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BlogOpen Championship Preview and Picks

The Open Championship

July 20th – 23rd, 2017

Royal Birkdale Golf Club

Southport, England

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,156

Purse: $10.250 million

with $1,845,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Henrik Stenson

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 87 of the top 100 and 66 of the top 66 in the latest Official World Rankings.  Of those between 67 and 100, that not in the field are #67 Anirban Lahiri, #68 James Hahn, $69 Scott Piercy, #77 Danny Lee, #86 Jim Furyk, #90 Jim Herman, #91 Luke Donald, #92 Hudson Swafford, #93 Daniel Summerhays, #96 David Lingmerth, #98 Keegan Bradley and #99 Graeme McDowell.

The field includes 24 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players not in the field are #23 Mackenzie Hughes.

The field includes all 25 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.

The field includes 16 past Open champions: Henrik Stenson (2016), Zach Johnson (2015), Rory McIlroy (2014), Phil Mickelson (2013), Ernie Els (2012 & ’02), Darren Clarke (2011),Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Stewart Cink (2009), Padraig Harrington (2007 & ’08), Todd Hamilton (2004), David Duval (2001), Paul Lawrie (1999), Mark O’Meara (1998), Tom Lehman (1996), John Daly (1995), and Sandy Lyle (1985).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the U.S. Open field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the U.S. Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the U.S. Open.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the British Open

Player John Deere Scottish Open The Greenbrier Irish Open Quicken Loans French Open Travelers BMW Inte. U.S. Open FedEx St. Jude Lyoness Open Memorial
Tommy Fleetwood
(315.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(40)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T6
(40)
4
(106.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Xander Schauffele
(264.33 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T35
(15)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP T5
(93.33)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP
Rickie Fowler
(255 pts)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(93.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T2
(33.33)
Ryan Fox
(254 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP 6
(60)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP T23
(18)
DNP
Daniel Berger
(211.33 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
Win
(88)
DNP DNP
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(198.67 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(16)
T42
(10.67)
T4
(53.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Bryson DeChambeau
(197 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka
(191 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(176)
T37
(8.67)
DNP T31
(6.33)
Brian Harman
(180 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T35
(10)
DNP T2
(133.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Hideki Matsuyama
(171 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(133.33)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
Kyle Stanley
(167.33 pts)
T55
(0)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T57
(0)
DNP DNP T27
(15.33)
DNP T6
(20)
Jamie Lovemark
(159 pts)
T25
(25)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP T75
(0)
DNP T27
(30.67)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
Jon Rahm
(155.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Kuchar
(152 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(45.33)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
Bill Haas
(151.67 pts)
DNP DNP T37
(13)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(93.33)
DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
Patrick Reed
(149 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
T20
(30)
DNP T17
(33)
DNP T5
(46.67)
DNP T13
(49.33)
DNP DNP T57
(0)
Charley Hoffman
(139.33 pts)
T39
(11)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP 8
(66.67)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
Charles Howell III
(136 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP T45
(5)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Marc Leishman
(134.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP T27
(30.67)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
Alexander Bjork
(129 pts)
DNP T35
(15)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP
Peter Uihlein
(121 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
T78
(0)
DNP T25
(8.33)
Jordan Spieth
(120.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP T35
(20)
DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Steve Stricker
(118.67 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(45.33)
DNP DNP T40
(3.33)
Callum Shinkwin
(116.67 pts)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP T30
(20)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP WD
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Padraig Harrington
(116.33 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T42
(8)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T31
(6.33)
Robert Streb
(112.67 pts)
T74
(0)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP T55
(0)
DNP T57
(0)
DNP DNP T31
(12.67)
DNP DNP
Andy Sullivan
(112 pts)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Bernd Wiesberger
(111.67 pts)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(23)
DNP T20
(20)
T16
(45.33)
DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP
Sergio Garcia
(105.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
T21
(38.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Thorbjorn Olesen
(102.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T48
(2)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tony Finau
(101.33 pts)
DNP DNP T7
(55)
DNP T29
(21)
DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T40
(3.33)
Andrew Dodt
(100 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Russell Henley
(98 pts)
DNP DNP T5
(70)
DNP T46
(4)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(30.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP
David Drysdale
(97.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP T16
(34)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Zach Johnson
(97.33 pts)
T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T27
(30.67)
DNP DNP T40
(3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the British Open

