Horses for Courses: 149th Open Championship

Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent, will host the first edition in two years. Shane Lowry is the defending champion of the event but Darren Clarke was the last winner on this track. Let’s dig deeper!

Getting closer!

The 149th Open Championship returns to England and Royal St George’s for the 15th time to identify the Champion Golfer of the Year.

No other English track has hosted more Open Championships as the Sandwich, Kent, seaside links will host for the first time since 2011 when Darren Clarke lifted the Claret Jug. The Par-70 layout will twist and wind 7,189 yards thru the seaside dunes on southeast coast of England. Rain, wind, humps, bumps, bunkers and massive greens are the hallmarks of Open Championships and this week won’t be any different.

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Royal St George’s was the first English venue used in the championship in 1894. Dr. Laidlaw Purves supervised the design in 1887 and much of it, minus additional tee boxes, remains intact today. It will play 22 yards shorter than 2011, the last time it hosted the championship.

The formula this week will involve patience, persistence and plenty of skill. Every club in the bag and every ounce of experience in links conditions will be relied upon to navigate the fourth and final major of 2020-21.

Playing the ball on the ground out of the wind, navigating bunkers and fescue off the tee and judging putts on massive greens will determine this week’s champion. So will mental toughness as bad bounces, bad forecasts and bad breaks can play quite the role this week in determining the winner. Grinding out pars, accepting the cards dealt and moving on will be a requirement for contenders. So will a bit of good fortune!

The prize pool will consist of $11.5 million USD with the winner taking home taking home $2.070 million USD. Along with 600 FedExCup points, the victor will claim the Claret Jug, a gold medal, title of Champion Golfer of the Year and an exemption in the event until the age of 60. Not to mention five years of exemption on the PGA and European Tours and entry into the majors for that time span as well.

Shane Lowry will look to join Tiger Woods (2005-06) and Padraig Harrington (2007-08) as back-to-back champions this century. The top 70 and ties will play the final two rounds. In the event of a tie after 72 holes, a three-hole aggregate playoff will determine the winner. If not, sudden death from that point forward will determine the winner.

Recent Event Winners Stats

WinnerShane LowryFranceso MolinariJordan Spieth
CourseRoyal PortrushCarnoustieRoyal Birkdale
All Drives12T3744
Putting: BOB%2T72
3-Putt AvoidanceT65 (4)T12 (1)T62 (3)
Bogey Avoidance4T4T2
Par-3 ScoringT1T9T4
Par-4 Scoring1T93
Par-5 ScoringT31T7T1

Recent Winners – Royal St George’s

2011 – Darren Clarke (-5, 275)

Defeated Dustin Johnson (T2) and Phil Mickelson (T2) by three shots. … Led Johnson by one after 54 holes. … Co-led with Lucas Glover (T12) after 36 holes on 4-under. … Trailed by three after opening with 68. … Only player to post all four rounds at par or better. … One of two players to post three rounds in the 60s. … Circled 14 birdies and two eagles against 11 bogeys and one double. … T2 GIR but only T56 Fairways. … T5 Putts per GIR. … Only found four bunkers for the week. … Won his first major in his 20th attempt, breaking the previous record of 16 tries. … Became the second oldest Open Champion at age 42. … Won nine weeks prior at the Iberdrola Open and cashed four of five before The Open. … T59 in 2003 and T39 in the 1993 editions at Royal St George’s.

Notables in the field this week:

Dustin Johnson (T2) was sixth in GIR, third Putts per GIR and picked up his best finish to date in the event. … Phil Mickelson (T2) went out in 30 and birdied No. 10 on Sunday to get to six-under but bogeyed half of his final eight holes to share second, his best result to that point in his career. … Rickie Fowler (T5) was in the penultimate group, three back entering Sunday before he posted 72. … Sergio Garcia (T9) closed with 68, just one of six rounds in the 60s on Sunday. … Lucas Glover (T12) played the weekend 7-over after sharing the 36-hole lead. … Martin Kaymer (T12) sat one off the 36 hole lead before playing the weekend 6-over. … Webb Simpson (T16) opened with 66, one off the 18-hole lead, but his only round at par or better. … Rory McIlroy (T25) and Adam Scott (T25) didn’t break 73 on the weekend. … Ryan Moore (T28) (MOORE IS NOT IN THE FIELD THIS WEEK) opened and closed with 69. … Only four players broke par and seven were Even or better. … Only nine rounds in the 60s on the weekend. … Cut was 143 (+3).


