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BlogChampionship Preview and Picks

British Open

July 19th – 22nd, 2018

Carnoustie Golf Links

Carnoustie, Scotland

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,402

Purse: $10.5 million

with $1,890,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Jordan Spieth

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 88 of the top 100 and 78 of the top 78 in the latest Official World Rankings.  Of those between 79 and 100, that not in the field are #79 Adrian Otagegui, #83 J.B. Holmes, #85 Aaron Wise, #86 Bernd Wiesberger, #88 Joost Luiten, #91 James Hahn, #92 Ted Potter, Jr., #95 Jamie Lovemark, #96 Jamie Lovemark, #96 Mikko Korhonen, #97 Seungsu Hen, #98 Billy Horschel and #99 Shugo Imahira.

The field includes 24 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players not in the field are #25 Aaron Wise.

The field includes 15 past Open champions: Jordan Spieth (2017), 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), Tiger Woods (2000, ’05 & ’06) Todd Hamilton (2004), David Duval (2001), Tom Lehman (1996) and Sandy Lyle (1985).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the British Open field is our performance chart listed by the 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 British Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the British 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 Greenbrier Irish Open Quicken Loans French Open Travelers BMW Inter. U.S. Open FedEx St. Jude Memorial BMW PGA Fort Worth
Francesco Molinari
(331.33 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T25
(33.33)
DNP DNP Win
(66)
DNP
Russell Knox
(303.67 pts)
DNP T49
(1)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T2
(100)
T38
(8)
DNP T12
(50.67)
DNP T44
(2)
DNP T20
(10)
Brooks Koepka
(243.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP Win
(176)
T30
(13.33)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
Dustin Johnson
(224.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 3
(120)
Win
(88)
T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP
Alex Noren
(210.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP T25
(33.33)
DNP DNP T3
(45)
DNP
Ryan Fox
(181.5 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP T44
(6)
DNP DNP T41
(12)
DNP DNP T43
(3.5)
DNP
Bronson Burgoon
(166.67 pts)
T2
(100)
DNP T30
(20)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Rickie Fowler
(166.67 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP DNP 12
(38)
DNP DNP DNP T20
(40)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP T14
(12)
Jorge Campillo
(164.33 pts)
DNP T32
(18)
DNP 3
(90)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-5)
DNP
Justin Rose
(162.33 pts)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T10
(53.33)
DNP T6
(20)
DNP Win
(44)
Jon Rahm
(160 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(80)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
Kevin Na
(155.33 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP T64
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 4
(26.67)
Tyrrell Hatton
(154 pts)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP T16
(34)
DNP DNP T6
(80)
DNP DNP CUT
(-5)
DNP
Ryan Armour
(150 pts)
DNP DNP T21
(29)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP T14
(12)
Chris Wood
(148.83 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(11.5)
DNP
Stewart Cink
(143.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(27)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP T4
(53.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T58
(0)
Alexander Bjork
(139.83 pts)
DNP T19
(31)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T8
(50)
DNP T33
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(11.5)
DNP
Tommy Fleetwood
(138.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T59
(0)
2
(133.33)
DNP DNP T20
(15)
DNP
Patrick Reed
(134 pts)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP 4
(106.67)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP DNP
Beau Hossler
(128.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(60)
DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP T44
(2)
DNP T64
(0)
Brandt Snedeker
(128.67 pts)
DNP DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T48
(2.67)
T6
(40)
DNP DNP T42
(2.67)
Tony Finau
(128 pts)
DNP DNP T21
(29)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 5
(93.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP
Paul Casey
(127 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP T16
(45.33)
DNP DNP T20
(15)
DNP
Michael Kim
(126.67 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(124.67 pts)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T27
(23)
DNP DNP T12
(50.67)
DNP DNP T8
(25)
DNP
Julian Suri
(123.5 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP 27
(23)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP DNP T29
(7)
T43
(3.5)
DNP
Russell Henley
(120.33 pts)
DNP DNP 10
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
DNP T25
(33.33)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP T58
(0)
Andy Sullivan
(116.5 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP T21
(29)
DNP T9
(30)
DNP DNP DNP T35
(7.5)
DNP
Brandon Stone
(115.33 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(113.67 pts)
DNP DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP T44
(2)
DNP DNP
Austin Cook
(112.67 pts)
T34
(16)
DNP T5
(70)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T6
(40)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Henrik Stenson
(108.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(80)
T26
(16)
T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP
Zach Johnson
(105.33 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP T12
(50.67)
DNP T40
(3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Thomas Pieters
(105.33 pts)
DNP T6
(60)
DNP T40
(10)
DNP T31
(19)
DNP T18
(21.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-5)
DNP
Bryson DeChambeau
(105 pts)
WD
(-5)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(30)
DNP T25
(33.33)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP T42
(2.67)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player John Deere Scottish Open Greenbrier Irish Open Quicken Loans French Open Travelers BMW Inter. U.S. Open FedEx St. Jude Memorial BMW PGA Fort Worth
Ernie Els
(-38.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-13.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-5)
DNP
Jonas Blixt
(-30 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T53
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Brett Rumford
(-25 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-5)
DNP
Padraig Harrington
(-25 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP 74
(0)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
DNP CUT
(-5)
DNP
Alexander Levy
(-23.33 pts)
DNP T55
(0)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP 65
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP T52
(0)
DNP
Darren Clarke
(-20 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Lucas Herbert
(-20 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Charl Schwartzel
(-16.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
72
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Shota Akiyoshi
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Kevin Kisner
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP 55
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP T74
(0)
DNP T52
(0)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

