All-in on Rickie Fowler at Royal Birkdale

Updated: July 17, 2017

7:53 AM ET

It’s a long trip from Weekly 18 headquarters to this week’s Open Championship. How long? Long enough to ponder anagrams for Royal Birkdale, which include Bad Roar Likely (but at least never a “Baba Booey” over here), Ladylike Arbor (strange for a links course), A Dorky Liberal (hey, it’s not a Trump-owned venue) and Railroad By Elk (an obvious reference to Rory McIlroy‘s decreased social media presence — and on-course performance). On to bigger, and undoubtedly more pressing, issues as this W18 is all Open, all the time.

1. I didn’t just pick Rickie Fowler to win this year’s Masters. I wrote an entire column detailing exactly why it would happen. That’s the kind of thing that’ll get a guy the #OldTakesExposed treatment, but instead I’m doubling down. That’s right: I’m picking Fowler to win The Open. He loves links golf, but more importantly, he’s ready to win a major. When he walked off Erin Hills after the final round last month, another golden opportunity gone awry, there was a quiet confidence around him, one which suggested he knows something we don’t. He then said all the right things: He was pleased with his play that week; if he keeps knocking on the door, he’ll win one; he can’t let that pressure bother him too much. That’s the kind of attitude that gets rewarded. It’s the kind of attitude that has me picking him to win this week — again.

2. The most common mistake made by the masses when it comes to predictions? It’s the same thing those commercials often warn in regard to the stock market: Past performance is not indicative of future results. Don’t believe it? Ask the crowd that for years clung to the notion that Sergio Garcia would never win a major. Someday soon those crowing that Fowler will never claim one — and it’s a large group — will be eating that crow instead. Just because something has never happened before doesn’t mean it never will.

3. The alarms have officially sounded for Rory McIlroy. Last week, he missed a second consecutive cut for the first time in more than two years and he’s now MC’d in three of his past four starts, which equals the same number as he owned in his previous 25 tournaments. At Dundonald in the Scottish Open, he reached only 50 percent of greens in regulation and needed 30 putts per round — each number below the field average. That’s an ugly combination.

4. The biggest issue for McIlroy? According to him, it’s the fact that he still hasn’t played enough tournament golf this year, having twice been sidelined already due to a recurring rib injury. “I’ve been playing catch-up all year,” he said after the latest MC. “I just haven’t played enough. I’d love to have played more.” Therein lies a Catch-22: McIlroy needs more competitive rounds to play better, but must play better in order to get more competitive rounds. At some point, something’s gotta give.

16. Oh, Callum Shinkwin. Poor Callum Shinkwin. Dude needed to make a par on the reachable par-5 closing hole at Dundonald in the Scottish Open for his first career win, then went for it in two, flubbed a chip and left a 5-foot par putt short. Then he did it again on the first playoff hole. His consolation prize? A spot in this week’s Open field, which might not be as much consolation as he’ll need.

17. I love this James Hahn tweet from Friday evening: “Flying from SFO to Manchester, UK as 1st alternate for the Open Championship. Worth the chance to compete in my favorite major of the year!” We’d all like to believe that professional golfers would do anything to compete in a major. Hahn is proving it.

18. There are no mulligans in professional golf, but maybe they should still offer ’em in the interview room. Here was Daniel Berger last week, explaining his rationale for playing the John Deere Classic before The Open as opposed to traveling overseas early: “My rookie year, I got into the British Open and I went to Scotland and played the Scottish Open, and that was just too much time in England.”

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