Player John Deere Scottish Open The Greenbrier Irish Open Quicken Loans French Open Travelers BMW Inte. U.S. Open FedEx St. Jude Lyoness Open Memorial
Tyrrell Hatton
(-43.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Stuart Manley
(-43.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP
Jeunghun Wang
(-38.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP WD
(-5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Darren Fichardt
(-36.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jhonattan Vegas
(-30 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Chris Wood
(-28.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP WD
(-5)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Mark Foster
(-28 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP T47
(2)
DNP
Thongchai Jaidee
(-26.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T62
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Darren Clarke
(-25 pts)
DNP WD
(-5)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Russell Knox
(-24.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T62
(0)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
T37
(8.67)
DNP T65
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

This is my 40th British Open and still to this day can’t believe the drastic change from the States to England.  Just last week I was sweating my butt off in Virginia and enjoying our pool in a home that we have sold and by the time I return will not own any more.  Getting off the airplane in London it was like stepping off the plane in San Diego.  The weather couldn’t be better, 80 degrees at Birkdale today with not a cloud in site.  But we are at the British Open and we all know from day to day we can go from summer to fall to winter weather.

That is the allure of the Open Championship, something that is different than what we normally see in the states. Last year at Troon it was cold and windy every day, with some rain over the weekend.  In 2015 at St. Andrews the weather was raining most of the week, and it was cold. In the five or six years before, the weather at the Open was like being in San Diego, picture perfect. But with the kind of weather that they are predicting for us this year, it makes this week fun to watch as the players will have to show that they can survive rainy and windy conditions.

So anything interesting for this year?

Lot’s of storylines.  The big one is what has happen to Rory McIlroy, he has missed the cut in three of his last four starts including missing the cut at U.S. Open.  It’s absurd what some are writing that McIlroy’s game is in shambles and he may never win again, sorry I don’t buy any of that.  He will play well again and be a force in majors for years to come.

All eyes will be on Dustin Johnson who we haven’t seen since Erin Hills.  Normally he likes to spend a lot of time at home and then usually will play in Ireland the week before getting ready.  But this year he got here on Saturday and has been playing, so he should know the course very well.

What about Royal Birkdale?  The course looks great and green.  In a way, I have to think that the R&A like that the weather will not be good this week.  I believe that if it were a bright sunny week of golf with no wind like it was at Muirfield in 2013 or Hoylake in 2014 Birkdale would get torn apart by the players.  The course is too short and needs the wind to protect it.  The back nine could play two to three shots tougher, and it will be interesting to see.  One thing to watch, the typical wind is from the west, from the Irish Sea.  But the forecast for Friday is for the winds to shift from the south so the course will play opposite, the front nine will be tough, and the back nine will be easy.

No matter, we are all looking forward to it all.

Championship information:

