The First DFS Look Ahead to the British Open
Yardage: 7,402 – Par 71
Purse : $ 10.5M
Field: 156 Players
*Past British Open Champions
The third major of the year comes on the heels of three straight weeks of blowouts. This past week Korean-born American Michael Kim won his first career PGA event. There may have been a lack of drama, but the last three weeks have been extremely impressive for a select few players. Francesco Molinari won the Quicken Loans by eight shots, Kevin Na won the Greenbrier by five, and now Kim won the John Deere Classic by eight, shooting a record setting 27-under par. The John Deere is a tournament where winners regularly shoot 20-under. Kim bested everyone who’s ever played the John Deere by racking up 30 birdies, while making just three bogeys for the entire tournament. The third-year Tour pro who just turned 25 on Saturday gets rewarded with a trip to Carnoustie for the British Open, a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, and of course $1.044 million in his bank account.
Let’s talk major championships. The British Open will be hosted at the death trap known as Carnoustie Golf Links. If you’ve ever scrolled through YouTube for famous golf meltdowns, (or were a golf fan 20 years ago) Carnoustie is the site of perhaps the greatest collapse in golf history. Jean Van de Velde was the choker, and Paul Lawrie was the beneficiary. If you care to watch the most horrifying choke in golf history, I’ve given you enough keywords to find what you need.
Carnoustie has hosted the British Open eight times since 1931 with this being the first return to the Scottish course since 2007, the year that Padraig Harrington beat Sergio Garcia in a playoff. A handful of the players from that tournament 11 years ago will be teeing it up this week. Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia have the unlikely but small possibility of meeting in a playoff again at Carnoustie. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Henrik Stenson, Charl Schwartzel, Stewart Cink, Paul Casey, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Pat Perez, Zach Johnson, Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter all played in the last British Open at Carnoustie in ‘07. With the exception of Stricker, Harrington, Furyk, and Cink, pretty much anyone on that list can still win the Open 11 years later. Most likely one of those four guys will come out firing this week and make me eat my words for counting them out.
The Top 50 in the world will all gather to face one of the toughest challenges in all of golf, the Championship Course at Carnoustie Golf Links. Carnoustie embodies everything that a British Open is meant to be. It’s a links-style course with no trees, deep pot bunkers, tall fescue, burns that run across fairways (otherwise known as creeks to us uncultured Americans), and the possibility of 30-40 MPH winds at any given moment.
Any past British Open winner will say there is a certain amount of luck involved in winning the Claret Jug. In any golf tournament, a fortunate kick or two is always needed to gain victory, but the Open separates itself with the inevitability of the weather playing a factor. British Open venues (usually England or Scotland) are known to have inconsistent weather from day-to-day, and hour to hour. To play this game right, the best method is to wait until the very last minute before the Open starts, and stack players who appear to be on the favorable side of the tee-time draw. There have been many instances where an entire half of the field was wiped out simply because they teed off at a time where the course and conditions were nearly impossible.
Beyond the luck factor, to have success at Carnoustie Golf Links every part of a golfer’s game to be on point from Tee-to-Green. Playing at Par 71 and over 7,400 yards distance has never been less relevant than it is this week. The British Open is known to be the “Old Man Tournament”, because experience and management far outweigh raw talent and power. With the exception of the wonderkids Spieth and McIlroy, five of the past seven British Open winners have been 39 or older. Course management off the tee (strokes gained: off-the-tee) and a solid approach game (strokes gained: approach), are far more important than just being able to hit the ball 350 yards off the tee. With hazards on the course threatening to take a shot away on every hole, avoiding every pot bunker or creek is the goal, but unrealistic for most. Good scramblers will be rewarded if they can find ways to make pars even after missing their original target.
Lastly, Carnoustie puts an emphasis on Par 4s like no other course we’ve seen lately. Par 70 courses generally sport 12 Par 4s, but this week we have a Par 71 with 13 Par 4s! Usually there would be 11 Par 4s, three Par 5s, and four Par 3s. Carnoustie does things a little differently with their setup. The golf links at Carnoustie sport just two Par 5s, and three par 3s, leaving the other 13 holes to be of the Par 4 variety. Par 4 scoring will be statistically as important as it’s ever been as players will be playing over 70 percent of their holes on Par 4s. With so many par 4s on the course, perhaps the most important number for players to think about…don’t make any sixes.
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
Strokes Gained: Approach
Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee
Par 4 Scoring
Tee Times in Favorable Weather