Pick a winner at Royal Portrush
The 148th Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush, 68 years after Max Faulkner won there with a 72 hole score of 3 under on a significantly different course to the one we will be seeing this week. In preparation for the 2019 Open the 17th and 18th holes have been replaced to make way for the tented village and the course now features two new holes, the par 5 7th and the par 4 8th. The course is renowned for being right in front of you, and not particularly tricked up. What has been a relatively wet build up means we won’t be seeing conditions like last year at Carnoustie when the fairways were running faster than the greens! This makes the fairways a lot easier to hold which will help the players score. On the other hand these good growing conditions have lead to juicier rough and a course nearly playing its full yardage, placing a premium on driving. With the addition of a few new tee boxes, Royal Portrush will be a par 71 playing 7,337 yards and probably most interestingly only has 64 bunkers on the golf course, by far the lowest of any open venue. For comparison's sake, Carnoustie and the Old course both have 112. Another interesting stat and one the media will keep reminding us of is that Rory Mcilroy holds the old course record with a 61 that he shot when he was just 16 years old.
The last time Royal Portrush held an event it was made to look rather tame. Jamie Donaldson won the Irish open here in 2012 with a score of 18 under with 16 other players joining him in double digits under par. However like always the difficulty of the links test is almost entirely dictated by the weather. From a spectator's perspective, I hope the infamous local weather will live up to its reputation of being able to produce all 4 seasons in a single day, providing us with an enthralling championship.
Unfortunately we can’t predict the weather, but we’ve analysed the data from previous Open championships and links tournaments to identify the most important factors in becoming an Open champion. We’ve eliminated players from the running based on these factors, giving you a pool of 9 players to pick an eventual champion from. Good luck!
Scrambling, for the uninitiated, is the stat used to measure the success of a player's ability to get up and down when they have missed a green (in regulation).
It has been the standout stat over the last 10 Open winners, as was the case when the Irish Open was held at Royal Portrush in 2012. Tightly cut run-offs around the greens, thick rough lining the fairways and the wind factor means players will inevitably hit fewer greens in regulation, which adds importance to a players ability to scramble. Any player outside the top 40 in this stat on the European Tour and outside the top 70 on the PGA Tour (roughly the same scrambling %) is eliminated.
Eliminated: 104/151 in the field, including Rory, Tiger, Lefty and Spieth.
For a change to the monotonous stream of PGA tour events where players tee it high, swing as hard as they can at it and show a blatant disregard for fairways, we finally get to view an event that has always favoured accuracy over distance.
There is maths behind this madness but essentially we are looking for players whose accuracy is compensated by distance or vice versa, hence why DJ has made the cut here!
Eliminated: 15 more gone, including home heroes Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry.
Put bluntly, anyone with less than three top 10s and no top 5s is getting the chop. In the last seven years, the men in form have been the ones to follow. Take a look at Molinari, last year's winner at Carnoustie. He had two wins and two 2nds in his five previous tournaments and he is far from an outlier.
Eliminated: 10 more down, 21 left. We say goodbye to Tony Finau and Henrik Stenson here.
Open Championship experience
Learning the intricate and complex art of links golf takes time for many. Of the last 8 winners, the eventual champion has on average appeared in 12 previous Opens. Notably, all had at least one top 10! The two anomalies here are Rory and Jordan, who had only played 6 and 4 respectively. In fairness to both, they can be considered modern greats.
Eliminated: We wave goodbye to any players left on our hotlist with no previous top 10 at Golf's oldest Major. Ciao, Señor Rahm.
And the (potential) winners are…
Based on these stringent selection criteria, these chaps stand a decent chance of raising the Claret jug on Sunday.
POTENTIAL WINNERS: Scott, DJ, Rose, Kuchar, Brooks, Molinari, Fowler, Schauffele & Matsuyama
One extra thing to bear in mind before placing your bet is the weather forecast. Knowing how quickly the weather can change at Portrush, players starting early in the morning will be facing a very different test to those with afternoon tee times. When the draw is released, check to see how your players tee time correlates with the weather forecast, it could make all the difference!
“Being on the right side of the draw always plays a part in the Open Championship''. Darren Clarke, 2011 Open Champion.
Best of luck, you know where we are if you want to spend your winnings on a golf trip to the UK!