Triple threats: 10 threesomes to watch at the Open Championship
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The Open Championship is just hours away, and given the lengthy list of golfers with a strong opportunity to contend come Sunday, it’s one of the more anticipated majors in recent memory.

Unlike the United States Golf Association or the PGA of America, the R&A doesn’t combine golfers into laugh-out-loud groupings. What we get instead are groupings based purely on golf, which is a reflection of the tournament as a whole.

Ranked here are the seven most-watchable groups for the first two days of The Open Championship at Carnoustie, based on the chance a winner emerges from the group, quality of play so far this season, and entertainment value.

Justin Thomas/Francesco Molinari/Branden Grace

Thomas, the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and two-time winner already this season, is paired with two dark-horse picks this week. Molinari has recorded first- or second-place finishes in four of his last five tournaments worldwide, and he's considered one of the purest ball-strikers on the planet. Grace, meanwhile, shot the first-ever 62 in major championship history a year ago at Royal Birkdale and has nine top-25 finishes in majors.

This is the group to watch for the first two days.

Jordan Spieth/Justin Rose/Kiradech Aphibarnrat

Spieth, the defending champion, is oddly winless during the 2017-18 PGA Tour season, but he'll likely be motivated while playing a different style of golf this week than the usual bomb and gauge on Tour. Rose was favored by many to win last month’s U.S. Open and is on top of many lists this month as well (he's also been a winner already on Tour this season). And then there’s Aphibarnrat (affectionately known as "The Barn Rat"), one of the most colorful golfers out there, and a winner on the European Tour this year.

Jon Rahm/Rickie Fowler/Chris Wood

Youth serves this group well. Rahm has not-so-quietly climbed the Official World Golf Ranking and now sits fifth. His fiery approach to golf is a contrast to Fowler’s laid-back Californian vibes, which is what makes this group so interesting. Fowler finished runner-up at the Masters and hasn’t missed a cut at a major in two years. He’s due for a big win. Wood rounds out the trio after finishing tied for fifth and third at his first two Open Championships.

Rory McIlroy/Marc Leishman/Thorbjorn Oleson

McIlroy’s first Open Championship was at Carnoustie in 2007, where he finished as the low amateur. He won the Claret Jug in 2014, has finished tied for fifth and fourth the last two years, and won earlier this year on the PGA Tour. McIlroy hasn't hid how distracted he’s been at PGA Tour events while paired with other big-name stars. If he plays poorly this week, it would be all on him. Leishman, the 2009 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, won twice on Tour a year ago and hasn’t quite rounded into form yet in 2018. However, he’s a pure ball-striker and should be a threat this week. Oleson won the Italian Open on the European Tour in June to earn a spot.

Tiger Woods/Hideki Matsuyama/Russell Knox

What more can you say about Woods? Although his putting has been poor this year, along with his driving, the 42-year-old's solid iron play will help him this week. If he gets on a roll with his putter, the three-time Open Champion should be considered a threat, especially because he loves links golf. Matsuyama has been off this season, but he did win twice last year. Meanwhile, Scotland’s own Knox will do well not to get lost in the hype of it all. Woods is Woods, and Matsuyama has a legion of Japanese media and fans following him wherever he goes. This will be a well-followed group for many reasons.

Ian Poulter/Cameron Smith/Brooks Koepka

The intense Poulter has had a resurgence in recent years, and earlier in 2018 he won the Houston Open to earn the last spot in the Masters the following week. He’s grouped with Koepka, the back-to-back U.S. Open champion and potential Ryder Cup nemesis, which should make for some interesting exchanges. Smith, an Australian, will do well to keep the peace. He won on the PGA Tour in 2017 and finished tied for fifth at the Masters.

Phil Mickelson/Satoshi Kodaira/Rafa Cabrera Bello

After last month’s U.S. Open putting fiasco it should be interesting to see how Mickelson, who won the 2013 Open Championship, is received by fans. It'll be must-see TV, especially considering the 48-year-old has won already this year on the PGA Tour and could be a threat again. Cabrera Bello finished tied for fourth at The Open last year and is familiar with Mickelson: He was one shot away from being in the playoff between him and Justin Thomas earlier this year at the WGC-Mexico Championship, and is a Ryder Cup stalwart. Kodaira, meanwhile, won the RBC Heritage in May and has finished atop the leaderboard eight times on the Japan Golf Tour.

Louis Oosthuizen/Paul Casey/Patrick Reed

There's a battle of sweet swings and some not-so-sweet attitudes in this group. Oosthuizen captured the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews and always seems to appear on major championship leaderboards, notching two top-20 results so far this year. Casey won the Valspar Championship earlier this year and is committing himself to the European Tour while trying to earn a spot on the Ryder Cup team. If he does make the squad, he’ll be facing off against Captain America himself, Patrick Reed. Reed captured the Masters, his first major, in dramatic fashion in April to break a two-year winless drought. He followed that up with a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open.

Henrik Stenson/Tommy Fleetwood/Jimmy Walker

Stenson won the 2016 Open Championship, prevailing in a duel over Phil Mickelson. He’s admitted to struggling with some health issues and had to withdraw from last week’s Scottish Open on the European Tour. But according to PGA Tour stats, he’s still the straightest driver of the ball. If someone is going to give him a run for his money in the accuracy department, it’s Fleetwood (who might be a nice Ryder Cup partner in a few months). The 27-year-old, who finished second at the U.S. Open last month, won earlier this year on the European Tour. Walker, the 2016 PGA Championship winner, joins them.

Darren Clarke/Bernhard Langer/Retief Goosen

This is the lone group that features three major champions. Although they may not be one of the biggest draws, this trio will certainly elicit a ton of respectful cheers from the knowledgeable European golf audience. Clarke captured The Open in 2011 – his last professional victory – at age 40. Langer has been a force on the PGA Tour Champions since turning 50. He won seven times last year, including the Senior Open Championship. Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open champion, joins them. He earned a spot in this year’s Open Championship after getting through a local European qualifier. Experience is key at The Open, and maybe one of these guys can make a spirited run up the leaderboard. The Open is the only major to have four champions above the age of 40 in the last decade.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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Triple threats: 10 threesomes to watch at the Open Championship
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