Preview: 149th Open Championship

The final major of six on the “year” heads to Royal St George’s in England.

Shane Lowry will look to be the first to defend since Padraig Harrington in 2007-08.

149th Open Championship

Royal St George’s Golf Club

Sandwich, Kent, England

Yards (per official scorecard):7,189
Par:70 (35-35)
Stimpmeter:10 feet as of Wednesday afternoon via Martin Slumbers.
Rough:Fine fescue.
Architects:Dr Laidlaw Purves (1887)
Purse:$11.5 million and $2.060 million (winner); 600 FedExCup points.
Defending Champion (event):2019 Shane Lowry (-15).
Fact of the Week:Exactly 1 tree on the course.
Fact of the Week II:Most used (15th time) track outside of Scotland for The Open.


  • 156 players; Top 70 make the cut.
  • 4-hole aggregate playoff will break any ties after 72 holes. Sudden death follows if still tied.
  • Royal St George’s has hosted twice this century with Darren Clarke (2011) and Ben Curtis (2003) lifting the Claret Jug.

2020-21 Winners

** – first time winner on TOUR

Safeway OpenStewart Cink
120th United States OpenBryson DeChambeau
Corales Punta Cana ChampionshipHudson Swafford
Sanderson Farms ChampionshipSergio Garcia
Shriners Hospitals for ChildrenMartin Laird (playoff)
Bermuda ChampionshipBrian Gay
Vivint Houston OpenCarlos Oritz**
84th Masters TournamentDustin Johnson
The RSM ClassicRobert Streb
Mayakoba Golf ClassicViktor Hovland**
Sentry TOCHarris English
Sony Open in HawaiiKevin Na
The American ExpressSi Woo Kim
Farmers Insurance OpenPatrick Reed
Waste Management Phoenix OpenBrooks Koepka
AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-AmDaniel Berger
The Genesis InvitationalMax Homa
WGC – Championship at The ConcessionCollin Morikawa
Arnold Palmer InvitationalBryson DeChambeau (2)
THE PLAYERS ChampionshipJustin Thomas
The Honda ClassicMatt Jones
WGC- Match PlayBilly Horschel
Corales PuntacanaJoel Dahmen**
Valero Texas OpenJordan Spieth
85th Masters TournamentHideki Matsuyama
RBC HeritageStewart Cink (2)
Zurich Classic of New OrleansCameron Smith/Marc Leishman
Valspar ChampionshipSam Burns**
Wells Fargo ChampionshipRory McIlroy
AT&T Byron NelsonKH Lee**
103rd PGA ChampionshipPhil Mickelson
Charles Schwab ChallengeJason Kokrak (2)
Memorial TournamentPatrick Cantlay (2)
Palmetto Championship (Congaree)Garrick Higgo**
121st US OpenJon Rahm
Travelers ChampionshipHarris English (2)
Rocket Mortgage ChampionshipCam Davis**
149th Open ChampionshipLucas Glover

Check out HORSES FOR COURSES for more details on those who play well here.

Event Winners:

2020Not ContestedCOVID-19
2019Shane Lowry
Royal Portrush
Defeated Tommy Fleetwood by six shots to win his first major championship.
2018Francesco Molinari CarnoustieHeld off four studs to win by two and pick up his first major championship.
2017Jordan Spieth
Royal Birkdale
Won by three for his third major championship.
2016Henrik Stenson
Royal Troon
Posted 20-under 264, both Open records, as he beat Phil Mickelson by three to claim his first major championship.
2015Zach Johnson
St Andrews
Won a 3-man playoff defeating Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman.
2014Rory McIlroy
Royal Liverpool
Knocked out Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler by two shots.
2013Phil Mickelson
Won by three for his first Open title.

Facts and Figures:

Course Record:63; Nick Faldo, Payne Stewart 1993.
Tournament Record:267 (-13); Greg Norman, 1993.
Tournament Record (event):264 (-20); Henrik Stenson, 2016, Royal Troon.
Scoring Record (event):62; Branden Grace, Round 3, Royal Birkdale.
Recent Defending Champion(s):Padraig Harrington (2007-08) Tiger Woods (2005-06, not entered).
Multiple Winners (entered)Ernie Els (2012, 2002); Padraig Harrington (2007, 2008).
Oldest  Winner:Roberto DiVincenzo, 44, 1967.
Youngest Winner:Seve Ballesteros, 22, 1979.
First Time TOUR:Ben Curtis, 2003.
First Time EVENT:Tom Watson, 1975 Ben Curtis, 2003.
Odd Fact:Only one playoff since 2009’s epic duel of Stewart Cink and Tom Watson.

