This year’s Open track is Royal Birkdale GC, a 7,156 yards par 70 layout.
To sum up the course – It is NOT long, and it only has two par-5’s; both on the back 9, but both in the final four holes (which will add some excitement). The set-up off the tee is one that rarely, if at all, requires a Driver; so that really brings everyone in the field into play.
While the fairways are fairly flat, they’re also tight; and the dunes that line each hole can stand as high as 40 feet tall. That may help give spectators unobstructed views but makes it really tough for players to see where they’re going if they stray off the fairway. In addition to those narrow fairways, are a bunch of bunkers; Over 120 total and about 50 that are in play off the tee. Yet another reason not to hit Driver very often, if at all.
Weather is going to be a factor this week, one way or the other. Jordan Spieth mentioned in his pre-tourney Presser how it can reek havoc on one half of the field, and give the other half an advantage. OR: the weather the first two days could be pretty similar and no one gets a distinct advantage – That in itself IS something, so either way its worth watching. Unfortunately, predicting weather more than a day out is really a fool’s errand at The Open.
If there does appear to be a favourable draw one way or another, those affected in the Thursday Morning Wave include:
- Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose and Justin Thomas
Those in the late wave Thursday and Early Wave Friday include:
- Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler
Ok now to the Good Stuff:
Through mainly Recent form, Open History, Performance in the Majors the last 2 years – but also a mixture of year-long and recent stats correlating to Royal Birkdale, my Top-5 for the week are as follows:
5) Jordan Spieth – With a win in his last event and three top-15’s in his last four starts – Jordan looks ready for another major win. His WORST finish at The Open the last four years is 36th. His worst finish in a Major since the beginning of last year – 37th. He LOVES big tournaments and comes in playing well, with good correlating stats to boot.
4) Sergio Garcia – Masters Champ Sergio is another guy that hasn’t missed a cut this season. Pretty much every number around him this week is good. Recent starts: 2nd, 21st and 12th. Recent Open Finishes – 5th, 6th, 2nd, 21st. Recent Majors – 21st, 1st, 5th, 5th, 34th. Don’t really need to say much more than that.
3) Matt Kuchar – Kuch hasn’t really had a breakout Major moment yet, but he’s getting close and doesn’t appear to have had a better shot than this. Two 4th’s and a 16th in his last three starts – Two of those being in Majors. Matt is a Top-10, Top-20 Machine. He may not WIN this week, but I definitely expect to see him around the top of the leaderboard.
2) Rickie Fowler – As the consensus “Best Player without a Major” – Yeah that title didn’t take long to find a new suitor after Sergio shed it, Rickie is a popular pick this week. But for good reason. 9th, 3rd and 5th in his last three events; Top-10 in nearly every relevant stat category this week, and good history both in Recent Majors and in the Open.
1) Hideki Matsuyama – My Top pick to win – And also a guy that has yet to win a Major. However, the last SEVEN Majors have been won by first-timers. Hideki is 1st in my Recent Form category by the stats, and 3rd in season-long correlating stats. He finished 14th and 2nd in his last two starts, Two top-20’s in his last 4 Opens, and has finished in the Top-11 in majors FOUR times since last years Masters.
Others I like: Steve Stricker, Paul Casey, Marc Leishman & Louis Oosthuizen
Guys I DONT like this week:
You may have noticed there are quite a few big names NOT on my list. Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Jon Rahm. I have my reasons for each, mostly having to due with recent finishes in tour events and Majors. But again, these are just predictions, I’m guaranteed to get some wrong, hopefully I’ll get some right too