The Confidence Factor: 147th Open Championship

Carnoustie hosts for the eighth time and will present plenty of problems for the world’s best.

I’ll post my picks before 1 pm ET so stay tuned.

Did I say before? Oh, well, I meant AFTER

(Added Matt Fitzpatrick 1:42 pm)

Plenty of goodies in here, as usual, Haggis not included!

147th Open Championship

Carnoustie Golf Links

Angus, Scotland, United Kingdom


Carnoustie Golf Links Cheat Sheet

Yards (per official scorecard): 7,402
Par: 71 (36-35)
Greens: Fine fescue
Stimpmeter: Well below TOUR average due to wind.
Rough: Fescue and gourse
Bunkers: 111
Water Hazards: Barry Burn
Architects: Allan Robertson, Old Tom Morris (1842); James Braid (1926).
Purse: $10.5 million/$1.89 winner/600 FEC Points
Defending Champion: Jordan Spieth (-12, 272; Royal Birkdale)
Fact of the Week: The only two players to win The Open Championship after winning the week prior since 1970 are Lee Trevino and Phil Mickelson.



  • 156 players. Top 70 and ties will play the weekend.
  • One tee start all four days.
  • Winner receives a five-year exemption on TOUR and to every major.
  • Playoff: four-hole aggregate then sudden death.


2017-18 Winners

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

Event Winner
Safeway Open Brendan Steele
CIMB Classic Pat Perez
WGC-HSBC Champions Justin Rose
Sanderson Farms Ryan Armour*
Shriners Hospitals for Children Patrick Cantlay*
OHL Mayakoba Patton Kizzire*
The RSM Classic Austin Cook**
Sentry TOC Dustin Johnson
Sony Open Patton Kizzire (2)
CB Challenge Jon Rahm
Farmers Insurance Open Jason Day
WMPO Gary Woodland
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am Ted Potter, Jr.
Genesis Open Bubba Watson
Honda Classic Justin Thomas
WGC-Mexico Championship Phil Mickelson
Valspar Championship Paul Casey
Arnold Palmer Invitational Rory McIlroy
WGC-Match Play Bubba Watson (2)
Corales Puntacana Resorts Brice Garnett*
Houston Open Ian Poulter
Masters Patrick Reed
RBC Heritage Satoshi Kodaira*
Valero Texas Open Andrew Landry*
Zurich Classic of New Orleans Billy Horschel & Scott Piercy
Wells Fargo Championship Jason Day (2)
THE PLAYERS Championship Webb Simpson
AT&T Byron Nelson Aaron Wise**
Fort Worth Invitational Justin Rose (2)
Memorial Bryson DeChambeau
FESJC Dustin Johnson (2)
U.S. Open Brooks Koepka
Travelers Championship Bubba Watson (3)
Quicken Loans National Francesco Molinari*
A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier Kevin Na
John Deere Classic Michael Kim*


The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM and contains plenty of angles on the track and those who have aced this exam. 

You need course form? Read the above.

You need keys to victory? Read the above.

You need course preview? Read the above.

You need a history lesson? Read the above.

Every week.

Every column.

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record: 264; Stenson (-20)
Course Record: 63; Tommy Fleetwood (Par-72) at last October’s Dunhill Links.
Recent Defending Champion(s): Tiger Woods (2005-2006), Padraig Harrington (2007-2008).
Multiple Winners: Woods (3x), Els (2x), Harrington (2x)
First TOUR Win (last): Ben Curtis, 2003
First Win in First Appearance (last): Ben Curtis, 2003
Low Round Last Year: 62, Branden Grace (Royal Birkdale); MAJOR CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
Rookies of Note Last Year: Haotong Li (3rd), Xander Schauffele (T20).
Odd Fact: Two of the five highest Open Championship totals have been posted at Carnoustie.


Quick Thoughts

If you thought Shinnecock Hills was tough and dry…Carnoustie is one of the most difficult challenges on the planet and this week won’t be any different. The baked-out conditions won’t help as nobody is going to know where the ball will quit rolling. And nobody knows EXACTLY what the weather is going to produce either.

I’m leaning on class and experience. The former winners of this event should reinforce that belief. Patience, strategy, execution, pain and joy will all be part of the formula this week. So will shaping the golf ball, having a confident stroke on slow greens and not being afraid to execute shots in the wind.

