2022 British Open Preview: Everything To Know About The Old Course at St. Andrews

Written By John Haslbauer on July 10, 2022 - Last Updated on July 12, 2022
British Open odds

Open season is upon us as we gear up for the fourth and final major of the 2022 season, the Open Championship. This year marks the 150th running of the Open Championship, and the 29th installment at the birthplace of golf, The Old Course at St. Andrews in Fife, Scotland. We’ll get the week kicked off with our usual course preview and look at the British Open odds.

There’s a new atmosphere about this year’s Open Championship, as the state of professional golf has flipped on its head in the six years since St. Andrews last hosted. Tiger Woods played his first Open Championship at the Old Course as an amateur in 1995. Twenty-seven years ago, it measured just 100 yards shorter than it does today. The prevailing storyline in the 2022 Open Championship will be speculation of how the Old Course can stand up to the modern game.

Unpredictability will reign, an ironic and daunting premise for a tournament preview. But such is links golf. With its exposure to the Scottish coastline and no trees on property to stifle conditions, the severity of the wind will ultimately dictate how low players can score. Speculation has mounted that this could be the lowest scoring Open Championship of all time when introducing modern “speed chasers” to a course which has no room on property to expand.

In-form players with elite iron play and short game should rise to the top, with a distinct advantage to those with above-average driving distance. The putter will be crucial in particular this week, as players will be tasked with 25+-foot putts throughout the week. Ahead, we’ll run through the key facts and info about The Old Course at St. Andrews ahead of the 2022 British Open.

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R. McIlroy
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J. Rahm
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S. Scheffler
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X. Schauffele
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J. Spieth
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+1800

BRITISH OPEN FIELD AT A GLANCE

The field will contain 156 players for the 150th Open Championship. Four spots remain up for grabs between top qualifying finishers at the previous week’s Scottish Open and Barbasol Championship. A majority of the field have qualified by way of top 50 Official World Golf Ranking through the week prior, or by top-30 ranking on the 2021 DP World Tour. The next available OWGR-ranked players round out the field.

To date, Brian Harman, Si Woo Kim, Luke List, Sebastian Munoz, Sepp Straka, Sahith Theegala and Aaron Wise fill out the final spots. Currently, Alex Noren, Rikuya Hoshino and Cam Davis sit next in line as alternates. Additional qualifying criteria include recent major champions and top placements in the national open championships across international tours. With the exception of Daniel Berger, withdrawn due to injury, this shapes up as the most top-heavy major 2022, with 50 of the top 51 players teeing it up.

DP World Tour, LIV Players In Action

The field will include LIV players, notably 2010 champion at St. Andrews, Louis Oosthuizen. He lost in a playoff to Zach Johnson in his most recent trip here in 2015.

It’s difficult to project what the LIV golf roster will look like by the time of the 2023 Masters. But with no immediate plan to accrue OWGR points on the LIV Tour and a growing roster of top players, it’s fair to wonder if this will be the last major championship that includes all the best golfers in the world.

From the DP World Tour, Ryan Fox, Jordan Smith, Adrian Meronk, Thomas Pieters, Bernd Wiesberger, Victor Perez and Robert MacIntyre highlight the top names to watch.

Past winners at St. Andrews in this week’s field include Zach Johnson, Oosthuizen, Tiger Woods, and John Daly by way of the Open. Danny Willet, Victor Perez, Lucas Bjerregaard, Tyrrell Hatton, Thorbjorn Olesen, Branden Grace, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington have also claimed victory on these grounds at the DP World Tour’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

INTRODUCTION TO THE OLD COURSE

A course as old as the game of golf itself may need no introduction at all. In 150 iterations of the Open Championship, no course on the rota has gotten more play than The Old Course, which will host for the 29th time since 1873.

St. Andrews is known as the home of golf, with the first known iteration of the sport played there in 1457. Originally a 22-hole set up with shared fairways on the outward and inward holes, the standard 18-hole layout became adopted on these grounds and replicated across the world as the standard for golf thereafter.

The Old Course is your quintessential, proper links course. Positioned on the Eastern coastline of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, The Old Course lies completely exposed to coastal winds from St. Andrews Bay. The course can be described as “flat,” only in the sense that no elevation change or trees guard against the winds. But a walk throughout the course is still anything but. In true links fashion, the massive, firm and fast fairways and vast undulations throughout the land give The Old Course its identity.

