The 2017 British Open Winner Will be Thirtysomething, or older. Who Will Win?
By Paul Laubach
No tournament is harder to predict than the British Open. One must not only contend with the usual suspects on the PGA tour, but include a slew of Euro’s as well. Clearly, “The Open” is an elderly gentleman’s event. I am throwing out world rankings and picking out the “senior” citizens who seem most likely to succeed. Here are my picks for 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
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No tournament is harder to predict than the British Open. One must not only contend with the usual suspects on the PGA tour, but include a slew of Euro’s as well. Clearly, “The Open” is an elderly gentleman’s event.
Six of the last seven winners have been 39 or older. Only Rory McIlroy, when he still had his “A” game, was younger. Eight years ago a 60 year old Tom Watson nearly took home the Claret Jug. Thus, I am throwing out world rankings and picking out the “senior” citizens who seem most likely to succeed. Here are my picks for 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
Lino Quickels, CC BY-SA 2.5
Sergio Garcia (37) has been knocking on the door for this title over the last three years. With the “major” monkey off his back he figures to be the favorite to take home the title. Assuming he is not distracted with the upcoming nuptials, he figures to be a lock for a top ten.
Adam Scott (36) not only is the right age, but has a great record at the British. Before 2016, he had put together four straight top 10’s. I am not sure his game is fully tuned, but the memories (excluding his collapse in 2012) should help carry him.
Zach Johnson (41) has a win under his belt, as well as four top 12’s in the last five years. His game is well suited to the links design. Until recently he was off-form, however, his annual strong showing in the John Deere Classic should get his confidence back.
Dustin Johnson (33) might be a bit young, but he has a surprisingly good record in the British Open. He has been in, or near, the top ten in three of his last four Opens. Generally, I do not think bombers have an advantage on this type of course, but DJ seems to enjoy it. Add his good showing at Chambers Bay a few years back and it would seem his game favors this type of layout.
Henrik Stenson (41) is not playing particularly well, and there is no way he will make the putts he drained last year in the amazing match with Lefty, however, the course should suit him and he has a decent Open record. I cannot see him winning, but there is a good chance he challenges.
Phil Michelson (47) played terrible across the pond when he was younger, however, his recent record, including the win in 2013, suggests he has it figured out. I fear the split with “Bones” could be problematic, however, Phil will probably be trying to prove something and should be focused. Having finished no worse than 23 the last four years suggests a possible strong showing.
Justin Rose (36) is another of those players just now old enough to be a winner. Three straight top 25’s, after two consecutive missed cuts would indicate he may also be figuring out how to play the links courses. He is too good a ball striker to leave on the sideline.
Steve Stricker (50) is not really a great bet, but he is the sentimental favorite. What could be better than getting your first major at his age? He looked decent at the John Deere, and seems to play well when he shows up. He had a quiet 4th place last year and would seem to have the game for this event. (I could make nearly the same argument for Lee Westwood (44) but we’ll go with Stricker this year.)
Having overplayed the age card, it is possible that a young player could sneak in. If so, I would expect it to be:
Jordan Spieth (23) is “an old soul”. Of all the young players on tour he seems the best suited to play with the old guys. Jordan’s record is decent in the event and he has been playing well. If he does not press, I expect good things.
Jon Rahm (22) blitzed the field at the Irish Open. The Spaniard does not seem to know that he is not supposed to beat these guys. His only appearance in an Open was last year, with a 59th. His recent form is just too good to pass up.
With Jason Day and Rory McIlroy struggling, it is easy to take a pass. Young guns Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger are not old enough, or experienced enough on links courses to get the nod. I hate leaving Koepka off since he has a good record in British Opens and played so well at Erin Hills.
Matsuyama with a hot putter might contend, but has an indifferent record at this event, with only one top 10 in recent years. Fowler is playing pretty well and having an excellent 2017 campaign, but figures to blow up on a couple of holes. I like Kuchar, Snedeker and Oosthuizen because they are wizened veterans, with decent records in the Open.
Tyrel Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood would have been obvious picks, but, between them they have missed six of the last seven cuts.
If history is any indication this year’s Open winner will be mid-30’s, or older. The fact that so many great players fall into this category makes picking them less risky.
Weekly Observation: I could not stomach the Women’s U.S. Open this past weekend. I have long felt the LPGA was on the wrong track and it seems to be getting worse. The players are amazingly talented, but it is like watching robots. The tour needs to add some charisma. At this point, I do not think it is salvageable. The new dress code is certainly not going to help…just saying.
Paul Laubach is completely unqualified to provide expertise with respect to golf course rankings and design, however, he is a highly opinionated golf addict who believes everyone should be entitled to his thoughts. He has recently released Confessions of a Golfaholic: A Guide to Playing America’s Top 100 Public Golf Courses; now available in hardcover edition. Please visit tophundredgolf.com regularly for more (im)practical information.