T30 – Gary Woodland, Ryan Palmer, Jason Day
T44 – Justin Rose
T54 – Paul Casey, Louis Oosthuizen
T63 – Joost Luiten
68 – Henrik Stenson


Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood, Danny Willett, Alex Noren, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Streelman, Charley Hoffman, Ian Poulter, Ernie Els, Francesco Molinari, Brad Kennedy and Matt Kuchar.

2003 – Ben Curtis (1-under, 283)

Won by a shot to become the first Open winner since Tom Watson (1975) to win on debut. … Age 26. … Ranked 11th in Fairways, T16 GIR and T8 Putts per GIR. … Only found four bunkers on the week (1/4 Sand Saves). … First TOUR victory. … Ranked 396th in the OWGR before the week started. … MC in the 2011 edition.

Notables in the field this week:

Sergio Garcia (T10) finished five back. … Ernie Els (T18) fired 68 after opening with 78 to make the cut. … Padraig Harrington (T22) posted one of 12 rounds in the 60s in Round 4. … Stewart Cink (T34) posted a final round 68, co-low of the day and second best of the week. … Ian Poulter (T46). … Darren Clarke (T59), Phil Mickelson (T59). … MC: Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Adam Scott and Justin Rose. … Cut was 8-over, 150. … Only three players were level par or better.

Last Open Champion – 2019 – Shane Lowry (-15, 269)

Irishman won his first major at Royal Portrush, Northern Ireland by six shots. … At age 32 became just the fourth player under 35 to win since 2007. … Fired 63 in Round 3, the low round of the week and led by four after 54 holes on 16-under. … Lowry did not close his four shot lead at the 2016 US Open at Oakmont. … Co-led after 36 holes on 8-under. … Posted 67 in Round 1 to trail by one. … Led the field with 23 birdies. … Entered the week on five straight paydays including three in the top 10. … Cashed T8 at the PGA Championship and T28 at the US Open earlier in the season after MC at Masters.

Notables in the field this week:

Tommy Fleetwood (2nd) matched his best major championship finish. … Tony Finau (3rd) backed up his T9 in 2018 at Carnoustie. … Brooks Koepka (T4) cashed in the top 10 for the third time in four tries. … Lee Westwood (T4) picks up his 11th top five in majors. … Rickie Fowler (T6) was T12 Fairways, T5 GIR and T2 Putts per GIR. … Tyrrell Hatton (T6) was one of four players to post all four rounds par or better. … Robert MacIntyre (T6) cashed a top 10 on debut. … Danny Willett (T6) picked up his first top 10 in a major since his victory at Augusta National. … Patrick Reed (10th) also played all four rounds at par or better. … Defending champion Francesco Molinari (T11) closed with 66, the round of the day on Sunday. … Cut was 1-over 143. … First time hosting the event since 1951. … First event outside Scotland or England since 1951.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2020-2021 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.

