The 142nd Open Championship
Gullane, East Lothian, Scotland
Yards: 7,192 per theopen.com
Par: 71 (36-35)
Course Architects: George Lowe (1897); Harry Colt (1919); Martin Hawtree (2010-2011)
Winner’s Share: $1,440,000
FexExCup Points: 600 to the winner
Defending Champion: Ernie Els fired 32 coming home to win his second Open Championship and fourth-career major as he defeated Adam Scott by one shot.
Dates: July 17-21
Notes: The Claret Jug stays in the winner’s possession for a calendar year. Ernie Els returned it, unscathed, Monday after his year with it in tow.
There have been 29 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 23 of them but Australian Adam Scott and Englishman Justin Rose have the two biggest trophies, the Masters and U.S. Open, respectively.
There have also been 11 first-time winners this season. There have also been just two multiple winners, Tiger Woods (four) and Matt Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial). There were only nine first-time winners in 2012.
In the last 18 Opens, 11 winners have flown the Stars and Stripes.
Since the last Open at Muirfield, there have been 43 majors won by 31 different players. Only Woods, Mickelson, Harrington, Cabrera and McIlroy have won multiple titles during this stretch.
In 1999, Paul Lawrie began the final round 10 shots behind Jean Van de Velde. Van de Velde began the round with a five-shot lead. It’s The Open Championship. This can happen.
The last four players to win on their maiden voyages have been Ben Curtis (2003, Royal St. George’s), Tom Watson (1975, Carnoustie), Tony Lema (1964, St. Andrews) and Ben Hogan (1953, Carnoustie). One of these things is not like the other.
Muirfield (16 times) trails only Prestwick (24) and St. Andrews (27) for the most times hosting The Open Championship.
The winners at Muirfield are magnificent:
2002: Ernie Els
1992: Nick Faldo
1987: Nick Faldo
1980: Tom Watson
1972: Lee Trevino
1966: Jack Nicklaus
1959: Gary Player
1948: Henry Cotton
1935: Alf Perry
1929: Walter Hagen
1912: Ted Ray
1906: James Braid
1901: James Braid
1896: Harry Vardon
1892: Harold Hilton (A)
In the modern era, Roberto de Vincenzo, 44 years and 93 days, is the oldest winner of this event.
If you think Ernie Els can repeat, you’re not alone. If he does, he’ll join a club of legends that includes names such as Morris, Thomson, Vardon, Hagen, Locke, Palmer, Trevino, Watson Woods and Harrington. Oh, and the Morris boys, Jaime Anderson, J.H. Taylor and Bob Ferguson. That’s golf royalty.
The last amateur to win was Robert Jones in 1930, his third and final Open Championship.
The youngest winner in the modern era is Severiano Ballasteros Sota at 22 years, three months and 12 days. The world just called him “Seve”. He won three of these and two Masters.
In 1980, Tom Watson set the tournament record for Muirfield by firing 13-under-par 271.
Only 10 players in history have won the week before a major and have gone on to lift the trophy the following week. Since 2000, only Phil Mickelson (2006) and Tiger Woods (2007) have pulled off this back-to-back feat. This week, Jordan Spieth will try and join this exclusive club as Mickelson is already a member.
Rank and File
Steve Stricker is the only person from the top 50 in the OWGR who is not playing this week.
Muirfield, hosting its 16th Open Championship, is one of the “all-time” best courses in the world of golf. Not much has changed around these parts over the last 150 years and that’s what makes it great. The design then was the design they are playing now. Sure, they’ve added extra tee boxes and bunkering to accommodate the juiced golf ball and 460 drivers but the layout, original bunkering and route have barely been disturbed over time. The players love it because they can measure their games against the best of all-time who have won here.
The player that wins this week must be able to work the ball both directions in and out of the wind. That same player will have to adapt to the conditions instead of trying to overwhelm the conditions. Experienced players can adapt; young guys tend to grip it and rip it. On top of that, Tom Watson suggested that players who are comfortable and creative around the greens should flourish. Tiger Woods suggests that the mentally tough will prevail because there will be bad breaks when players hit great shots. The weather will be a factor because it will be in the back of player’s minds. Those who overcome that and yet find a bit of luck as well will be hoisting the Claret Jug as Champion Golfer of 2013 come Sunday afternoon.