This is my 41st British Open and still to this day can’t believe the drastic change over the years.

I bring this up because I feel a bit nostalgic over coming back to Carnoustie, now the next couple of paragraphs have nothing to do with previewing Carnoustie or the British Open so skip down to Buzz 2.  

But for me, Carnoustie has a lot of memories.  It was my first British Open and little did I know that my first Open Championship would be a venue that they would stop playing on.  My first Open was at Carnoustie in 1974, and I remember flying into London with a friend who was 21 and back then able to rent a car.  The two of us were going to work as runners for ABC Sports, but the two of us were prominent golfers and just wanted to play golf courses in Scotland.  Remember that we had to work on a Monday and we were playing golf at Turnberry and didn’t finish until sunset.  So we set off to Carnoustie, back then the roads weren’t what they are like today, and it’s was pouring rain when we arrived in the town at 2 in the morning.  We were staying at the Bruce Hotel, which is now something else, but at 2 in the morning the doors were closed so since we couldn’t get in, we drove over to the golf course, parked and spent the night in the car.  A couple of hours later there was this banging at the window; this big overweight man was wondering what we were doing at the course that was holding the Open Championship.  Little did we realize but the man was Keith Mackenzie, who ran the Royal and Ancient.  He didn’t care much about our problem of not getting into the hotel and just wanted us to leave, which we did.  That first year was dramatic from the weather, which that week was cold, wet and windy to the food.  I used to be able to go to a McDonalds for food and the back then the closet they had was this chain called “Wimpy” which had the worst Hamburgers of all time.  They were a greasy mess.  But it was a great adventure and to make things even better; they had a playoff which meant that we got an extra days pay of $25.  When I added up the pay I got from ABC (which was around $300) and the fact that I spent over a thousand dollars in expenses, it was an expensive trip but one that was worth it.