Strokes-Gained: Tee to Green
1Collin Morikawa
2Jon Rahm
3Brooks Koepka
4Patrick Cantlay
5Justin Thomas
6Keegan Bradley
7Paul Casey
8Bryson DeChambeau
9Viktor Hovland
10Tony Finau
11Rory McIlroy
12Xander Schauffele
13Corey Conners
14Will Zalatoris
15Tyrrell Hatton
16Dustin Johnson
18Sergio Garcia
19Jordan Spieth
20Shane Lowry
21Russell Henley
22Matt Wallace
24Charley Hoffman
25Joaquin Niemann
26Daniel Berger
27Patrick Reed
1Webb Simpson
2Patrick Cantlay
6Brian Harman
9Russell Henley
9Harris English
11Cameron Tringale
13Ian Poulter
14Louis Oosthuizen
17Abraham Ancer
19Chris Kirk
20Matt Jones
22Jason Day
23Talor Gooch
24Patrick Reed
37Justin Thomas
39Charley Hoffman
48Cameron Smith
49Tyrrell Hatton
Strokes-Gained: Putting
1Louis Oosthuizen
2Brendon Todd
3Christiaan Bezuidenhout
4Jason Kokrak
5Ian Poulter
9Patrick Reed
11Xander Schauffele
12Kevin Kisner
13Cameron Smith
16Brian Harman
17Adam Scott
21Webb Simpson
22Harris English
23Cameron Tringale
24Matt Fitzpatrick
25Joaquin Niemann
28Mackenzie Hughes
29Sam Burns
29Adam Hadwin
31Daniel Berger
32Justin Rose
34Jordan Spieth
35Bryson DeChambeau
37Alex Noren

Horses for Courses

Top golfers over the last five US Opens entered this week and other exceptions

Player (Starts/Cuts Made)Top 10sTop 25Most RecentRecent Others
Shane Lowry (4/8)22Win (2019)T9 2014; MC from 2015-2018
Tommy Fleetwood (3/6)122nd (2019)T12, 2018; T27 2017; Last 3 best 3
Tony Finau (4/4)233rd (2019)T9 2018l; T27 2017 is the worst
Lee Westwood (19/25)68T4 (2019)Cashed 5 straight; T27 or better in 3
Brooks Koepka (5/6)33T4 (2019)3 of the last 4 T10 or better
Rickie Fowler (9/10)35T6 (2019)T2 2014; T5 2011; 6 straight
Danny Willett (6/8)24T6 (2019)T6 2015
Tyrrell Hatton (3/8)22T6 (2019)T5 2016
Robert MacIntyre (1/1)11T6 (2019)Bookend 68s in 1st Open
Patrick Reed (4/6)1310 (2019)All four T28 or better
Francesco Molinari (8/12)25Win (2018)T11 defense
Rory McIlroy (9/11)56T2 (2018)T5 or better in 4 straight before MC 2019
Justin Rose (13/18)39T2 (2018)T6 2015; 6 straight
Xander Schauffele (3/3)12T2 (2018)Posted 6 of 12 rounds in the 60s
Kevin Kisner (4/5)11T2 (2018)Last 2 are the best 2 but 4 straight overall
Matt Kuchar (9/15)34T9 (2018)2nd 2017; 8 straight and 9 of 10
Jordan Spieth (7/7)34Win (2017)T9 defense; T20 2019; 16 of 28 rounds in the red
Haotong Li (2/3)113rd (2017)T39 2018, MC 2019; 63 Sunday at Birkdale
Rafa Cabrera Bello (6/8)12T4 (2017)MC-74 last 2 years
Alex Noren (6/9)25T6 (2017)Cashed 4 straight; only 1 worse than T19
Marc Leishman (6/9)33T6 (2017)P2 2015, T5 2014
Branden Grace (8/9)12T6 (2017)Only MC 2018; Major record 62 at Birkdale 2017
Henrik Stenson (13/15)47Win (2016)T20 or better 3 of last 4; 11 straight
Phil Mickelson (19/24)4112nd (2016)2013 winner; T2 2011 here
Sergio Garcia (18/23)1012T5 (2016)T6 2015, T2 2014; Last 3 T37-MC-T67
Dustin Johnson (9/11)35T9 (2016)T2 2011 best to date; T51-MC-T54 last 3
Louis Oosthuizen (7/13)24P2 (2015)2010 winner; T20, T28 last two
Jason Day (8/9)13T4 (2015)2019 broke 8 straight and 4 consecutive T25 or better
Adam Scott (15/20)59T10 (2015)2019 broke 9 straight
NotablesTop 10s Top 25sMost RecentRecent Others
Padraig Harrington (14/23)48Win (2008)Win 2007
Darren Clarke (16/24)48Win (2011)T21 best since
Stewart Cink (15/21)26Win (2009)T20-T24-T20 in 3 of last 4

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