I have a chance.”
British hopes rest heavily on Justin Rose, the Englishman who won the US Open in 2013 but makes no secret he covets the Claret Jug above all else.
“It would mean the world,” said the eighth-ranked Rose.
“It would be a realisation of a lot of childhood dreams and hard work.
“And obviously growing up, this is the one tournament that I dreamed of winning.
“Obviously major championships, you’ll take any of them. You don’t get picky.
“They’re hard to win. But if you were to get picky, this would be the one for me.”