07/13/2011 06:16 pm ET Updated Sep 12, 2011

The Most Open of Opens

This week's Open Championship at Royal St Georges presents the opportunity for a potential sixth straight first time major champion in golf. It is a run that stretches back to Graeme McDowell's victory in the 2010 U.S. Open, and is in many ways symptomatic of the game's current state of flux. With so many of the golfing establishment -- Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Jim Furyk to name but a few -- now on the wrong side of 40 and struggling to consistently find form, there is very much a feeling that the guard is changing within the sport. No small contributing factor to this is of course Tiger Woods' run of injuries and/or indifferent form which now stretches back as far as the, worryingly high, 18-month mark. In any case, only once since 1895 have there been six consecutive first time major winners; this week I expect to mark the second occasion.

Now, given that currently the world's 1 & 2 ranked players have precisely zero majors between them, perhaps this isn't the daring premonition that my dramatic 19th century stat hinted at. However, I will be sticking my neck out below by listing three rank outsiders whom I feel have the potential to upset the apple cart at Sandwich and make the Claret Jug their inaugural major title.

Matteo Manassero -- Age 18 -- Odds 66/1
If it weren't for the exploits of a certain Rory McIlroy then the golfing press would have long since touted Manassero as 'the' next big thing -- even the next Tiger Woods, perhaps. After winning the Amateur Championship in 2009 aged just 16, Manassero subsequently claimed the silver medal honours as the leading amateur in that year's Open Championship at Turnberry, finishing 13th overall. Since turning pro he has added two European Tour titles to his name (that's one more than McIlroy has now), and all of this achieved before his 18th birthday. A straight driver of the golf ball and outrageously good putter, Manassero's main advantage lies in his fearless attitude. In fact, he has so little to lose at Royal St Georges this week that he might just go out there and win.

Thorbjorn Olesen -- Age 21 -- Odds 150/1
Perhaps the least well-known of the three, Olesen has quietly built a reputation on the European Tour this season as a birdie-making machine. Never was this more evident than in his final round 62 in the BMW Italian Open, which propelled him out of mid field mediocrity into an unlikely tie for second. A further second place finish in the Open de France, staged at 2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf national -- an event which the 21-year-old must already be penning into his long-term diary -- saw him qualify for the Open Championship. If he can translate his recent form on to the links layout, he has a great chance.

Alexander Noren -- Age 29 -- Odds 200/1
Despite being significantly older than the other two, Noren is still considered amongst golfing circles as a precocious talent. Indeed the fact that -- regardless of the two European Tour titles he has to his name -- he is seen as one of golf's underachievers is testament to Noren's potential as a world beater. Unfancied by most this week, as shown by his outrageously long odds, Noren has tasted victory as recently as six weeks ago, and his smooth swing might just be the perfect combatant to any adverse weather conditions that the British 'summer' is liable to produce in Sandwich.