Since then I have only missed 3 British Opens and have been to all of them since 1988. In 1979 I got ABC to help with expenses so that I didn’t lose money and by the time 1988 rolled around I was doing very well.  The next time Carnoustie held the Open was in 1999 and I back then I use to get a house for myself, Frank Hannigan and one of the producers Mark Loomis.  I was fortunate but found a house just across the street from the 18th fairway and only about 100 yards from the ABC trucks.  That year was the Jean Van De Velde year, and frankly, his fall from grace on the 18th hole has lost me about ten years of my life.  Back then I was the highlight producer, and one of my significant duties was putting together a 4-minute piece looking at the week of the tournament that would play after the last group finished play.  The year before was the first year of my new job as highlight producer and the playoff ruined the 4 minute piece.  But for Carnoustie, we were going to do the piece, no matter if there was a playoff or not.  The first 3 minutes was pre-produced from highlights of the first 3 days play, so all I had to do was put in great shots and reactions, and Jean Van De Velde was perfect.  Back then we were using a new machine called an LSM which was like your DVR at home; you could record and play clips back while it was still recording.  This capability revolutionizes how golf was presented and gave networks the ability to use more tape shots.

But my job was straightforward thanks to the excellent play of Van De Velde; when he made a great par putt at 17 which we thought sealed the deal, he gave a great reaction which I was able to make into a great slow-mo and was tickled pink on how great the piece would be.  All I needed was to fill in the last 15 seconds or so of him winning, so I was all set.

I wasn’t worried even though Bob Rosburg in a commercial before the 18th tee told producer Jack Graham that he was concerned about Van De Velde and felt that he wouldn’t win.  Everyone laughed at Rosie, but he was right.  That was also the start of the reputation of the 18th hole at Carnoustie being the most feared final hole in golf.

I was never worried, I felt it was destiny for Jean to win and be a nice touch having a Frenchman win.  I felt even more destiny when he hit a terrible tee shot, but it went right of the burn onto the 17th fairway.  Jean got unlucky on his 2nd that it hit a small pole and ricocheted into the worst rough on the 18th hole, but gosh I felt that he would still make at least a double bogey to win.

But when his 3rd shot went into the burn, I realized how screwed I was.  The whole piece that I had built was now making little sense because it how nothing with Paul Lawrie, who we saw 2 putts on and Justin Leonard.  I remember producer Jack Graham asking me if I had a backup plan for the piece and when I told him I was working on it, another producer Mark Loomis walked in and started laughing and said: “we’re screwed, aren’t we.”  And I agreed, there wasn’t much time to rebuild that one minute and we had to rework the piece to play after the playoff.  Remember not having much of Lawrie, and the piece wasn’t that great when Lawrie won.

In 2007 I was doing my website, “Golfobserver.com” and worked for the R&A doing their player guide, which I still do today.  I was lucky again to find a place to stay across the street from the course in this old five-story hotel that had a tiny, one bedroom that was expensive but you couldn’t beat the location.  What I found funny was that in two months after the British Open they tore down that hotel, with the thoughts of building a grand hotel and condominium.  In my return to Carnoustie last week the old hotel is now a parking lot, the owners couldn’t get people to invest into the new plan.  Some would say that Carnoustie is a shabby town, which in some respects is correct.  But it’s that way because Carnoustie can’t get people to invest in the town.  The sad thing is the reason, St. Andrews is less than an hour away and if your in this neck of the woods you will want to go to St. Andrews instead of Carnoustie.  Put Carnoustie anywhere else it would be a superstar.

I have played the course over a dozen times and found it to be one of the hardest courses to play, under any conditions.  I’ve been lucky, in 2005 I played the course with Billy Casper and was able to get his perspective on it along with great stories on how he almost won at Carnoustie in the 1968 Open Championship.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This year I stayed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at the Carnoustie hotel.  My room was on the parking lot side and in looking down on the lot brought back memories of my very first British Open when I spent the night in a car in that parking lot.  Guess I have come around a bit 43 years later, at least I have worked my way into a room instead of the car.

Buzz 2

Just last week we were all sweating our butts off in the United States.  Now in the past coming to Scotland means a different type of weather, one which it’s about 70 degrees and wet.  But the weather has been different than most years.  In the previous British Open’s I have been to at Carnoustie (1975, ’99 & 2007) it’s been wet, windy and cold.  I even have pictures of myself wearing a heavy jacket, the one I wear to baseball playoffs in Washington in October.