Best 10, Plus One
Tiger Woods: His elbow is healed so that shouldn't be an issue this week as he looks to inch closer to Jack Nicklaus’ 18 majors. He hasn’t won one of these since 2008 U.S. Open and he hasn’t played since the 2013 U.S. Open so there is cause for concern. That concern goes out the window for me because he has all the shots and was going to win here in 2002 before the storm blew in. He fired 81, his worst round as a professional, in round three in those conditions. Many forget that he followed that up with 65 on Sunday. If the weather holds and his elbow holds up, he will join the elite group of winners at Muirfield.
Phil Mickelson: So close again at the U.S. Open and cut again at the Greenbrier, Mickelson keeps the fantasy gamer on his toes at all times. The family joined Mickelson last week at Castle Stuart as he prevailed in a playoff for his first victory in Europe since 1993. Stat people, he’s finished in the top 20 in the Scottish Open three times. He’s never backed that up with a top 10 at The Open. Is this is the NEW PHIL? He said Tuesday morning that he found something with the putter (he wouldn’t disclose what) and that he now loves links golf. OF COURSE HE DOES.
Jason Day: He’s teed it up 10 (11 if you include his WD after one round at 2012 Masters) times in the majors and hit the top five in four of those. He has five top 10s. He was third at the Masters and T2 at the U.S. Open this year so he’s about on form as you can get on the most pressure packed events of the season. His Open form isn’t great but with that record in that few events, I refuse to worry about that this week. Plus, he loves to grind and can hole putts. I’ll worry about that instead.
Dustin Johnson: He’s the only player in the last three years to finish in the top 15 at The Open. He’s been close in majors before (Pebble Beach 2010, Whistling Straits 2010, Royal St. George’s) and he has no problem playing costal venues. He’s won twice at Pebble Beach. He won the Barclays in a hurricane. He’s won at Kapalua. I’ve been asked about his personal life but remember the more she’s around, the more it’s “normal”. He’s an incredible talent and he’s finished T9, T2 and T14 in the last three Opens.
Justin Rose: His masterful performance at the U.S. Open saw him claim his first major championship but that hardly surprised anyone in the world of golf. Sometimes, the first one is the toughest and there is no reason that Rose cannot be the first Englishman since Sir Nick Faldo to win The Open. His only appearance after his victory at the U.S. Open was T13. He’ll be rested and relaxed and will not have to answer the English press’s questions about when he’s going to win a major anymore. As well as he strikes the golf ball, he’s on the list every time he tees it up.
Ernie Els: The 2012 and 2002 champion, the latter being at Muirfield, has proved over the years that this is the championship that he prefers. His 13 top 10s back up that statement. The Big Easy was T4 at the U.S. Open and backed up that finish with a win in Munich at the BMW International. He fired 72-70 to miss the cut last week at Castle Stuart but investing with the defending/defending champion this week is a sound plan of attack.
Adam Scott: The lightly-raced Aussie is back in the country of last year’s disappointment but this time with a green jacket thrown over his shoulder. He’s got a big caddy, a big game and bag full of confidence. I’ll overlook his four starts after the Masters (no top 10s) and rely on his huge talent instead this week. He’s the one-and-done this week, kids.
Sergio Garcia: He’s 11 of 14 in his career at The Open and seven of those weekends have resulted in top 10s. We remember the break down on Sunday at Carnoustie. We remember he couldn’t keep up with Tiger Woods at Royal Liverpool but the fact is his ball-striking does him more good than bad on this style of golf course. His worst effort of 2013 was at The U.S. Open but he bounced back with T7 at the BMW International in Munich. He finished T8 here in 2002.
Graeme McDowell: Mr. “All-or-Nothing” has either MC or won in his last eight events worldwide. He MC at the Masters and won the next week at RBC Heritage. He MC at THE PLAYERS and won the following week at the Volvo World Match Play. He followed that with MC at the BMW Championship, the U.S. Open and the Irish Open before winning two weeks ago in France. His current form outshines his Open form and he’ll have learned from playing in the final group here last year.
Lee Westwood: He was spotted working with Sean Foley earlier this week at Muirfield. I have read some pundits who believe that working with a new instructor is the kiss of death the same week as a major. I’m not so pessimistic because Westwood knows he’s not getting any younger and he if believes he just needs a tweak here or there, I’ll trust the player on that. He has 11 top 10s in his last 21 majors so he’s proven time and again that he’s competitive on the big stage. He MC here in 2002 but his improved short game has me encouraged even more this week.
