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Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Open Championship - Preview

Up next on the global golf schedule is The Open Championship! While all golf fans have their favorite tournaments and memories surrounding their consumption of those events, I suspect everyone who has followed golf for any length of time holds the season's third major championship in high regard. I know when I think of The Open, the first thing that jumps to mind is waking up on Thursday morning and immediately finding a computer or smart phone to check the early scores.

I love watching links golf. The fact is, players either get it or they don't. While the rotation of courses change, the skills needed to navigate a links course is largely the same.
  • Keep the ball in play
  • Miss as many bunkers as possible
  • Be creative around the greens
  • Hole some putts
  • Catch the right side of the draw
  • Be patient
Some players are born with links golf in their blood and others grow accustomed to it with years of experience.Either way, more so than most weeks it's important to understand a player's history in past Open Championships. Somewhat like the U.S. Open, it's also very important to understand the past champions at the current course.

If we go all the way back to 1995 when John Daly won at St. Andrews, here's what we know about Open Champions. (Daly '95, Lehman '96, Leonard '97, O'Meara '98, Lawrie '99, Woods '00, Duval '01, Els '02, Curtis '03, Hamilton '04, Woods '05, Woods '06, Harrington '07, Harrington '08, Cink '09, Oosthuizen '10, Clarke '11 and Els '12)
  • They average playing 8.222 Opens before the year of their win. 
  • Their average age at the time of their victory is 32.61
  • They average 2.66 top 10s at The Open before their win.
  • They average 1.66 major championship wins before their Open win (Tiger skews this number).
  • They average .277 Open Championship wins before their win that year.
Similarly, if we look back at the winners at Muirfield dating back to Henry Cotton in 1948, we see the following. (Els '02, Faldo '92, Faldo '87, Watson '80, Trevino '72, Nicklaus '66, Player '59 and Cotton '48)
  • They average playing 8.5 Opens before the year of their win.
  • Their average age at the time of their win was 30.875.
  • They average 4.875 top 10s at The Open before their win.
  • They average 2.375 major championship wins before their Open win.
  • They average .875 Open Championship wins before their win that year.
  • They average 7.5 career majors at the end of their career.
So what stands out?
  • The winners at Muirfield are elite. Hall of Famers. This isn't going to be your Ben Curtis or Todd Hamilton Open. When you are researching this tournament and trying to identify a winner, ask yourself if you can see the guy finish his career with multiple majors and in the Hall of Fame. (Remember, they join a lineage that averages 7.5 career majors since '48.)
  • The youngest winner at Muirfield of that group was Player. He was 23, but had already played three Opens with two top 10s. A similar comp could be Rickie Fowler (24 with three starts, 1 top 10 and 2 top 25s).
  • The oldest winner at Muirfield of that group was Cotton at 41. It was his third of three British Opens. In that vein, don't rule out Padraig Harrington (41). 
  • Don't fall in love with the Graham DeLaet's and Billy Horschel's of the world just yet. They need some seasoning in this event and especially at this course.
So what's the perfect formula?
  • On paper it looks like a guy between 27 and 35 with at least a couple of top 10s in an Open Championship and a major championship title. That limits us to Geoff Ogivly and Adam Scott.
  • Expect my power rankings tomorrow to look very chalky, with a lean towards experience in majors and Open Championships.
  • Just don't get too trendy this week. 
We will return tomorrow with our power rankings. Until then, best of luck with your research!

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