Getting off the airplane in London it was like stepping off the plane in San Diego.  The weather couldn’t be better, in London last week it got up into the 90s.  I have been at Carnoustie since late Friday, and it’s been hot, sometimes getting into the 80s but no rain and very little wind.  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, especially here at Carnoustie.

That is the allure of the Open Championship, something that is different than what we usually see in the states. Last year at Royal Birkdale it was hot and dry during the championship.  In 2016 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 will strive in conditions that are like back home.

The only difference is how brown everything is.  The fairways are not as narrow as they were in 1999 and 2007, but for the players, they will be super tight.  One thing that you will see drastically different is the color; everything is brown which is the sign of the lack of rain.  But with brown, dried up fairways look for really long drives.  Also look for possible record scores for the week.

So anything unusual for this year?

Lot’s of storylines.  

Here are a couple of the big ones:

*Will Carnoustie be “Car-nasty.”

Many will say that Carnoustie is the hardest course in the world.  The fairways are always firm but if he misses them the fescue rough is impossible.  In previous Opens held on it, the plan was to play 72 holes without making a double bogey or worst.  In 2007 of the top 25 players, only three went around 72 holes with anything over a double bogey. For prove on how tough Carnoustie has been over the years, look at the scoring average for all the British Open’s on it

  • 2007    73.38
  • 1999    76.82
  • 1975    74.70
  • 1968    77.08
  • 1953    75.14
  • 1937    76.44
  • 1931    77.50

This year the course looks drastically easier.  In 1999 the fairways were narrow, and the rough was extra thick.  In 2007 the fairways were a bit wider and the rough not as severe.  This year because of the lack of rain all summer, the fescue rough is very sparse and will present a minimal challenge for the best players in the world.  Now another thing that makes the course hard is wind, in 1999 it was blowing over 25 mph every day, which created a lot of the high scores.  The same for 2007 but the winds were only 10 to 20 mph.  But the rough was still hard to get a ball on the green.

But this year the weather is going to be a bit warmer, with no rain and winds blowing at 10 to 15 mph, not enough to make a factor.  All the players have said how easy the rough is and how the only trouble is the bunkers, so look for scores to be low, of course depending on the winds.

Will Rory find some of that magic that he used to enjoy?

The year has been a Jekyll and Hyde sort of season for him.  He had a fabulous win at the Arnold Palmer in which he had a final round 64 to beat Bryson DeChambeau by three shots.  Many thought that this was a stepping stone to greater things, but three weeks later McIlroy was in the driver seat at the Masters playing in the final group on Sunday with Patrick Reed.  But early on McIlroy missed several short putts and ultimately fell apart shooting a 74 which dropped him into a T-5th.  Afterward, he dropped into what he called a terrible funk.  After missing the cut at the Players, he got better and was in the running at the BMW PGA Championship.  But in the final round, McIlroy shot 70, and Francesco Molinari shot 68 and won by 2 with Rory finishing 2nd.  The next week he was T-8th at the Memorial but then ultimately fell apart at the U.S. Open missing the cut.  After that, he was T-12th at the Travelers and T-28th at the Irish Open.  The big question will be, which Rory will show up at Carnoustie?  He has a good track record in the Open Championship; his first one was at Carnoustie as an amateur when he finished T-42nd.  He has played good in the last rounds of the last two British Opens to finish T=5th at Troon and T-4th last year at Birkdale.  But still, we all wonder if Rory can get things together to win.  My thoughts are that he is not in any shape to win and I wouldn’t count on it.  He may play well early, but he still has had a tough time when in contention.

