We’ve been treated to perhaps the most exciting year of major championship golf in recent memory, but it comes to an end this week as the 2023 Open Championship takes center stage. Hoylake, England, will welcome the best players in the world with plenty of history surrounding Royal Liverpool and its championship pedigree.
The course has crowned some of the all-time champions in the game: Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Peter Thomson, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. It will seek to see another emerge, though McIlroy himself enters at top of mind coming off his 24th career PGA Tour victory at the Scottish Open. The Champion Golfer of the Year the last time the Claret Jug traveled to these parts, the world No. 2 is the favorite to raise the silverware once again. Check out the.
McIlroy is peaking, but he is not alone. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler remains an ever-present figure on leaderboards since the fall of 2022. Jon Rahm still has four victories to his name this season, while LIV Golf members Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Bryson DeChambeau are among the consistent fixtures at majors. Oh, and then there is the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year, Cameron Smith, who is fresh off a win on LIV Golf along with a pair of top-10 finishes in the last two major championships.
We’re here to help you parse through the noise, form and results between tours because we know it can be tricky business. With all that in mind, let’s take a look back at the last 10 years of Open data and identify what trends exist as we attempt to whittle down the field of 156 players to pinpoint this year’s champion at the 151st Open Championship
1. Official World Golf Rankings
The discourse around the OWGR has cooled to a simmer, but the rankings remain relevant. Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa were all inside the top five the week leading up to their triumphs, while Shane Lowry was the low man on the totem pole checking in at world No. 33. Given LIV Golf’s status with the OWGR, let’s operate with some wiggle room and push that out to top 50 in order to appease the masses.
Eliminated: Those outside the top 50 of the OWGR, notably Bryson DeChambeau, Gary Woodland, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Patrick Reed
2. Course may change, stakes do not
Similar to the PGA Championship, Morikawa’s triumph at Royal St. George’s is an outlier in terms of experience. Winning in his debut appearance, the 2021 Champion Golfer of the Year is the lone victor to not register a previous top-20 finish in The Open prior to raising the Claret Jug. From 2013-19, each had collected a top-10 finish in this championship, but Smith added some extra margin for error having only cashed a top 20 before last year’s win.
Eliminated: Max Homa, Wyndham Clark, Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Kurt Kitayama, Tom Kim, Sepp Straka Denny McCarthy, Sahith Theegala, Joaquin Niemann, Tom Hoge, Billy Horschel, Adam Schenk, Nick Taylor, Min Woo Lee, Taylor Moore, Adrian Meronk, Seamus Power
3. What have you done for me lately?
Let’s continue to trim the fat. Over the last 10 years, all but one Open champion had not previously won a tournament that calendar year. This was Zach Johnson in 2015, but the two-time major champion did register a podium finish the week prior at the John Deere Classic. Mickelson, Spieth, Smith and Francesco Molinari already had multiple wins to their names. The Open has batted both clean up and brought up the caboose in the order since 2013 and allows plenty of lead-up time for players to find form. If you haven’t won in 2023, don’t expect the first to come this week.
Eliminated: Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Young, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brian Harman, Shane Lowry, Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Henley, Harris English, Adam Scott, Ryan Fox
4. Major-championship pedigree
Players don’t just luck into a major championship. They will often build up to it and develop some scar tissue along the way. Smith was a member of the final pair at the 2022 Masters before hitting a disastrous shot on the par-3 12th at Augusta National and squandering his chances. He is among the four Open champions to have previously finished runner up in a major. Meanwhile the other five over the last 10 years — Mickelson, McIlroy, Johnson, Spieth and Morikawa — already had a major on their résumé.
Eliminated: Corey Conners, Si Woo Kim, Chris Kirk, Emiliano Grillo
… and just like that, we are down to 12 players …
5. Let’s get technical
Comparing finishing positions between LIV Golf, the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour is tough enough, so let’s dive into some strokes-gained statistics. (This date was pulled prior to the conclusion of the Scottish Open where a number of players may have improved their standings). Since 2013, champions averaged +1.98 strokes gained per round the three months prior to winning The Open.
Eliminated: Matt Fitzpatrick, Tony Finau, Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Justin Rose
6. Speak softly and carry a big stick
There are murmurs out there that one does not need to be a great driver to raise the Claret Jug, but even Mickelson, Spieth and Smith were posting positive strokes gained off the tee numbers leading up to their titles. Royal Liverpool identified the best driver of the golf ball as the best player in 2014 with McIlroy, who was averaging +1.52 strokes gained off the tee, coming out on top. Who is to say this time will be any different? The last Open winners averaged +0.55 strokes gained off the tee beforehand.
Eliminated: Cameron Smith, Rickie Fowler
7. Iron it out
Approach play generally rules the day, and The Open is no different. Spieth, Molinari and Morikawa were all gaining more than a stroke on approach per round leading into their wins. On average, champions were averaging +0.80 strokes gained with their irons which surprisingly takes out a regular on the major championship stage over the last year.
Eliminated: Viktor Hovland
That whittles us down to …
four golfers from a field of 156: Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka. These have been the four best players from the beginning of the season and should come as no surprise to still be alive here. Each has plenty of history on the line, and each is more than capable of securing it. The foursome have combined for 12 major championships and one of the bunch are certain to make it 13 once it is all said and done.
Who will win the Open Championship, and which longshots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected Open leaderboard, all from the model that has nailed nine golf majors, including this year’s Masters.