Two of golf's Majors have been fixed around the FIFA World Cup this summer: The US Open, which took place a about a month ago, and the (British) Open, which takes place next week. The former was a minefield for golf's top stars, with the likes of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods not making the cut. The USGA was heavily criticised for the Shinnecock Hills US Open, with the harshest words suggesting that the event was about luck and not skill. Not exactly what people want in elite sport.
At Carnoustie, site of the 147th Open Championship, players will look to right that wrong. No player finished with a score of under par at Shinnecock Hills (Brooks Koepka's winning score was +1), so the big guns will expect to dazzle on the beautiful Scottish coast. But, for some players, the nightmare of Shinnecock Hills will lie heavily on them as they try to shake off what occurred a few weeks ago.
Fowler summed up Shinnecock Hills rollercoaster
Rickie Fowler, so often so close to glory at the Majors, played his first two rounds at Shinnecock Hills like he was on the verge of something special, but never quite getting there. His third round was so spectacularly bad that it was hard to believe the scoreboard - 14 over. He then redeemed himself with a brilliant 5 under on the final day. In a way, Fowler's performance resembled the volatility of playing slots: breaking even for a while, some near misses, suffering some losses, pulling out the big win at the end, then, finally, cashing in his chips and heading off.
Fowler, a decent links player, will harbour better hopes of landing his first Major at Carnoustie. He is priced at 18/1 (odds from Mr Green) to break his duck at golf's oldest Major. As you might expect, world number one Dustin Johnson is the favourite, coming in at 12/1. The smart money might just be on Padraig Harrington, who is offered at a whopping 100/1. The Irishman won the Open the last time it was held at Carnoustie (2007) and, while he has fell away from the world's elite in golf, links golf suits his crafty and astute game.
Focus on McIlroy at Carnoustie
One player who will be hoping for redemption on the sandy shores of Scotland is Rory McIlroy (14/1). It's hard to say whether the Northern Irish star is in a slump or not. It's not fair to judge him on the US Open (he was cut at 10 over), but he hasn't really hit the heights of a few years ago. McIlroy is arguably golf's biggest and most marketable star after Tiger Woods, so you can see why those with money behind the sport will want him to succeed.
Indeed, all of this criticism behind what happened at Shinnecock Hills is tied into money. It is simply a reality that the sport needs its top stars to shine, both to satisfy the fans and those ploughing vast amount of money into it. All of it is intertwined, whether you agree with the lack of romance or not. It's not clear whether the USGA set out to "embarrass" golf's top players or not at the US Open, but you can guarantee that the corporate sponsors will be glad to see McIlroy, Spieth, Woods and the rest still in with a chance on Sunday evening in Scotland.