Phil the thrill may not thrill this week

What is up with Phil?  Since winning in Mexico in March and then finishing T-5th at the Wells Fargo, a lot was expected from Phil, and he has had a rough time.  After finishing T-36th at the Masters, his game started coming around at the Memorial, and when he shot a final round 65 at the FedEx, many thought he would be in the running at Shinnecock.  Phil worked extra hard on his driver, and it paid off in the first round when he hit all the fairways but shot 77.  He fought back with a 69 in the second round but shot 81; he also had the problem on the 13th green when he hit a moving putt.  Since then it’s been a bit of a struggle, he didn’t play well at Greenbrier and had more rules problem.  Then last week he missed the cut at the Scottish Open.  So he comes to Carnoustie with that and the fact that he has played terrible in the two previous Opens at Carnoustie, missing the cut twice.  Frankly, I don’t think Carnoustie is his type of course so I would say that he is one not to put much faith into.

Dustin Johnson

Johnson hasn’t had that great of a season, under his standards.  Yes, he has won twice at Kapalua and Memphis, but he has blown leads in China, and the U.S. Open and his game have not been what we all expected.  Now for 96% of the players on the PGA Tour, they would take Johnson’s year in a heartbeat, but we expect a lot out of him.

I think that this week will be great for him.  He is probably the best striker of the ball off the tee than any player.  Were he runs into trouble is on the greens, like he did at the U.S. Open over the weekend.  But for this week, I fell Dustin is the man to win.  With light rough, sun-baked fairways and minimal winds, I don’t see anyone that can beat Johnson, especially with his driver.  In a practice round on Saturday he hit driver into the burn on the 18th hole, not the one off the tee but the one 400 yards off the tee in front of the green, that’s how far the ball is going and as Johnson said the only danger for him is driving into a bunker off the tee.  So with his length, I don’t see anyone beating him.

The defender

For Jordan Spieth, since winning the British Open last year, his game had progressed downward.  He may be hitting the ball better, but he is having trouble with the putter.  Now for the 90% of those on the PGA Tour what Jordan has done would be a dream season, but for Jordan he hasn’t won in a year, the longest drought since his 2013 John Deere win and 2015 Valspar victory.  It’s easy to see his problem.  In 2016 he was 2nd in strokes gained-putting, but last year he rose to 39th.  But his climb to 175th is the reason.  Last year he was T-5th in 3-putt avoidance only having 25 three-putt greens.  But this year he has already had more, 30 three-putt greens and ranks T-136th.  Last year he ranked 34th in putting from 15 to 20 feet, he ranked 3rd in putts 20 to 25 feet and 7th in putts over 25 feet.  In comparison he ranks 196th in putts from 15 to 20 feet, 190th in putts from 20 to 25 feet and 96th in putts over 25 feet.  So you can see why he hasn’t played that well and frankly I don’t see it turning direction this year.

Sergio Garcia

How many times have I heard this week in passing fellow writers in conversations that I have ‘eavesdropped” on saying “Sergio has played terrible since having the kid early in the year.”  Frankly, that could be true, since having a baby girl in March he has struggled with his game, missing 4 cuts in 5 starts including missed cuts at the Masters and the U.S. Open.  But many didn’t pay attention to his game of late; he was T-12th at the BMW International and T-8th at the French Open.  So his game has come around.  Many may not realize but if there is a major we all thought Sergio would win it’s the British Open.  In 21 starts he has 10 top-tens with 2 runner-up finishes, one of them at Carnoustie.  Sergio is one of the best ball-strikers on tour, and that is one of the be keys to playing well at Carnoustie.  He was very close to winning in 2007, a matter of fact about 8 feet away.  That was the length of a putt he had on the 72nd hole in 2007.  He missed it and then lost a playoff to Padraig Harrington.  In 2014 at Hoylake, Sergio played great, only problem Rory McIlroy was even better, and Sergio finished 2nd again.  I have always felt that Sergio wins a British and I think that could come this week unless he finishes 2nd to a Dustin Johnson who plays that much better