Quick Thoughts Royal St George’s, The Open Championship

15th time, the most for any English track would suggest familiarity but that’s probably not entirely the case. Read Horses for Courses if you’re curious to see who’s done the business here.

Fairways are undulating and the fescue is waist high. Firm and fast is the forecast but leading into this week has been a wet summer. There’s no rain in the forecast for the rest of the week.

Bunkers and fescue will mitigate bomb and gouge.

Par 70 presents two fewer scoring chances so grind out pars and move on.

Par-3 holes have 238 and 239 and 174 and 162.

Big greens and fairways = big penalties for missing.

Royal and Ancient Chief Martin Slumbers said greens were running 9.9 Wednesday afternoon and approaching 10 for Thursday. Pleased with that.

Wind, patience and persistence will be three words used to weave the story this week. Gusts of 25-30 expected daily along with the usual coastal breeze.

Ben Curtis never won a TOUR event or played a major before 2003. He was barely in the OWGR top 400.

Darren Clarke won in his 20th Open chance. He wasn’t in the top 100.

Greg Norman was a household name and tore this place apart in the height of his pomp.

That’s the last three winners.

Major championship golf THIS WEEK will involve bounces, both bad and good. Winds will blow both fair and foul. Moods and tempers will be tested.

Bogeys are going to be made so take one instead of double or more. Not sure there are enough birdies available to wipe out large numbers. If Par is a solid score, and I believe it will be, find par makers and grinders. Flash players might need to be on the bench this week.

In 2011 Clarke and Keegan Bradley, both ranked outside of the top 50 and won majors.

In 2021, Mickelson joined them as the only players outside the OWGR top 50 to win a major in the last decade.

Everything that is old is new again.

Scottish winners rarely factor here either, minus the magnificent Mickelson.

YearVenueWinnerOpen Result
2021The Renaissance ClubMin Woo Lee 
2020No eventCOVID-19 n/a
2019The Renaissance ClubBernd WiesbergerT32
2018Guallane Golf ClubBrandon StoneT61
2017Dundonald LinksRafael Cabrera-BelloT4
2016Castle Stuart Golf LinksAlex NorenT46
2015Gullane Golf ClubRickie FowlerT30
2014Royal Aberdeen Golf ClubJustin RoseT23
2013Castle Stuart Golf LinksPhil MickelsonWIN
2012Castle Stuart Golf LinksJeev-Milka SinghT69
2011Castle Stuart Golf LinksLuke DonaldMC
2010Loch Lomond Golf ClubEduardo MolinariT27
2009Loch Lomond Golf ClubMartin KaymerT34
2008Loch Lomond Golf ClubGraeme McDowellT19

Let’s recap last week first:

Last Week – John Deere Classic

Daniel Berger (+1100): Class of the field and half of his eight rounds are 67 or better. I’d expect a top 10 but I’m not chasing. T34 and glad I didn’t!

Brian Harman (+1400): The value is out the window this week so you’re going to pay for top 10 or top 20. Harman’s playing well enough to write those checks. Always easier to take MC than not firing on the weekend. Big run of form finally cooled.

Sungjae Im (+2000): We joke that it’s Zach Johnson’s major this week, well since Im is NOT going to The Open Championship, it might be his as well. The South Korean Olympic golfers are OUT OUT OUT next week so focus will be at the task at hand. Win ticket please plus top 10 and top 20. T47. I’ll need to start a database for guys who are playing the week before they are going on a break/layoff. Although that data isn’t always readily available before the tournament, it should be after. L L L as his 72 on Sunday killed any chances of cashing.

Russell Henley (+2000): Last time he arrived on 4 straight MC before opening with 64 and closing with 10 birdies for 61. This time he’s playing decently (T19, T13) upon arrival. T11 so I hope you backed him Top 20.

Kevin Streelman (+2500): Just write the top 20 ticket and see you Sunday at the window. Take that ticket, tear it up and L.

Alex Noren (+2800): Heated up this time last year in the Midwest. Hasn’t won on TOUR either…but is 38. So close. Top 20. 70-70 MC. L.

Cam Davis (+3000): Had him in here last week for you! Back to back after his first TOUR win? If he putts like he did in the playoff last week, he’ll have no chance. If he hits every fairway and green, he just might. I’ll sit back and enjoy the ride. T55. It’s hard to win out here, folks!

