HOYLAKE, England -- For the fifth time in the last seven years, there are no American amateurs in the field at the British Open. It seems a little surprising until you appreciate that there are only four automatic exemptions into the event for amateurs (U.S. Amateur, British Amateur and European Amateur champions and the No. 1 player on the World Amateur Golf Ranking). Few U.S. golfers these days make the trip over to play the British Amateur and none play in the European Amateur. Meanwhile only four times has an American won the U.S. Amateur in the last seven years, and two of those (Colt Knost and Kelly Kraft) turned pro before the Open and thus forfeited their exemption. Long story short, two of seven sounds about right.
All this said the race for the silver medal at Royal Liverpool won't be any less spirited than in years' past. The foursome of contenders vying for low amateur honors all are among the top 50 in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking and have an average ranking of 30.75. They might be competing in semi-obscurity yet each knows the recognition that comes being the low man in the Open.
So who has the best chance of standing beside R&A chief executive Peter Dawson and the claret jug winner come Sunday's award ceremony? Here's our educated guess.
How he qualified:__ Won the 2013 European Amateur
World Amateur Golf Ranking:23
Odds of making the cut:8-1
Skinny: His qualifying win came last August, but his form seems good after finishing runner-up at the English Open Amateur last month. He also helped lead the English squad to third place last week at the European Team Championship in Finland. Chesters will turn pro later this year.
How he qualified:__ Medalist (67-67) in Final Qualifying at Woburn
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 47
Odds of making the cut: 5-1
Skinny: Following the lead of Graeme McDowell, Dunner just wrapped up his junior year at UAB, where he finished T-19 at the NCAA Championship. His college record earned him a spot on Europe's Palmer Cup team, where he went 1-2-1 in helping the squad win at Walton Heath last month. Dunne is trying to become the first Irishman since Rory McIlroy in 2007 to become the low amateur.
How he qualified:__ Won the 2014 British Amateur
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 5
Odds of making the cut: 3-1
Skinny: Neil beat South Africa's Zander Lombard, 2 and 1, in the final at Royal Portrush in June to become the youngest Scot to win the British Amateur title. Shortly prior to the win, he finished at the St. Andrews Links Trophy, losing in a playoff, and third at the Lytham Trophy. During the week, Neil snuck in a practice round with World No. 1 Adam Scott.
How he qualified:__ Finished second in International Qualifying in Thailand
World Amateur Golf Ranking: 48
Odds of making the cut:2-1
Skinny: This is Pan's third major championship appearance, having qualified for the U.S. Open in 2011 and 2013, making the cut in the latter and finishing T-45. The senior-to-be at Washington's amateur record includes earning All-American honors his first three seasons with the Huskies, twice reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur and reaching No. 1 in the World Amateur Ranking last summer.