As with any major, this isn’t the week to snap a guy out of a slump. There are too many factors at play, including the top 60 players in the world. I’ll touch on all the major players below. Some will stick out in a good way. Some will stick out in a bad way!



In order of preference for this week and this tournament; LTO= LAST TIME OUT; LW= Last week; LY= Last year this event. I’m tired of typing all that out!

Dustin Johnson: Go to PGATOUR.COM and count up how many statistical categories (PLURAL) he leads. Let me know how many it is. He’s already tamed Oakmont and nearly won at Shinnecock. A win this week would surprise absolutely nobody.

Justin Rose: Of his last 22 events worldwide, 17 have resulted in top-10 finishes including four wins. Faldo was the last Englishman to win in 1992 so he’ll have that pressure to deal with. His temperament and newly-found putting stroke should be a lights-out combo this week. Proper.

Rory McIlroy: I’m a firm believer that ball-striking wins major championships. I’m also a firm believer that slow greens will give the 2014 champ the green light in the confidence department. He stumbled into the 2014 edition at Royal Liverpool (T23, MC and T14) and blew the doors off the joint. His worse finish in his last three Opens is T5.

Brooks Koepka: Anybody who handles Shinnecock doesn’t need much explaining. Add that he’s hit the top 10 in the last two Opens and I should just stop writing. Here’s the list that have won the U.S. Open and Open Championship in the same season: Tiger Woods (2000), Tom Watson (1982), Lee Trevino (1971), Ben Hogan (1953), Gene Sarazen (1932) and Bobby Jones (1926, 1930).

Joining that group would be something. His wrist held up in defending is U.S. Open title so it is all-systems go for me.

Justin Thomas: He’s played 14 events in 2018 and has 13 top-25 paychecks. His record in the majors should continue to evolve in a positive direction just like everything else in his game. He’s fifth SG: total.

Patrick Reed: There’s nobody hotter in the majors as Reed has rattled off T2, Win and fourth in the last three. His confidence has never been the issue and now that it’s through the roof, no chance I’m bailing. If nobody knows where it’s going this week, I’ll take the guy with the sickest short game to make plenty of pars to hang around.

Tiger Woods: I agree when folks say this EVENT is his best chance. I’ll even suggest this week is plausible as well if 20 birdies aren’t necessary. He’s played here in the worst before and knows what it takes. With the driver staying in the bag thanks to the burned-out fairways, it will be up to his iron/wedge game to get it close and his putter to find some joy. Keep it out of trouble and get up-and-down and he’ll be very solid this week.

Jon Rahm: I love that he does it his way. It drives me crazy when it doesn’t work. He’s going to bomb Carnoustie into the Stone Age, as he does every track, as driver is his weapon of choice. He tuned up with T5 at the French Open on a difficult track and backed that up with T4 at the Irish Open the following week. The entertainment value will be off-the-charts here.

Alex Noren: Since he infuriated gamers with MC (Masters) and MC (Wells Fargo Championship) after his third-place finish at Match Play, Noren’s escape from our purview includes a four-event run of T3, T23, T25 and a victory LTO at the French Open. He also has a pair of top-10 paydays in his last four Open Championships including T6 last year. Steady Eddie.

Paul Casey: He’ll remember 2007 fondly as he hit the top 30 with T27 but after 11 years it might be a bit hazy. Casey’s game always travels because he’s a stud tee-to-green. He has one finish outside T20 in 2018 and has collected T15 and T16 in the first two majors.

Tommy Fleetwood: Pretty easy dots to connect here as he owns the course record and put on a show at Shinnecock for 54 holes. His record in this event is surprisingly hot garbage and so his recent form since the U.S. Open. He hasn’t MC in five consecutive majors.

Sergio Garcia: Everyone, including me, would have lost their house if they were forced to wager on which major Garcia would have won first. His 10 top-10 finishes prove that point and I’ll argue this is his spiritual home. The Ryder Cup stud knows how to get it around over here and will be a massive crowd favorite if he gets anywhere near the lead. His form is heating up just in time as well with T12 and T8 in his last two.

Zach Johnson: Every year he plays the JDC and every year he hops on the charter Sunday night to the UK to play The Open. He has one finish outside T16 in his last seven plus the 2015 title at St. Andrew’s. It’s not the Masters where you play him, folks!

Rickie Fowler: Gave it a lovely go last week at Gullane before stalling out T6. His annual Open prep takes him to the Scottish Open so he’s right on schedule.  After his solo second at the Masters he hasn’t gone close again. Too many shots in his bag this week to ignore.