One Of A Kind

St. Andrews truly is one of a kind and impossible to compare to any other course we see on the PGA TOUR. As far as other Open Championship links venues go, The Old Course still holds its own ground as a unique test. You will find no wider fairways in professional golf. A majority of the holes feature double-wide fairways shared by two holes on the outward and inward nines. The same goes for the greens. These, too, feature a massive surface area shared by two holes. Very efficient for the grounds crew. But this produces more 25+-foot putts than we expect on any other course on TOUR.

It’s hard to believe the wind will stay down two years in a row. So, I’ll stop short of calling this a birdie-fest of a major. More important this week than ever, we must monitor the forecast. Calm conditions will give a distinct advantage to pure bombers. Severe winds would suit the crafty short game specialists who bring forth the most creativity in their games to battle the conditions. We’ll assume the course plays somewhere in between those two extremes. By Wednesday, we should have a clearer picture.

How It Breaks Down

The Old Course stands at 7,305 yards as a par 72. However, unlike the typical layout we’ve grown accustomed to for a par-72 course, it features just two par 5s, two par 3s, and a whopping 14 par 4s.

Considering the firmness of the fairways and dramatic undulations, the ball will travel significantly farther here than we’re typically used to seeing. That makes the course play shorter than the posted yardage and has allowed both short and long hitters alike to contend.

While the fairways are predominantly massive across most holes here, there remains a reward for accuracy as players must avoid rolling into fairway pot bunkers. These often force a lateral punch out and dropped shot.

When winds are down, St. Andrews is ripe for attack by players with modern distance.

“It’s hard to argue with [Dustin Johnson] who’s splitting bunkers at about 380 yards and just two-putting for birdie on five or six of the holes when there’s only two par 5s,” Jordan Spieth said in 2015. “I don’t have that in the bag, so I’ve got to make up for it with ball-striking.”

Johnson positioned himself to run away with the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews before severe weather splits over the weekend relegated him to rounds of 75 and 75 on the weekend and a T49 finish.

As we fast forward to 2022, more “Dustin Johnsons” than “Jordan Spieths” litter the field now. The movement to chase ball speed has bred a new wave of players who can overpower the course, clear fairway hazards and generate ample eagle opportunities. This assumes that winds don’t disrupt, which is impossible to predict at this stage of the week. Considering the geography, that’s usually a poor bet.

Monitor Wind Speed And Direction

Just how many of the par 4s become reachable off the tee will depend on the wind speed and direction, which can change on a moment’s notice.

The scorecard yardage delineates seven par 4s that measure under 400 yards. The first hole is protected by a river burn that will force the field to lay back. Aside from that, however, the longer hitters may give it a go with driver on the remaining six short par 4s.

The back nine has historically played into the wind. Shorter hitters can very well go low at St. Andrews with the help of hot irons and a streaky putter. As evidence, 2015 champion Zach Johnson ranked outside the top 100 in Driving Distance but top three in Driving Accuracy leading into the Open. He stood as an exception to the rule that year, however. The next 11 players atop the leaderboard each profiled as above average in driving distance.

Three-Putt Avoidance also proved a predictive stat for the 2015 Open Championship, as five of the top-even finishers profiled above average. That makes sense when considering that lag putting is a required skill from both on and just off these massive greens complexes. Of the top 10 in 3-Putt Avoidance entering the 2015 Open Championship, six finished inside the top 30.

If it’s that simple, just 10 players rank top 30 in both Driving Distance and 3-Putt Avoidance: Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Max Homa, Gary Woodland, Adam Scott, Bryson DeChambeau and Jason Kokrak.