  • The British Open traces its roots back to October 17, 1860, at the Links at Prestwick. Eight professionals vied at the inaugural Open Championship, making three trips around the 12-hole golf course at Prestwick. Willie Park Sr.’s 174 gave him a two-shot win over Old Tom Morris. The original prize was the Challenge Belt. It’s interesting to note that a month later on November 6th, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States.
  • In 1873, Tom Kidd’s victory at St. Andrews was monumental. It was the first-Open Championship held at St. Andrews, and with Kidd’s win, he took home the first-ever Claret Jug. The jug was manufactured at a cost of 30 pounds by Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh. Now to put that in prospective, 30 pounds today would be worth about 50 dollars. Not much money in today’s world but here is a better view of it. In searching the value of the British pound in 1860, it had the purchasing power of about 63.10 today. So if you multiply 63.10, 30 times you get 1,893 pounds which mean in today’s money they paid about $3,000 for makeup the original Claret Jug.
  • By 1892, The Open Championship had moved to a 72-hole format, 36-holes over two days. With the changes to Open Championship format, play began to increase. As play increased, a cut was instituted, beginning in 1898, to limit the number of competitors over the final 36 holes. The increase in competition led to a decrease in scoring. Jack White’s 296 in the 1904 Open Championship marked the first time a competitor shot an aggregate score under 300. His final round 68 also set a record for the lowest round by a golfer. The Open Championship went on a six-year hiatus beginning in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I. When the tournament resurfaced in 1920, it did so under new ownership. The R&A was entrusted with the task of managing the event. To this day, the R&A still administers the championship.
  • The R&A quickly installed changes to The Open Championship. The event spanned three days, 18 holes on each of the first two days and 36 on the final day. Also, The R&A began charging admission to see the event. A year later, The R&A began to produce a replica Claret Jug that is awarded to each year’s champion. The original jug resides in the clubhouse of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. The suspension of the Open from 1939 to 1946 due to World War II represents the longest gap between Open Championships. Sam Snead won the 1946 U.S. Open at St. Andrews, defeating Bobby Locke.
  • The 1955 Open marked a new era for the event. BBC broadcasted the tournament on television for the first time. By 1966, the Open Championship was being played over four days, 18 holes each day. ABC, for the first time, broadcasted a live feed of the event in America in 1982. In 1977, Regional Qualifying around England and Scotland was introduced on a permanent basis, to help organize qualifying in which there were two levels, first local qualifying and then moving on the week of the championship. It had been an experiment at the 1926 Open but abandoned after just one year. In 1980, the Open Championship was moved to its current format, 18 holes over four days, with the tournament concluding on Sunday. A decade later, in 1990, the event set an attendance record with over 208,000 spectators showing up to watch the tournament at St. Andrews. One more significant change in 2005 saw international qualifying, with different sites set up in Australia, South Africa, Asia, America and for the European players to try and qualify in their country instead of having to fly off to England. Today things are a bit different; there are two ways you can get in. One is either winning an important event, being high up the world rankings, being a top winner on either the PGA Tour, European Tour, South African Tour and Asian Tour. Or you can get through in qualifying tournaments in which there are nine events in which the top players for that week can get into the Open and five qualifying sites, one in Thailand and the other four in England just two weeks ago.
  • The 2017 Open Championship will be the 146th installment of the tournament. It will be held at Royal Birkdale for the 10th time. What is impressive is that of the nine different winners from Peter Thomson to Arnold Palmer to Lee Trevino to Johnny Miller to Tom Watson to Ian Baker-Finch to Mark O’Meara and Padraig Harrington, all of them were great winners, the only fluke winner was Baker-Finch, but all the rest are either in or destined for the Hall of Fame.

Course information:

  • Royal Birkdale Golf Club
  • Southport, England
  • 7,156 yards     Par 35-35–70
  • Royal Birkdale was founded in 1889 and moved to its present site five years later, with a course designed by George Lowe. However, it did not host its first Open Championship until 1954. That happened after a 1932 redesign by Frederick Hawtree and J.H. Taylor turned it into a championship test.
  • Birkdale is a striking visual course with some of the largest dunes on the Open rota. But the dunes are just a backdrop, with the holes winding between them on relatively flat terrain, meaning that there aren’t many crazy bounces. Through the years, Birkdale has produced an impressive list of champions: Peter Thomson, Arnold Palmer, Thomson again, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tom Watson, Ian Baker-Finch, Mark O’Meara and Padraig Harrington. All but Baker-Finch were multiple major winners. When the Open last visited Birkdale in 2008, Harrington shot a final round 69 in high winds and rain to hold off Ian Poulter.  Going into the final round Harrington was 2 shots back of Greg Norman, who blew up with a 77 in the final round.  Previous to that in 1998, Mark O’Meara defeated Brian Watts in a playoff with 22-year-old Tiger Woods one back and 17-year-old Justin Rose in a T-4th two behind.
  • In preparation for the 2008 championship, the R&A oversaw changes that added 155 yards, bringing the total to 7,123 yards, with six new tees and a new 17th green. There were also 20 new hazards added, mostly fairway bunkers. Many green surrounds were recontoured with the idea of making players execute more imaginative recovery shots.
  • 16 of the 18 holes has undergone some changes. The holes that have been lengthened are Nos. 3, 6, 9, 10, 11, 16, and 17. The uphill 6th was already the toughest hole on the course now plays 19 yards longer at, with a new fairway bunker on the right and a new bunker on the left-hand approach to the green. On the finishing stretch, the par-five 15th has two new fairway bunkers at the 300-yard mark and the fairway has been narrowed on the approach to the green with extensive recontouring forming to hillocks on the left just short of the green. The par-four 16th has been stretched by 22 yards to 438 by adding a new tee. On the par-five 17th, 20 yards were added by moving the green back as the top tier of the old green has become the bottom tier of the new green. Several new bunkers were added to the hole, which now plays 567 yards. On 18, a new fairway bunker and mounding were added at 300 yards on the left side.
  • As for the 2017 Open very little has been done to the course.  The 17th green has been revised to softened it slightly and two new back tees were added to the 11th and 16th holes.  So very little has been done to get the Open ready for this week.

