The Open

Open Championship 2023: 10-year trends point to...

Claret Jug at Hoylake
Who will win the Claret Jug at Hoylake?

Dave Tindall looks at the make-up of the last 10 Open champions to try and find this year's winner at Hoylake...

  • Dave sifts through the key Open Championship stats

  • Points system ranks those likeliest to contend

  • Will it be a young gun or an old head? Read on to find out...


This year's 10-year trends previews have given us a decent run without landing the jackpot. Hopefully that changes in the 151st Open Championship which this year heads to Hoylake.

So far in 2023, our US Masters top scorer Jordan Spieth took fourth place at Augusta National while Scottie Scheffler, the No.1 trends pick at the US PGA, went even closer when runner-up at Oak Hill.

Patrick Cantlay came out top of the trends for the US Open and finished tied 14th. Not great but that's a hat-trick of top 15s.

Now to Hoylake where the two winners in modern memory are icons of the game: Tiger Woods in 2006 and Rory McIlroy in 2014. Can the trends point us in the right direction in 2023?

For this year's showdown I've listed nine categories: World Ranking, Nationality, Age, Open Form, Winning Form, Recent Majors Form, Majors Excellence, Current Form and Week Before.

Let's enjoy this walk through the last 10 years of Open history and see which players come out as the best fit.


World Ranking

I'll use this category to explain the points system. The key is frequency. So, in this article, it's how many times something has happened in the last 10 editions of the Open Championship. Looking at world rankings, six of the last 10 winners were ranked inside the top 10 in the OWGR. Therefore, those in that category this year score 6pts. But it hasn't been a monopoly: Ernie Els (2012) was 40th, Shane Lowry (2019) 33rd, Zach Johnson (2015) 25th and Francesco Molinari (2018) 15th so players currently ranked 11th to 40th score 4pts. Anyone outside the current world 40 draws a blank.

Ranked in world's top 10 = 6pts
Ranked 11th to 40th = 4pts
Ranked over 40th = 0pts


Nationality

So far in 2023, Americans have won two of the three Majors: Brooks Koepka the US PGA and Wyndham Clark the US Open. There was a time when Americans dominated this event too and from 1995 to 2006, US players won 10 of the 12 Opens despite many not having much experience on the links. But Collin Morikawa's victory in 2021 is their only success in the last four so that needs to be reflected. The last 10 editions show four wins for Americans, four for Europeans and two for Internationals.

Shane Lowry wins The Open.jpg

American = 4pts
Europeans = 4pts
Internationals = 2pts


Age

I tried using an average age system in the US Open and players got more points the closer they were to the 10-year mean number of 28.3 (winner Wyndham Clark was 29 by the way). However, the Open tends to be won by very talented young bucks or those with plenty of experience. So the problem with doing an average in this case is that we land on an age between the two main clusters of champions so it's not very representative.

Let's focus on the successful age ranges. Five of the last 10 champions were 35 or over so those in that age bracket this year get 5pts. We've seen three winners aged 25 or below so those in that younger generation get 3pts and the rest two points.

Aged 35 or over = 5pts
Aged up to 25 = 3pts

Aged between 26 and 34 = 2pts


Open Form

Morikawa won the Claret Jug on his Open debut in 2021 so does that mean it's an old-timer's myth to think that you need bags of experience? In addition, Cam Smith had nothing better than a tied 20th before his victory at St Andrews last year.

But before that, the previous eight Open winners had posted a top 10 in the event. That's a strong trend and isn't good news for elite players such as Max Homa and Justin Thomas.

Top 10 in an Open = 8pts
11th-20th in an Open/debut = 2pts


Winning form

Having a win earlier in the season has been common to eight of the last 10 Open champions so that's another strong trend. Cam Smith had won The Players Championship and The Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier in 2022.

Cameron Smith Claret Jug.jpg

Morikawa had captured the WGC-Workday Championship in February 2021 before winning at Royal St George's and, in fact, the last five Open winners had all tasted victory earlier in the season.

Widening it to the last 10 and only two lifted the Claret Jug without a victory under their belts. That pair, Zach Johnson and Ernie Els, had both managed a top three.

Won that season = 8pts
Posted a second or third that season = 2pts


Recent Majors Form

As we've noted in all these trends previews, winners at this level almost always don't come out of thin air; they've usually advertised their credentials with a good performance in a recent Major. Last year Cam Smith had placed 13th in the US PGA on the back of a third at Augusta National .

Despite some slightly surprise winners of the Claret Jug, nine of the last 10 had posted a top 20 in one of their previous two Majors so it's a very strong pointer.

Top 20 in one of their last two Majors = 9pts
Posted a 21st-25th in last two Majors = 1pt


Major Excellence

Although having a good run in a recent Major is seen as a big plus, is it an advantage to have won one already?

History is slightly mixed here with six of the last 10 Open champions having already landed a Major. But, if we extend that to near misses, we scoop up everyone as all of the last 10 Open winners had already posted a top two in a Major during their careers. Smith was a former Masters runner-up. That's bad news for Patrick Cantlay and Max Homa, who score 0pts.

Top two in a Major = 10pts
No top two in a Major = 0pts


Current Form

Although links golf can be regarded as a unique test that sees the specialists come to the fore whatever their current form, the numbers say it's important to have had a good recent finish.

Eight of the last 10 Open champions had posted at least one top 10 in one of their three previous starts. The conclusion seems to be, if you're playing well, that translates well to an Open course even if it is a completely different test on paper. The odd man out, surprisingly, was McIlroy. His best was a 14th before winning at Hoylake in 2014.

Top 10 in one of three previous starts = 9pts
Finish of 11th-15th in one of three previous starts = 1pt


Week Before

Is it a smart idea to play the week before and, if so, where?

It makes sense that playing some links golf ahead of the Open would be a smart ploy but we've seen in recent times players lift the Claret Jug a week after contesting the John Deere Classic, despite that course being nothing like a links track.

In all, history says playing anywhere is a good move and with Smith (2022) and Morikawa (2021) playing the Scottish Open, eight of the last 10 Open winners teed it up the week before.

Played previous week = 8pts
Had previous week off = 2pts


The Top Points Scorers

The scores are in and - drumroll - these are the rankings:

65 Justin Rose, Viktor Hovland
64 Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy
62 Rickie Fowler
58 Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele
56 Collin Morikawa
54 Brooks Koepka

Notes: Matt Fitzpatrick would jump to 58 with a Scottish Open top 10.

As it stands, Rose and Hovland are tied. However, if the Norwegian fails to post a top 10 in the Scottish Open, he'd drop down to eighth in the rankings as that would be his third straight event without one.

So Rose, somewhat surprisingly, gets the nod if betting now. The Englishman is currently World No.29, has a win this season (Pebble Beach) and is a past Major winner who has finished runner-up in this event. He's playing the Scottish Open and ahead of that event has form of 4-MC-8. What nudges him to the top is age and hopefully the 42-year-old can turn that experience into victory and emulate other veteran Claret Jug winners such as Ernie Els (42), Phil Mickelson (43), Zach Johnson (39) and Henrik Stenson (40).

Justin Rose Pebble Beach scenic.jpg

Rose, who famously finished fourth on his Open debut as an amateur at nearby Royal Birkdale in 1998, is currently 33/134.00 on the Sportsbook and 7069/1 on the exchange. Hovland is 14/115.00 Sportsbook and 2423/1 exchange.


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