Longer Shots

Zach Johnson/Steve Stricker: I mean, you gotta throw a nibble on each, right? You know, just in case…T34 and T41. Hope you saved your dollars.

Doc Redman: Fits the USGA angle, first time winner and 20-something. All of the previous was true. So is his MC.

Patton Kizzire: Closed with 64 last week. Closed with 65 this week for T11.

Hank Lebioda: Not leaving him after T4, T5 the last two weeks. T8. 3 straight.

Keith Mitchell: Made 24 birds on debut here for T7 in his only appearance. Imagine sitting around waiting on the charter flight, MC.

Beau Hossler: Again, riding the wave. Wipeout, MC.

Maverick McNealy: At least a top 20. 71 (E) on Sunday held T18. Should have been MUCH better but he’s close. Really close.

Funny Money

Adam Schenk – T4 #UrWelcome

Andres Romero – MC

Sam Ryder – T58

Patrick Rodgers – T23

Roger Sloan – 71st

Andrew Landry – T64

This Week – The Open Championship


Jon Rahm (+800): Prohibitive favorite and it’s not hard to explain why so I won’t. Winning back-to-back majors doesn’t happen every week but there’s no question he has the game and temperament to do so. With wind, humps, bumps, bunkers and an elite field, I’ll sit this possibly historic occasion out. Too many variables and too high of a price.

Brooks Koepka (+1600): Double Rahm? For 3 more majors? Last 3 of 4 top 5 including Torrey and Kiawah. Hates the course. Hates his three ball. Hates Bryson. Looks like he’s ready to pop. Yes please, first win ticket, plus Top 10 and Top 20.

Xander Schauffele (+1800): Too many examples to ignore in big events. Dropped the arm lock putter this week just like he picked it up before a top 10 at Torrey.

Justin Thomas (+1800): Not much evidence in this event to run him to the front of the line.

Jordan Spieth (+1800): Too much form to ignore as he’s rattling off T20 or better for fun, just like the old days. Last Open in England he won at Birkdale. Super short game and ability to grind in wind doesn’t hurt either.

Rory McIlroy (+2200): Ok, I’ll bite. Again. Said he found something on the range over the weekend. Of his last five visits, four are top 5s. Hard to ignore, especially when he’s not the favorite. His record after MC is something as well. Win ticket.

Dustin Johnson (+2500): Went close here in 2011 but that bad news that’s his best of the bunch.

Louis Oosthuizen (+3000): 2nd and 2nd in the last two majors. 2010 winner also lost in a playoff in 2015 (both at St Andrews). Perfect demeanor for the uncertainty of links golf. Win, Top 10 and Top 20.

Viktor Hovland (+3000): First Open. No question about the talent or pedigree. The short game is always in the back of my mind.

Next Wave

Patrick Reed (+3300): Scrambling and grinding always sticks him out in difficult events. Starting to figure it out in this event as well after 10th at Royal Portrush.

Patrick Cantlay (+3300): Solid, two-win season and excellent thru the bag. Name the last USA player to win their first major at The Open. Cink then Curtis. Tough.

Tyrrell Hatton (+3300): Crowd will help but not sure if his temperament is ready if it turns a bit sideways.

Bryson DeChambeau (+3300): Way too many “ifs” this week. Gusting winds don’t help maths. Neither does waist-high fescue. Pass.

Shane Lowry (+3500): Fell in love with him before Torrey, where he WASN’T the defending champion. Look where that got me haha.

Collin Morikawa (+3500): Fearless but will need to hole putts and that’s the biggest concern. Nobody questions it tee to green. Nobody. Nibble.

Tommy Fleetwood (+3500): It’s his home country, his style of golf and he’s trending in the event. He might be the most comfortable this week.

Matthew Fitzpatrick (+4000): Thrives on hitting fairways but not sure anybody is doing that this week.

Scottie Scheffler (+4500): Tougher the better and this qualifies. Texan won’t mind a bit of blowing wind either. Get it.

Branden Grace (+5000): Excellent form, already has won this season, just one thing left!

Sergio Garcia (+6000): Might be another 40-something to add to the collection. T20 or better in 3 straight world wide. T20 or better this week as well.

Funny Money

Robert MacIntyre (+7500)

Ian Poulter (+7500)

Jason Day (+9000)

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+9500)

Phil Mickelson (+10000)

Francesco Molinari (+14000)

Kevin Kisner (+15000)

Andy Sullivan (+20000)

Jason Scrivener (+22500)

Aaron Rai (+25000)

Ryan Fox (+30000)

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


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