Golf: The 121st Open: Four to follow

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The Independent Online
CRAIG PARRY

Age: 26. World ranking: 22.

Latest odds: 25-1.

THE Australians have a sound record in the Open and the claret jug, following Ian Baker- Finch's triumph at Royal Birkdale last year, has got the taste for XXXX. Twelve months ago he was in the top 10 after winning the Scottish Open. Last week he was joint seventh at Gleneagles and has been in impressive form for most of the season. In contention in the Masters at Augusta until he let the crowd get to him in the final round. Will not have that problem at Muirfield. What he does have is Andy Prodger, the man who caddied for Nick Faldo at Muirfield in 1987.

FRED COUPLES

Age: 32. World ranking: 1.

Latest odds: 12-1.

COUPLES likes the Open and often does well in it. Joint fourth in 1984, joint fourth in 1988, joint sixth in 1989 and joint third last year. Couples made the great leap this season when he won his first major and joined the Green Jacket club. Possibly the only jacket he has ever owned. Mega-stardom fits uneasily on his shoulders. Shot 64 in the last round at Royal Birkdale last year. Says he will treat Muirfield's myriad bunkers as water hazards and will avoid them like the plague. A man in Ipswich walked into a William Hill shop and stuck pounds 2,000 in cash on Couples to win.

JOHN DALY

Age: 26. World ranking: 45.

Latest odds: 100-1.

JOHN 'Wild Thing' Daly has no chance in the 121st Open Championship, his first, but it will not stop thousands following his progress on the fairways. Has been equipped with probably the largest driver ever made, the Wilson Killer Whale. There are only two in existence and since Daly announced he has added distance to his drives, the company has been inundated with requests. From the sale of each club they will donate dollars 10 to the Save the Whale Fund. On a swing analyser yesterday he hit the ball 387 yards at more than 150mph.

DAVID GILFORD

Age: 26. World ranking: 49.

Latest odds: 50-1.

THE antithesis to grip-it-and-rip- it Daly, the man from Crewe could become the quietest Open champion in history. Gilford won the English Open at The Belfry last year, earned a place in the Ryder Cup and this season won the Moroccan Open on one of the European Tour's toughest courses. According to the Philips statistics, Gilford is the most accurate player in Europe off the tee and is also top in hitting greens in regulation.

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