Ian Poulter: Sadly there is no “Ryder Cup” major or he would have a couple of those already. He played Carnoustie 70-70 on the weekend in 2007 but finished T27. He hasn’t cashed for worse than T30 in his last seven worldwide so I don’t need a calendar to know it’s a Ryder Cup year.

Russell Knox: I love that he’s on fire and winning almost every tournament he enters. Does he think he’s Francesco Molinari?? His last five WEEKS (not events) T12, T38, T2, WIN and T49 LW at Gullane suggest he’s ready to rumble. The bad news is he’s paired with Woods the first two days. The good news is the Scotsman will be the crowd favorite. Poor Hideki Matsuyama being the third wheel…

Francesco Molinari: With $1.5 million cashed in his last two TOUR events, I don’t think anyone is fading the Italian. I’m not here to talk you into but we’re dealing with an entirely different kettle of fish this week than the fields at QLN and JDC. Hot golf is hot golf but Carnoustie will present many different challenges and the quicker he adjusts, the quicker he’ll get back up the leaderboard.

Hideki Matsuyama: His major record is what has my attention this week as he’s cashed 19th or better in seven straight. With only one top-10 paycheck in 2018 it’s obvious that he hasn’t found top gear yet. Toss in a MC at THE PLAYERS and MC LTO at Gullane and that equals the amount of MC from calendar 2017.

Marc Leishman: I should probably move him up but I’m still trying to figure out how he didn’t beat Aaron Wise heads-up at Trinity Forest in May. I’ll remind you that he’s T6 or better in three of his last four Opens and has cashed in NOYNE consecutive majors. Difficult tracks and difficult conditions suit him well.

Branden Grace: There are more guys who I LIKE more than I love this week and that’s ok. He’s never MC in seven tries but he’s hasn’t teed it since Shinnecock Hills. The harder the course, the more I lean on him and this week easily qualifies.

Jason Day: I have no idea where to put him. He never misses at this event but only has one top-10 finish (St. Andrew’s). His Shinnecock MC is going to help in the preparation for this week or put immense pressure on his short game again. He’s made 26 of 31 cuts in majors and that counts for something.


Next Tier

Just missed the list above because of a wart or two; order isn’t important.

Louis Oosthuizen: If I fade him, you play him! The last time we saw him he was T16 at the U.S. Open following T5 at Colonial and T13 at Memorial. He threw the brakes on at an odd time but that was the plan.

Webb Simpson: He’s cashed in the top 25 in the three biggest events this season including winning THE PLAYERS.

Russell Henley: Too many stars aligning here as he enters off back-to-back top-10 results plus he’s cashed in seven straight majors.

Tyrrell Hatton: Probably should move him up after T6 at Shinnecock, T16 French Open and T9 LTO at Gullane. He’s known to get a bit fired up on the course and that lack of patience might explain his five MC in six tries. His talent was on display for the other start, T5 at Royal Troon.

Tony Finau: Isn’t bothered by majors (T10 Masters, 5th U.S. Open this year) as he’s played in seven weekends form nine with six going T29 or better. He’s 2-from-2 at The Open the last two years.

Charl Schwartzel: He’s tasted the wrath of Carnoustie with 75-75 MC in 2007 but this decade he’s only MC once in eight tries. Of those seven finishes five are T18 or better. He’d be higher up the list but he’s a bit chilly. Let’s hope his four-week break (all the South Africans???) also recharges his batteries after MC at Shinnecock.

Matt Kuchar: Anytime where length won’t be a factor, he should. This hasn’t been his bread-and-butter event over the years but he’s a craft veteran that should provide a safe selection.

Thorbjorn Olesen: My kinda fella! WIN-MC-T2-MC-T6. If that’s not fantasy golf purgatory, what is?? Back the trend or run directly into the flames!

Jason Dufner: Did somebody say SLOW GREENS!!!!! If your angle is to load up on ball-strikers, starting here won’t hurt. He’s not MC in his last six trips across the pond.

Brandt Snedeker: He had to play himself in and did. His lack of distance off the tee won’t be an issue this week but his immaculate short game will. All of his wins are costal golf for the most part (Torrey, Pebble, Harbour Town).

Matthew Fitzpatrick: The stage hasn’t proven to be too large as he’s taken home cash in eight of 10 majors in his career. Shinnecock Hills was the best of the bunch as he collected T12. He’s another who will enjoy the firm and fast this week.