Let’s take a look at key stats that are important for those playing at Royal Birkdale:

This is based on the most vital stats from Royal Birkdale, based on data from the 2008 British Open and using data from all the players in the field with stats from 2017.
Royal Birkdale Golf Club has been a staple of the British Open rota, this will be the 10th time it’s held the Open. Since it didn’t appear on the rota till 1954, that means that the R&A has held the Open at Birkdale an average of every 8 years. Another oddity about the course, five American’s have won the nine, two different Australians won 3 times (Peter Thomson won twice, 1954 & ’65) and Irishman Padraig Harrington won it in 2008. The only other Open rota course that hasn’t seen either a English or Scottish winner is Turnberry, which has only held three Open Championships. Going a step further on this, an Englishman hasn’t won the Open on a English course since Tony Jacklin won at Lytham in 1969!
Birkdale is a classical links course, it incorporates the natural landscape with the added hazard of wind off the Irish Sea. The course is played inside towering dunes as each hole seems to maneuver inside the dunes. The course could be the 2nd best of the course that holds the Open (sorry Muirfield is always the best) and what surprises many is that at 7,156 yards and playing to a par of 70 the R&A don’t do anything silly to trick it up, it’s just a great course that seems to hold it’s own in the modern era. Of course the weather will have a lot to do with what happens this week. I have been at Birkdale since Saturday and it’s like being in San Diego, 80 degrees, sunny no wide and perfect conditions. Under these conditions you will see a winning score of 20 under par. But according to Weather.com things are going to change on Wednesday afternoon. Heavy thunderstorms will bring rain and it will be ok on Thursday but it will be windy, gust up to 20 mph. Friday will start three straight days of rain and wind, so we will have some true British Open weather.

The secret to playing at Birkdale is not only being a great shotmaker, but you have to capitalize on holes 2 through 5. After that is a tough grind until you it the par 5, 15th which you should birdie. The par 5, 17th is also easy, but the rest of the holes including the tough 18 will be bears for all the players.

So what is in store for the players? In looking at the stats from 2008, Birkdale was tough to drive on. Only 51.01% of the fairways were hit as it ranked the 4th hardest course on tour in 2008. Not only were the fairways hard to hit, but the greens were even harder as only 48.48 where hit as the course was the hardest greens to hit of all the PGA Tour courses in 2008. To be fair, should point out that the weather was terrible all four days, it not only rained everyday, but on Thursday and Friday the wind gust up to 35 mph while on the weekend, the wind gust close to 50 mph. It shows on the scoring average how tough conditions were, it was 74.87 again the toughest course on tour in 2008. A couple of other key stats, scrambling the field was only 44.97% as the course ranked 3rd. In putting average, it was the hardest course to putt. Making birdies was tough, only 823 were made all week making it the 13th hardest, but that ranking is misleading the average birdies made by the field was just 1.74 a round, again the course ranked hardest on tour.

