2017 British Open
Defending Champ: Henrik Stenson
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2017 British Open Picks: Show Index
2017 British Open Field
156 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make the Cut
Bryson DeChambeau’s Sunday comeback at the John Deere Classic not only secured him a giant payday to fund his jaunty chapeau addiction but the final spot in the 146th Open Championship. He, and three Scottish Open qualifiers (Playoff loser Callum Shinkwin, Matthieu Pavon, and Andrew Dodt) complete the field at 156 players. Unlike the year’s first two Majors, the British Open abides by the most familiar cut system. There’s no “within 10 shots of the lead” nonsense, just the top 70 players (and ties) following 36 holes will play the weekend. Simple stuff.
Basically every known player on Earth is at Royal Birkdale competing for the Claret Jug. Each of the Top 50 players in the world will be teeing off. Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Henrik Stenson, Alex Noren, and Rickie Fowler enter play as the World’s Top 10, followed closely by US Open champion Brooks Koepka. They’re joined by a slew of qualifiers from around the world and a bunch of past champions. The last six Champion Golfers of the Year will be in attendance (Stenson, Zach Johnson, McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and Darren Clarke), and it’s important to really stare at that list and find the common denominator. Even with Rory, the average age of those winners is 38.5 years old. This is an old man event, keep that in mind.
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I’m sure you’ll see plenty of stories talking about Tommy Fleetwood this week too. He’s currently spitting Dylan levels of HOT FIYA, AND, this is his home course. Apparently his dad still walks his dog past the Birkdale every day, and Tommy used to sneak on to the course late at night to get some shots in. It’s a great story, and one I’m sure you’ll get sick of hearing all week.
2017 British Open Key Stats
2017 British Open Course
Royal Birkdale | 7,156 Yards | Par 70
It’s the 10th time Royal Birkdale’s hosted the Open Championship, and first since Paddy Harrington repeated as champion golfer of the year in 2008. That year, Paddy won by four strokes at 3-Over. Mark O’Meara won at Even Par in 1998. The last time a winner cracked double digits under par was Lee Trevino in 1971. And, mainly, it’s all due to the weather. In 2008, the wind breached 50 mph in the opening round and only three players ended up in red figures. Currently, Thursday at the Open doesn’t appear too daunting, Friday seems like it may get a bit messy, but as we’ve witnessed over the years, the gale force gusts can appear at a moment’s notice. Tracking the weather situation up until tee off is going to be critical in formulating the proper strategy. If the wind is down, you can load up on high ball hitters who can really attack the pins. If it’s looking gusty, you’ll want accuracy mavens, who keep the ball low, and have creative short games. Frankly, that’s probably the better bet regardless.
Just 7,156 Yards, Birkdale plays as a Par 70 and there’s no predominant skill set that’s emerged as “the proper way to play” over the past events. The fairways are narrow and shockingly flat, there are typical British Open style “take your medicine bunkers” and the greens are super tricky. Unlike last year at Troon, if you spray it off the tee, it will be disastrous. Scrambling won’t be as easy. Think of it like a really short version of Erin Hills. All we heard about the entire week was how penal the fescue and a lack of accuracy would be. Which still could be true, we never found out, the fairways at the US Open were wide enough to land dueling Boeing jets. Royal Birkdale doesn’t afford the field that same luxury.
Oh, the wind is going to swirl from different directions hole-to-hole and change round-to-round. This is what happens when the grounds boarder the Irish Sea. The course once had 6000 trees protecting it, but those got removed before the 1998 Open, and in the two events since, we’ve seen tournaments with elevated scores.
For key stats I’m sticking with Strokes Gained approach, Par 4 birdies or better, driving accuracy, Bogey Avoidance and Par 3 efficiency from 175-200 yards. A quick glance at the scorecard reveals all four Par 3s fall in that particular range… almost. There are two that measure 201 yards, so I’ll lump those into the fold. The Open forces the field to adjust to different conditions every hour, so it takes a strong mental game and a wealth of experience to avoid disaster, hence the elevated age of the past champions. It’s also worth noting that the past seven champion golfers have all played the week before The Open too. If trends are something you’re interested in.