Tiger Woods

If there is one thing we can say about Tiger this year, he has been very inconsistent in one part of his game.  In weeks in which he has hit the ball terribly, he has scrambled and put well.  In his 6 starts since the Arnold Palmer, he has hit the ball well and putted terribly.  At the Quicken Loans Tiger brought out a mallet style putter and did well.  He was 7th in strokes, and you could see things clicking in Tiger’s mind when he shot 66 in the final round.  Tiger seemed relaxed since arriving in England; he was seen having a great time over the weekend at Wimbledon and then coming up Sunday and playing 8 holes late in the afternoon.  One writer Bob Harig of ESPN told me he had never seen Tiger in a better frame of mind, he joked with the half dozen writers that followed him around and in his press conference on Tuesday talked about how he feels his odds of winning a major was greater at the British Open than any other major.  I have always thought Tiger could win and possibly win a major, who knows maybe this is the week.

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.  Hard to believe that the British Open was played 6 months before Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office on March 4th, 1861.

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 the cost of 30 pounds by Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh. Now to put that in perspective, 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, starting 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 started 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 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 a significant 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 2018 Open Championship will be the 147th installment of the tournament. It will be held at Carnoustie for the 8th time. What is impressive is that of the seven different winners from Tommy Armour to Henry Cotton to Ben Hogan to Gary Player to Tom Watson to Paul Lawrie and Padraig Harrington, all of them were great winners, the only fluke winner was Paul Lawrie, but all the rest are either in or destined for the Hall of Fame.

Course information:

  • Carnoustie Golf Club
  • Carnoustie, Scotland
  • 7,402 yards     Par 36-35–71
  • The most northerly course on The Open rota, Carnoustie has hosted golf’s oldest major on seven occasions. Carnoustie has a reputation for being the toughest venue on the rota with the demanding closing four holes being the scene of many dramatic Open moments.
  • Golf has been played at Carnoustie since the early 16th century. The course is long and narrow with penal bunkering that seeks to reward nothing less than top quality shot-making.
  • In 1890, the 14th Earl of Dalhousie, who owned the land, sold the links to the local authority. It had no funds to acquire the property, and public fundraising was undertaken and donated to the council. The original course was of ten holes, crossing and recrossing the Barry Burn; it was designed by Allan Robertson, assisted by Old Tom Morris, and opened in 1842. The opening of the coastal railway from Dundee to Arbroath in 1838 brought an influx of golfers from as far afield as Edinburgh, anxious to tackle the old links. This led to a complete restructuring of the course, extended in 1867 by Old Tom Morris to the 18 holes which had meanwhile become standardized. Young Tom Morris won a major open event there that same year.
  • Carnoustie first played host to The Open Championship in 1931, after modifications to the course by James Braid in 1926. The winner then was Tommy Armour, from Edinburgh.
  • The Championship course was modified significantly (but kept its routing used since 1926) before 1999 Open, with all bunkers being rebuilt, many bunkers both added and eliminated, many green complexes expanded and enhanced, and several new tees being built. A large hotel was also built behind the 18th green of the Championship course.
  • Carnoustie is one of the three courses hosting the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, an autumn event on the European Tour; the others are the Old Course at St Andrews and Kingsbarns.

DraftKings tips

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Dustin Johnson – $11,300
  • Rory McIlroy – $11,000
  • Jordan Spieth – $10,600
  • Justin Rose – $10,200
  • Justin Thomas – $10,000
  • Jon Rahm – $9,800
  • Rickie Fowler – $9,700
  • Tommy Fleetwood – $9,400
  • Brooks Koepka – $9,200
  • Sergio Garcia – $9,000
  • Tiger Woods – $8,900