Henrik Stenson: With finishes of T18 at the Masters, T5 at THE PLAYERS and T21 at the U.S. Open, Stenson has showed that he’s up for it in 2013. If that’s not enough proof, he crossed the pond to ping T10 at the BMW International and he was the 54-hole leader last week at Castle Stuart before fading to T3. He’s right there. This man pounds fairways and greens and has finished T3 twice (2008, 2010) at The Open. If he makes anything this week, he could be the first Swede to win a major.
Charl Schwartzel: He’s made the cut in 14 of his last 15 majors and his only miss was last year at this event. Anytime he’s in the field, he’ll find his way on to this list because he’s such a solid, solid player. The 2011 Masters champ, like Adam Scott, doesn’t play a ton of events, but his last two times out, he finished T8 at Memorial and 14th at the U.S. Open. You’ll remember that he was one shot out of the lead heading into Sunday before he bogeyed EVERY HOLE in the final round for 78. Can you tell he was on my roto team that week?
Nicolas Colsaerts: In just six majors played in the last three years the Belgian Bomber has found the top 10 twice, T7 here last year and T10 at this year’s U.S. Open. If you thought last year might be a fluke, he finished T8 last week at Castle Stuart in the Scottish Open. Bombs away, I say.
Luke Donald: An uneven season for the Englishman in 2013 has seen him show flashes of brilliance stateside but it hasn’t translated outside of North America. He’s been in the top 25 in eight of nine starts in the States but his best finish in three events worldwide is T42 in France two weeks ago. He’s made the cut in three of his last four Opens and those finishes are T5, T11 and T5. His short game will be the difference and a dry, fast course will eliminate his “shortness” off the tee.
Brandt Snedeker: In his last four majors he’s made three cuts and finished T17, T6, MC and T3. His T3 last year gave him the belief that his short game can translate across the ocean. Snedeker’s recent found accuracy with his ball-striking won’t hurt his chances either this week. He’s was close here last year as he lead after 36 holes and didn’t make his first birdie until hole No. 40. He’s healthy and he’s confident about the state of his game. That’s an excellent combo for someone with his talent.
Matt Kuchar: He’s seen the weekend in 12 of his last 14 majors which mirrors his consistency during regular TOUR events of that period of time. The “new” Kuchar has won the WGC-Match Play and the Memorial this season and that backs his PLAYERS win from 2012. The next piece of the puzzle is to win a major and he has plenty of game and the disposition to make that happen.
Bill Haas: I don’t like the fact that he’s never pinged at top 10 in 15 majors but I do like the fact that he’s having a great season. In 13 weekends, Haas has 11 times within the top 25 and eight of those are top 10s. His win at AT&T National in late June was backed up by T9 the following week at Greenbrier so his form is bang-on as well. Don’t forget he’s faced some pressure before as he battled Hunter Mahan for 10 million smackers in the 2011 TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP playoff. He’ll be ready.
Zach Johnson: His best finishes in 2013 have been where he played his best golf in 2012. Now, I know this is a different course but Johnson has proven his mettle across the pond as his T9 last year was his best Open and sixth year in a row he played the weekend on the links of Scotland/England. Even though he didn’t win last weekend, he should be encourage by the confluence of these factors.
Matteo Manassero: After winning for the fourth time in four years on the European Tour back in May, the 20-year old Manassero is playing like a seasoned veteran. He backed up his victory with a T4 in Sweden before MC at the U.S. Open. Back across the pond, he rattled off a pair of top 25s before his T57 last week at Castle Stuart after his closing round 76. I like that his lack of length will be negated this week on a firm, fast track. He beat a massive field to win the BMW PGA at Wentworth so he shouldn’t be intimidated this week.
Rickie Fowler: After opening with 79 in his first Open, Fowler has never fired another round over 72 in his last 11 rounds. He finished T31 last year, T5 in 2011 and T14 in 2010 so for a youngster that hasn’t lived up to some people’s expectations, he hasn’t disappointed on the links. He backed up his T10 at the U.S. Open with T13 at Travelers and T21 at AT&T National so he should be raring to go.
Rory McIlroy: Too much talent to omit, too many issues to factor at the top, McIlroy is fighting his way through new clubs, new balls and jet-setting with his No. 1 tennis lady. Since his T8 at THE PLAYERS, he’s MC, T57, T41 and MC. I guess the good news he’s had 18 days to prepare for this…