My Journey to the Open Championship

This series is to document my research process for the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush.

I’ve taken a couple days off from this blog to prepare myself for the NBA free agent craziness. Ok, maybe I’ve just been lazy. But, before we get into golf, how about some of these stupid….. I mean crazy…. I mean great deals announced/speculated on today. The Knicks can’t get anyone, so they sign Julius Randle to a $20mm+ per year deal. The Suns are evidently going to pay Ricky Rubio $17mm per year. And two months into next season, they still won’t have a point guard. Malcolm Brogdon is turning his strong playoff showing into a 4 year $85mm payday. Man, is it good to be a NBA player these days. I won’t even mention the Kyrie/KD pairing. I am sure those two will get along. At least DeAndre Jordan can play counselor for those two since he does very little of consequence on the court….

Ok, onto golf. I am now sitting on 4 tickets for the MM for the Open. I may just play the same lineup four times. I am serious. So, let’s take a look and see if some research can unearth players who excel on links style courses. I have a gut feeling that I’ll find that there will be players from a certain country who play well on these types of courses. Starting with the Open Championship for the last five years, there is a clear pattern when looking at the top 20 each year. And that pattern is… there isn’t any pattern. That is, I don’t find that players from a certain country dominate the results. Rather, it just looks like the best players show up year after year and play well. Sure, there are loads of Americans, but also you find English, South African, Aussie and even a couple Spanish players. If I extend this research to other majors played on links-style courses, the results are fairly similar. These include results from majors played at Whistling Straits (PGA Championship in 2010 and 2015) and the U.S. Open at Erin Hills in 2017. The only noticeable difference is that less English players show up on the leaderboards from these tourneys. However, this is likely not statistically significant as less English players were entered in those tournaments. Well, so much for my hunch that a particular country would stand out as being stellar on links style courses.

Let’s look and see if certain players play better on these same links stye courses. Here, I think I am on to something. Names like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar and Brooks Koepka show up many times. Even guys like Marc Leishman, Jason Day and Adam Scott appear a few times. With the exception of Matt Kuchar, these players can overpower golf courses. It makes sense to me that such players could score well on links style courses as they can blast away, hit wedges and easy irons into the greens or pound the ball out of the rough/fescue/junk if shots go awry. This bit of research leads me to want to play power hitters once player selection enters my research process.

This research also shows me that certain players don’t truly show up at the Open Championship. DJ made two top 20s, but didn’t come close to competing up top in any of the last 5 Opens. Tiger was nowhere to be found outside of a good showing last year; however, he either didn’t play or was hurt much of the past number of years. Justin Thomas is a noticeable no show on these leaderboards.

So, what has this research into performance on links style courses taught me? Not a ton, but I will make a point of trying to get Rory into my lineup given his dominant performance on such courses. I do worry about the “hometown boy” pressure that will sit on his shoulders as he carries the hopes of dreams of North Ireland; however, his stellar play can’t be ignored. And I will likely completely fade Justin Thomas as he only played well once (Erin Hills 2017).

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