Open Championship Key Fantasy Stats

Open Championship

July 20th – 23rd, 2023

Royal Liverpool

Hoylake, England

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,383

Purse: $16.5 million

with $3,000,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Cameron Smith

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:

It’s hard to believe we have another major coming up; that’s the good news, the bad news, the last one for the year. The Masters is only 269 days away, and before you know it, we will be talking about the new year of majors. But before that, we have to finish the majors in 2023.

This week, it’s the Open Championship, and it’s being played at Royal Liverpool or what many are familiar with, Hoylake. This course is a gem and, along with Muirfield, could be the best course on the British Open rota. The course is drastically different from St. Andrews, which held the Open last year. Last year players just bombed away since the fairways were so wide. The big danger of St. Andrews was the bunkers, and if you could avoid those bunkers and putt well, you would score well.
This week Hoylake is a dominant course in which you have to hit it well off the tee and have precision iron play and putt well. A perfect example is driving the ball; on the 14 driving holes, there are 36 fairway bunkers, so an average of two and a half per hole. Now these aren’t regular bunkers that a player can reach the green from; many of them are deep enough that an attempt to get to the green is impossible; you must lay it up. For those that avoid fairway bunkers, the rough will be a challenge as the fairways average 32 yards, yes, it could be worst, but in some places, again, you have to take your medicine and lay up down the fairway. I say that because despite the area having a very dry June, heavy rains over the last 3 weeks have greened up the course and strengthened the rough. As for the greens, the 18 greens are guarded by 40 bunkers or just about two per hole. Again bunker will gobble up your ball, and the deepness along steep faces again makes it challenging. The greens are only 6,450 square feet which is about normal, so if you’re on the fairway, getting them on the greens shouldn’t present a problem.
One of the reasons people love Hoylake is the lack of blind shots, either off the tee or to the green. The only blind shot could be the 8th hole, but that is because you have to drive bushes to a landing area with a gorse on the left and a bunker on the right. Of course, like last week, the weather will play a key to how the course plays. In 2006 the whole week was like being in San Diego, dry, hot weather with temperatures in the mid-80s, which is desirable for that area of the world. The weather was just about the same in 2014, but it was overcast over the weekend with spots of rain and wind in the 8 to 12 MPG range. Nothing to make the course play harder. That is why Tiger Woods shot 270 in 2006 and Rory McIlroy shot 271 in 2014. Both years saw Rory and Tiger leading after the 2nd and 3rd rounds.
Technology has changed a lot since Tiger won in 2006, but in 2014 Rory was using the new Nike RZN black ball, which helped bring the score down as the ball was low-spinning with the driver but high-spinning with a wedge. This was about the time that Golf Ball Technology drastically changed the game. Still, Rory played great and won.
This is the 13th time that Hoylake is holding the British Open. You look at its winners and ifs, the who-who of golf. Of the 12 champions, seven of them are in Golf’s Hall of Fame: Harold Hilton in 1897, J.H. Taylor in 1913, Walter Hagen in 1924, Bobby Jones in 1930, Peter Thompson in 1956, Roberto DeVicenzo in 1967, and Tiger Woods in 2006. As you can see, the course brings out the best in the top players in golf.
So what are the keys to winning 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 an important role this week. That’s not how Tiger or Rory won in 2006 and ’14, but things are different today. The longer you drive it, the more of an advantage you will have. But with heavy rough, that will be trickier when wet; look for more irons off the tee. Remember this, in his victory in 2006, Tiger used the driver just once over the 72 holes. So keeping it in the fairway is important.
*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 Hoylake have a surprise winner, or will it be a marquee name? Nobody can predict. Look at the past; it has a history of any kind of Champion. Last year at St. Andrews, it didn’t surprise me that Cameron Smith won; he did it thanks to his putter. Now at Hoylake, I see Smith, who isn’t that great of a driver having a tough time. But back to the question, could there be a surprise winner? In looking at the history of Hoylake, just as many Fred Daly’s and Roberto De Vicenzo’s have won compared to Tiger Woods and Bobby Jones. This is the 20th anniversary of Ben Curtis winning at St. George, so anything can happen.
*Be able to play in all conditions. For the practice rounds on Monday, the course has been playing easy and dry. So nobody will know how to play once the rains start, and yes, it will rain this week.
*Scrambler. Green is a bit small, and a player must have the skills to get it up and down from off the green or greenside bunkers.
*Player that doesn’t hit it into bunkers. One of the key stats for Tiger Woods’s win in 2000 and Justin Leonard’s win 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.

Technology has changed a bit since they last played Holyoke in 2014. Then, along with the players’ fitness, what has the R&A done? Not much, par has been reduced from 72 in 2014 to 71 this year. Despite that, the course will play 71 yards longer than in 2014. So what is the R&A betting to make the course play tougher? A combination of rough and a pray that the weather will be windy. Last month the course was burned due to the hot conditions, but the rain has made the course lush, and the rough has grown. Mid-July is the time in England that normally gets great weather; remember, Hoylake is 200 miles south of Scotland, but it will look more like Scotland than San Diego. If the weather gets nasty, the scores will be higher.
Either way, there are advantages and disadvantages to both types of weather. The course will play tough if it gets bone-dry and hard because the bounces make hitting fairways difficult. So in a way, players will be looking for wet weather, which will slow the bouncing of balls and make it more manageable.

So with that said, how can we judge this course? First, we will do something we are doing on the majors played on different courses in picking our four key stats. We are using strokes gained stats. Our first is Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee because driving will be necessary. With thick rough, tough bunkers, getting it in the fairway is essential. We can see and hear the players talking about the fescue/bentgrass and dozens of other dune land species playing a factor this week; if you miss the fairway and in the wispy fescue, good luck in trying to make par.
Our next stat is Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green because hitting greens is essential, and you must make sure to hit the greens. Our third stat is Strokes Gained Around-the-Green because players will miss greens and must get it up and down. Last is Strokes Gained-Putting because that will be very important for players this week.

*Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee: The per-round average of the number of strokes based on the number of fairways and distance hit

*Strokes Gained Approach-the-Green: Takes into account the number of greens and the proximity to the hole in the interest of interest of saving shots.

*Strokes Gained Around-the-Green: Number of strokes gained from shots around the green, lot of it is scrambling and bunker play..

*Strokes Gained Putting: The number of strokes gained in putting

The 66 of the 156 players from this year’s field with stats from 2023. Remember, there are a lot of foreign players in the field:

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

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