With that in mind let’s look at this week’s four categories. Our first is Strokes gained tee-to-green In 2008 Padraig Harrington won but his stats weren’t very good, he ranked T-35th in Driving accuracy and T-30th in greens hit. So Strokes Gained Tee-to Green I feel will be a very important item and frankly go to the top and sort through it, I would say that someone in the top-30 will win this week.
Our second stat is putting inside of 10 feet; that is important because Birkdale has some of the easiest greens in the world to putt. Easy greens brings in a lot more players in the equation and there is no too ways, the only way to separate them will be to see who makes all those putts inside 10 feet, if a player can make all of them then he will do well this week. Remember too that the weather will be tough, it’s always tough making that 4 footer when it’s blowing 30 mph. Now they didn’t have putting inside of 10 feet in 2008, but Harrington had the 13th best putting average in 2008. Our third stat is scrambling, lot’s of players will miss greens at Birkdale and will have to get it up and down. In 2008 Harrington was T-10th in that stat. Our fourth category is birdies, in 2008 Harrington made 11 which was 2nd best so if you can make lot’s of birdies that will help you.

So you can see Birkdale will be very special, and you can eliminate about 110 of the 156 players, I see only about 46 players having any chance of winning.
Now remember the British Open is an international event that not only allows players to qualify as over half the field has to qualify, but there are players from all over the world, so this chart only has 68 players on it. That’s because the other 88 players don’t play full time on the PGA Tour and have not played enough rounds to qualify for stats.

*Strokes Gained tee-to-green: Course may have only been 25th hardest on tour, but you need to hit it long and straight along with hitting lot’s of greens. So this is important to find a player that will do this

*Putting inside 10 feet: Very easy, counts every putt from ten feet in to see who makes the most.

*Scrambling: The percent of time a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better.

*Birdie Average: The number of birdies made during a round.

Here are the 68 of 156 players from this year’s field with stats from 2017:

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is the link to the full 68 players in this chart

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the British Open:

  • In the past 25 years its been won by grinders like Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Darren Clarke and Stewart Cink who may not look pretty but knows how to place shots in the right spots. There have also been superstars like Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, who were expected to win. And then you had your superstar that wasn’t expected to win in Phil Mickelson, do the job. Its been won by great tour players like Ernie Els, David Duval and Justin Leonard who capped off their PGA Tour careers with their first win in a major. But unfortunately, the British Open has been won by guys that fell out of the limelight right after their wins. Ian Baker-Finch, Mark O’Meara, Paul Lawrie, David Duval, Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis all come to mind, since there win they have fallen from grace and have struggled with their games.
  • The field has the best golf has to offer, 87 of the top-100 in the world rankings.  Just about every big player in the world will be at Troon this week so there are a lot of players who could win it.

Key stat for the winner:

  • Length and brute strength will play a major role this week.  The longer you drive it, the more of an advantage you will have.  With thick rough, look for more players to be timid and leaving themselves with a lot of yardage into the greens.
  • Putting is going to be a premium this week.  Everybody is making a big deal that an Englishman or Scot hasn’t won maybe that’s because the best putters in the world come outside of the United Kingdom.
  • Be able to play in all conditions.  For the practice rounds, the course has been playing very easy under summer-time conditions with no wind, so the start of play will be interesting when the weather does a complete 180..  Know the wind will pop up for the first time starting on Thursday and nobody will be able to practice for it.
  • If the wind blows, as some forecasters are calling for this weekend, it will be survival of the fitness, a bit like the last two years at Troon and St. Andrews.   I know a marquee player will step up this week, just like last year it could be a Zach Johnson type.
  • Scrambler. Greens are a bit small, and a player must have the skills to get it up and down from off the green or from greenside bunkers.
  • A player that doesn’t hit it into bunkers.  One of the key stats for Tiger Woods win in 2000 and Justin Leonard’s victory at Troon in 1997 is that they didn’t hit it in a bunker during the 72 holes.  If that gets repeated this week, that person will win the Claret Jug.
  • Now, what does all of this mean?  Look for a Sergio Garcia or a Justin Rose to shine.  Also like Dustin Johnson, if he bombs it straight and long he will be tough to beat  They are two players that could get caught up in all of the problems if it’s windy and rainy this week.