2017 British Open Picks (Yahoo Picks)
Adam Scott & Branden Grace – While the British Open switches courses every year, there is a style play that translates season-to-season. And, for whatever reason, Scott has that skill set. He’s made his past seven Open cuts, with four Top 10s in the last five years. The Aussie isn’t having his best season, but has been finding form recently. He’s posted Top 10s in two of his last five starts, and sits inside the Top 20 versus the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, SG: Approach, SG: Off-The-Tee, and in Par 3 efficiency from the key range of 175-200 yards… Grace has never missed a British Open cut, despite a lack of top end results. But his fate will be tied to the weather. Never one to go out and win birdie fest, the South African will contend if the conditions get bad. If the wind stays down and high ball hitters like Rahm and Day can attack the pins, Grace is finished. However, if they start to swirl the low ball flight/long iron specialist will grind out enough pars to be in contention.
Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Francesco Molinari, Jordan Spieth & Paul Casey – Since suffering a wrist injury early this year, the world seems to have completely forgotten about Snedeker. Always one of the world’s best wind players, the 36-year-old has rebounded nicely with T14/T9 finishes since his return to health. Like Grace, if this becomes a score fest, a coked-out 1976 Burt Reynolds may have a better shot at winning, but should conditions not remain ideal, you’ll want Sneds on your roster Snedeker has withdrawn with a Rib injury… Kuch has played the weekend at the Open five straight years, and enters in sizzling form – T4/T16/T4/T12/T9. Earning those results exactly the way you want to attack Royal Birkdale: Par 4s (7th), SG: T2G (2nd), SG: Approach (5th), P3 175-200 (15th), and Fairways Gained (16th). He’s the proper age (39), has the game, and a victory would push the streak of first time Major winners to eight… With Molinari, you’re looking for consistency instead of a win. Basically, he’s Kuchar-lite, checking out in almost exactly the same areas: Par 4s (5th), SG: T2G (3rd), SG: Approach (3rd), and Fairways Gained (7th). Maybe this is the week his putter won’t let him down… I wanted to take one of the BIG 4 in the world, and Speith makes the most sense. No, he’s not having the greatest season with his driver (113th OTT), but the rest of his game has been so good he just needs to not kill himself off the tee and he’ll be fine. Birkdale is short enough to mask his lack of distance, and the remainder of his game is peaking at the moment. Over his last 12 rounds versus this field: T2G (4th), APP (2nd), Around-The-Green (5th), Putting (19th), P4 (1st)… Casey will be the Snedeker replacement.
Sergio Garcia & Ian Poulter – Now that he’s finally won a Major, it appears like people don’t think he can do it again. Don’t sleep on Sergio, though. Since 2005, he’s 11/12 for cuts made at the British Open, with seven Top 10s, and only three finishes worse than T21. That’s consistency. And, the best part, regardless of how the course plays, Sergio is well equipped to take it on. If conditions are calm, Sergio can go out and score; if it’s RAINING SIDEWAYS, Sergio can handle that as well. He’s a perfect links style golfer…Would it stun you to know Ian Poulter, a man who once wore this on the course, has been the world’s best statistical player over the past month-and-a-half? If it doesn’t, I assume you’re Ian Poulter reading this. And please, if this is you, Ian, go get some practice in and try and cash my 100/1 ticket. In his past 12 rounds versus the field, the Brit ranks first T2G and in Strokes Gained: Around-The-Green. He’s second in Par 4 scoring, 10th in fairways gained, and fourth in approach. Plus, he’s one of the few players in the field who’ve achieved success at this course before: Poulter finished second in 2008 at Birkdale. He comes in having made seven straight cuts, including a T9 at the Scottish Open last week. It’s now or never for the 41-year-old, and I’m thinking it could be actually be now. Crazy as that sounds.
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