Haotong Li: He’s drinking through a fire hose and doesn’t seem to mind one bit. Since his solo third here last year he’s won in Dubai, finished T32 at Augusta and T16 at Shinnecock.

Gary Woodland: He’s never missed in six tries so I’m guessing his power is worth something over here. He’s shown life once the calendar flipped form spring to summer but nothing to push him to the front of the line.

Peter Uihlein: He started his career cutting his teeth over here so he’ll be one of the first to adapt. His steady run into the U.S. Open included a pair of top-five paydays. He took three weeks off before T12-Irish – MC-Scottish prepping for this week.


Proper Long Shots

You’re on your own here!

Matthew Southgate: After T12 in 2016 he went even better with T6 last year. The French Open is as hard as it gets and he took T5 there before cashing at both links primers (T59-Irish; T23-Scottish). Fill yer boots!

Padraig Harrington: Duh. No form though and hasn’t competed in a major this season.

Shane Lowry: Ok, I’ll bite. I’d rather hitch my horse to a guy who grew up on it rather than a first-timer like List. I know, I know, Watson and Hogan AND BEN CURTIS won in their first appearance.

Luke List: Close your eyes and hope he doesn’t wake up from last week. Maybe the shift to links golf is exactly what he needed because from THE PLAYERS to last week at Gullane he was dire.

Chris Wood: Every year an Englishman, outside of their Ryder Cup hopefuls, seems to stand up and wants get into the fight. Wood has the pedigree of the Silver Medal and the tools to flush it tee-to-green on tough tracks.

Julian Suri: His streak of nine events on the bounce popped last week at Gullane. Remember this is just his second major.

Ryan Fox: If bombing it to Bolivian is the angle this week, might want to take a look-see here. He’s cashed in nine straight and his last two are his best two, second and T6. I’d mention they were at the Irish and Scottish but you knew that.

Andrew Landry: He led after 36 holes at Oakmont. His maiden victory was at an annually difficult VTO. His last top 10 was at TPC Potomac, another non-easy track.

Andy Sullivan: With 14 paydays from 15 events in 2018, I hope everyone leans on the MC from last week and ignores the six top-10 markers.

Jorge Campillo: His best year on the European Tour has resulted in qualifying for his first major championship. He’s in the field this week from his season-long play not a sectional qualifier.

Dylan Frittelli: Top 25’s in his last three in France, Ireland and Scotland. COMING IN HOT!

Beau Hossler: If the Olympic Club didn’t bother him at 17, Carnoustie should only annoy him. He’s had a fantastic run on TOUR recently with 11 straight checks cashed and the last two for top 10’s.

George Coetzee: He’s hit the top 18 twice from six tries. He’s flashed just enough the last three months to fall in here.

Martin Kaymer: I can’t remember what his streak was in majors but it came to a disgusting halt at Shinnecock (78-78). The following week, when I didn’t play him, he was T2 in Munich. He enters the week MC-MC but has cashed in nine of 10 lifetime at The Open.

Lee Westwood: Too many of these to count anymore. I have full confidence he could pull a Darren Clarke this week and might just have to toss a tenner on it to make sure.

Tom Lewis: You have to have one ridiculous pick, right?



The road to success is filled with potholes. You don’t drive your car over them so why put them on your fantasy team?

Jordan Spieth: There are only two ways to Spieth: Yes or no. This week, like Shinnecock, is no. There are no clues this is ending the week of a major. Having a player of his stock finish T22 is not “winning”.

Henrik Stenson: Massive player in the event. Massive player in majors. Massive doubt as he skipped Gullane last week to rest a sore wrist elbow. This is a FANTASTIC angle for contrarians and those who believe in the “Injured/Sick/Wounded” golfer theory. I’m not into buying damaged goods.

Bryson DeChambeau: He didn’t make it 18 holes in defending his title last week. I’m not sure six days is enough to make me put him in any lineups.

Daniel Berger: Another who is nursing a wrist, he pulled out late before JDC to get more rest. I’m pulling out as well, Shinnecock be damned!

Anybody who won last week: Congrats to Michael Kim and Brandon Stone! Both were ranked below 350 in the OWGR. Those rankings aren’t arbitrary.

Bubba Watson: Too many variables for me.

Phil Mickelson: The EJECT button is way too close to the pilot.

Jhonattan Vegas: Last I saw on Twitter he was having visa and flight issues on MONDAY. Bad combo.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me


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