Some other keys to playing well this week:

  • Good bunker play – yes you want to avoid them, but for those that can escape and get it up and down it will help.
  • Some will say that length and brute strength will play a major role this week.  That’s not how Todd Hamilton did it 12 years ago, or Justin Leonard did it 20 years ago.  The longer you drive it, the more of an advantage you will have.  But with heavy rough that will be thicker when wet, look for more irons off the tee.
  • Putting is going to be a premium this week.  The greens are flat and slow under the standards of the top professionals so look for lots of 7, 8, 9 and 10 footers to be made.
  • Will Birkdale have a surprise winner or will it be a marquee name nobody can predict?  Look at the past; it has a history of know Champion.  Last year at Troon people were surprised at Henrik Stenson winning, the same at St. Andrews with Zach Johnson winning.  The year before at Hoylake it didn’t surprise anyone that Rory McIlroy won.  The same in 2013 at Muirfield, it didn’t surprise anyone that Phil Mickelson won. He was a hall-of-famer, joining other hall of fame winners of Muirfield.
  • Last but not least, don’t listen to any of the experts that make picks, that includes me.  Golf has become close to impossible to gauge and to picking a winner is almost impossible.  The game has gotten so refined with swing gurus, mind coaches, fitness coaches and dietary experts that golfers can change from playing terribly to winning in a matter of a week. Yes, golf has gotten very complicated these days.

 

 

Who to watch for at the British Open

Best Bets:

Sergio Garcia

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T5 T6 T2 T21 CUT T9 T14 T38 T51 2 T5 T5

Great ball striker that hasn’t had much success at Birkdale and should. I also am a sentimentalist and see the parallel between Mark O’Meara winning his first major at Augusta after many decades without a win, then winning at Birkdale later in the summer of ’98. See Sergio doing the same thing.

Dustin Johnson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T9 T49 T12 T32 T9 T2 T14 CUT

We haven’t heard much from him, specially with him missing the cut at Erin Hills. Don’t see that happening again, course is good for him.

Paul Casey

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T74 T47 CUT T54 T3 T47 T7 T27 71 CUT

It’s time for him to shine, played well at Birkdale in 2008, has been knocking on the door for a while, he will put it all together this week.

Best of the rest:

Jordan Spieth

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T30 T4 T36 T44

If he putts well watch out for him.

Justin Rose

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T22 T6 T23 CUT CUT T44 CUT T13 T70 T12

Talking about memories, hard to believe it was 19 years ago when a 17 year-old amateur holed out on the final hole to finish T-4th at Birkdale as an amateur.

Jon Rahm

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T59

Showed us among the big dunes of Portstewart two weeks ago that he has the type of game to play well on a course like Birkdale.

Hideki Matsuyama

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T18 T39 T6

He also played well at Portstewart and showed that he too can win at Birkdale.

Solid contenders

Rickie Fowler

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T46 T30 T2 CUT T31 T5 T14

Don’t discount him, played well at Erin Hills and he will play well this week.

Brooks Koepka

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T10 T67 CUT

He can play well on links courses and showed us at Erin Hills he has the game to win.

Tommy Fleetwood

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT CUT CUT

A Southport boy, he is also on a run of late and could do well in front of all of his neighbors.

Justin Thomas

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T53

Guy hit’s it long and straight and makes lot’s of birdies, could be a surprise to many.

Phil Mickelson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
2 T20 T23 Win CUT T2 T48 T19 CUT T22 T60

Played well last year and could go on a tear at Birkdale this week.

Long shots that could come through:

Ian Poulter

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT CUT T3 T9 CUT T60 CUT 2 T27 CUT T11

Was in the running in 2008 and playing very well right now.

Padraig Harrington

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T36 T20 CUT T54 T39 CUT CUT T65 Win Win CUT

Could lightning strike twice at Birkdale? He played well until the weekend last week, he could be even better this week.

Ryan Fox

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T49

He won’t win but could finish in the top-ten. Has played the best of anyone over the summer, in his last three starts was T-4th, T-4th and 6th.

Worst Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T5 Win CUT T60 T25 T3 T47 T42

Still is not showing us much with his game, he could miss another cut is he continues to struggle.

Henrik Stenson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
Win T40 T39 2 68 T3 T13 T3 CUT T48 T34

Something has happened to the Swede, has been struggling since March, the only key in his favor is the fact that he always plays well in the Summer.

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