In the list above I like Dustin Johnson at $11,300, Justin Rose at $10,600, Rickie Fowler at $9,700, Tommy Fleetwood at $9,400, Sergio Garcia at $9,000 and Tiger at $8,900.  Dustin is the favorite, and his game is so overpowering, and he can do that this week.  He has two worries, putting which can get dodgy and hitting into fairway bunkers.  Now he can avoid those bunkers, we can’t say much on putting, but Dustin his better on slower greens which you find at Carnoustie.  Justin Rose has a terrible record in the Open Championship only finishing in the top-ten twice in 16 cuts.  But he played well at Carnoustie the last time it was played in 2007, plus he has played great all year.  Rickie Fowler will win a major when you and I least expect it.  He has gone completely under the radar scoop this week, something that he loves to do, so that is why he is one of my favorites.  Tommy Fleetwood has also had a great year, came close at the U.S. Open and will be in contention this week.  Sergio and Tiger I talked about above, think they will be in the running.  I take a big pass at both Rory McIlroy at $11,000 and Jordan Spieth at $10,600.  Both have problems, Rory with his game and confidence while Spieth it’s his putter and confidence.  But be warned, they could break out of it early, but still, they have to show they can maintain it for 72 holes.  Jon Rahm at $9,800 is risky because he has a bad temper.  At this point of time, if bad weather or winds creep up they are not Rahm’s friend, take a big pass on him.  Brooks Koepka at $9,200 I can go in either direction, he is an excellent links player and should do well at Carnoustie, think it’s hard to play well after winning a major.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,800 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

Paul Casey is at $8,700 and really cheap.  But his British Open record is dodgy, and it’s probably best to take a pass on him.  Francesco Molinari at $8,600 will be a lot of people’s choice, boy he has played great of late.  Only question mark I have is if he can play well in a major?  Showed a lot at the PGA Championship last year, I say he is a good buy.  Patrick Reed at $8,400 is a reasonable price, he has contended in the two majors this year with great success, so I say yes to him.  Phil Mickelson at $8,100 may seem like a reasonable price, but I would take a big pass on him.  Alex Noren at $8,300 is also a great price and playing well, put him on your list.  Henrik Stenson at $8,200 seems, but I would steer away from him.  Marc Leishman at $8,000 seems like an excellent choice, he has come close in the British Open and can be a great surprise for you.  Tyrrell Hatton is also a great buy at $7,900 and one to choose.  Ian Poulter at $7,800 is also a good buy, was runner-up in 2008 and could surprise everyone again.  Remember he wants to make the Ryder Cup team again, nothing better than a top-ten this week to show off to European Coach Thomas Bjorn.  Matt Kuchar at $7,700 seems like a great buy, but he isn’t, take a pass on him.  Luke List at $7,500 is another bargain so take him, he played great in the Scottish Open last week.

 

Some of the “bargains” this week at the Carnoustie

I like Daniel Berger at $7,300, he played well at the U.S. Open, and it could carry over. Talking about those trying to impress Thomas Bjorn, Lee Westwood want’s to do that, and I say he is a great buy this week at $7,200.  I like Kevin Chappell at $7,100 and only because on Sunday I was having lunch at the Carnoustie hotel, and he was at the next table, he was talking about missing the cut at the Scottish Open and what he learned for this week, so think he will have a good week.  Peter Uihlein at $7,000 is right because he plays well in Scotland and loves links courses. Ryan Fox at $6,900 and Alex Levy at $6,800 are ridiculously low and will play 72 holes and make points, so those are cheap great picks.  Have also to say that Stewart Cink is too good of a player to be just $6,600, take a chance on him.

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

In the past 26 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, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth, who were expected to win. And then you had your superstar that wasn’t supposed 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 victories. 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, 88 of the top-100 in the world rankings.  Just about every significant player in the world will be at Carnoustie this week, so there are a lot of players who could win it.

Key stat for the winner:

  • The length and brute strength will play a significant role this week.  The longer you drive it, the more of an advantage you will have.  With thin rough, look for more players to be bold with the drive, leaving themselves with short distance 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, which is sometimes does at Carnoustie.  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, it will be survival of the fitness, a bit like a couple of years at Birkdale, Troon and St. Andrews.   I know a marquee player will step up this week, just like last year it could be a Jordan Spieth 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 vital 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, Tiger Woods or a Justin Rose to shine.  My first choice is Dustin Johnson if he bombs it straight and long and putts halfway decent he will be tough to beat

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 significant role this week.  That’s not how Todd Hamilton did it 13 years ago, or Justin Leonard did it 21 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 Carnoustie have a surprise winner or will it be a marquee name nobody can predict?  Look at the past; it has a history of know Champions.  Last year at Birkdale people was happy to see the favorite Jordan Spieth win, the year before 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 another hall of fame winners of Muirfield.  If the past has anything to do with who will win at Carnoustie remember this.  Yes, Paul Lowrie is probably one of the weakest of British Open winners.  But if you look at the rest, they have a lot in common.  Padraig Harrington, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Ben Hogan, Henry Cotton and Tommy Armour have won multiple majors, so the cream does rise to the top, look for a big name to win this week.
  • 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 pick 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:

Dustin Johnson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T54 T9 T49 T12 T32 T9 T2 T14 CUT

Again he is the best player on planet golf right now and should win if he can putt.

Justin Rose

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T54 T22 T6 T23 CUT CUT T44 CUT T13 T70 T12

The guy has been the most consistent player on tour, he is due another major and would love to do it in Scotland.

Tommy Fleetwood

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T27 CUT CUT CUT

He is the best player on the European Tour and showed at Shinnecock that he can win, just needs a bit of luck.

Best of the rest:

Sergio Garcia

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T37 T5 T6 T2 T21 CUT T9 T14 T38 T51 2 T5

Forget his terrible play, if you look at his last two starts he is getting into shape.

Ricky Fowler

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

We say this every time he plays, one day he will walk into a big win and that could be this week. He has had very little attention thrown upon him this week which should be good.

Francesco Molinari

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T36 T40 T15 T9 T39 CUT CUT T13 CUT

Look at what he has done in the last five weeks, this guy is on fire and that could include and spill over to this week.

Tiger Woods

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT 69 T6 T3 T23 CUT T12 Win

Yes it’s his time to really shine, he feels that the British is the easiest of the majors for him to win and I think he will shine, (I hope).

Solid contenders

Marc Leishman

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T53 T2 T5 CUT CUT T60

Guy is someone that will play well this week, he is very talked about and we should talk more about him.

Patrick Reed

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T12 T20 CUT

Goes under the radar screen again, this guy is good on any type of course.

Paul Casey

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T11 CUT T74 T47 CUT T54 T3 T47 T7 T27 71

We have to talk about him, he is one of the best players that probably can’t win, but will try.

Tyrrell Hatton

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT T5 CUT CUT CUT CUT

Always seems to do well on links-style courses.

Alex Noren

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T46 WD T9 CUT CUT T19

Another guy that doesn’t get the respect he deserves, look for a good week from him.

Long shots that could come through:

Ian Poulter

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T14 CUT CUT T3 T9 CUT T60 CUT 2 T27 CUT

Yes watch out for him could be good.

Lee Westwood

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T27 T22 T49 CUT T3 T45 CUT 2 T3 T67 T35 T31

Probably can’t win but could pull off a big top-ten finish

Alex Levy

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

This guy seems to give a good performance each week he plays.

Worst Bets:

Phil Mickelson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
CUT 2 T20 T23 Win CUT T2 T48 T19 CUT T22

Nobody cares anymore about him, his game is not sharp now.

Henrik Stenson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T11 Win T40 T39 2 68 T3 T13 T3 CUT T48

Sorry but too much hype is doing him in, won’t play well this week.

Comments

  1. Rick Nowosad says:

    Jon Rahm!!

  2. Jeff Aaron says:

    Sal- Loved your stories of the early days! Congrats on 41 “Opens” , I will miss our conversations this week…our own tradition of talking on radio ends after 16 + years! Enjoy!

  3. Can’t believe that the KJRKO in Washington is so stupid to want to end a great sports show for country music. Sign of the times.

  4. Great Carnoustie nostalgia Sal. Thanks for sharing.
    Who by the way hasn’t spent the night in their car at a golf course.
    Have a great week!

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