THE OLD COURSE AT ST. ANDREWS COURSE SPECS

  • Yards: 7,305
  • Par: 72 (2x 3s / 14x 4s / 2x 5s)
  • Greens: Fescue, Bent and Poa Blend
  • Historic Cut Line (The Open at St. Andrews): +1 (’15), +3 (’10), +2 (’05)
  • Median Four-Round Score (The Open): -2 (’21), +1 (’19), +2 (’18), +2 (’17), +4 (’16)
  • Comp Courses: Royal St. George’s, Royal Portrush, Royal Birkdale, Carnoustie, Renaissance Club, Royal Troon, Chambers Bay, Erin Hills
  • Other Non-Links Comps: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Augusta National, TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale, The Summit Club
  • Past Winners (The Open): Collin Morikawa -15 (’21), Shane Lowry -15 (’19), Francesco Molinari -8 (’18), Jordan Spieth -12 (’17), Henrik Stenson -20 (’16)
  • Past Winners (The Open at St. Andrews): Zach Johnson -15 (’15), Louis Oosthuizen -16 (’10), Tiger Woods -14 (’05), Tiger Woods -19 (’00), John Daly -6 (’95)
  • Past Winners (Alfred Dunhill at St. Andrews): Danny Willet (’21), Victor Perez (’19), Lucas Bjerregaard (’18), Tyrrell Hatton (’17, ’16), Thorbjorn Olesen (’15)
  • Hole-by-hole Breakdown:
The Old Course at St Andrews (7,305 Yards)

COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS

Course History looks a tricky puzzle to solve this week. There’s nothing like The Old Course that can prepare players for the unique style of play. Plus, it comes around on the rota so rarely that 2015 and 2010 form is hardly useful.

We do have the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which comes around for two rounds every year on the DP World Tour schedule. But the conditions in October hardly translate to what we’ll see this July. There has not been a strong predictive trend between success at Alfred Dunhill and performance at the Open at St Andrews.

In 2015, Zach Johnson followed up a T76 in his 2010 St. Andrews debut with no other trips before his win. Louis Oosthuizen tasted victory in his debut at St. Andrews in 2010. He went on to find more sticky success after the fact with a T5 and T6 at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship over the following four years as well as a playoff loss in his return to the Open in 2015. Tiger Woods edged through the cut as an amateur in 1995, for what that’s worth, then went on to win in his next two appearances in 2000 and 2005.

Course History Standouts

In general when assessing Course History for this week, I won’t shy away from players making their St. Andrews debuts. But, plenty of cases support that those who have found success here are more likely to repeat it.

Looking at performance in the Open over the last five contests, 12 players have made it through the cut each time (min. three appearances): Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele, Danny Willet, Lee Westwood, Thomas Pieters, Kevin Na and Kevin Kisner. Just 14 players in the field have recorded multiple top-15 finishes over the last five Open Championships: Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Finau, Rory McIlroy, Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, Dustin Johnson, Shane Lowry, Patrick Reed, Tyrell Hatton, Jon Rahm, Robert MacIntyre and Paul Casey.

Notables in the field who finished top 15 in their debut at the 2021 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s include Collin Morikawa, Mackenzie Hughes, Scottie Scheffler and Viktor Hovland.

Course Comps

I should repeat once more that no course in the world truly compares to St Andrews’ wide open, undulated and wind-exposed layout. The closest we’ll come are the courses on the Open Championship rota, as they share the same susceptibility to the elements, firm and fast fairways, undulations throughout and fescue hazards.

I won’t call any one Open Championship venue a better comp than the others. Instead, I will look to performance across all Open Championships over the last seven years. That includes Royal St. George’s Royal Portrush, Carnoustie, Royal Troon and Royal Birkdale. The Renaissance Club has plenty of differences with St. Andrews, but its geographical position and place on the schedule the week prior to the Open each year makes for a translatable comp.

In addition to British links setups, Erin Hills stands out stylistically as top reference point for what the scoring and profile of leaderboard may look like by week’s end. Brooks Koepka won the 2017 U.S. Open there. It’s a Wisconsin open links course which relied on wind as its best defense but ultimately proved vulnerable to bombers when winds abated. Koepka won at -16, and if we see moderate winds throughout four days of play at St. Andrews, I could envision a similar winning score.

The top-10 players in terms of SG: TOT across these top links courses are Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele, Tommy Fleetwood, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia. 

Trends Beyond Links Courses

While they serve as tertiary comps, we have more strokes gained data and recent results to pull from PGA TOUR courses.

Looking at the trends across winners and frequent contenders, success at Augusta National has proven to translate well at St. Andrews. Zach Johnson and Tiger Woods, winners of three of the last four Open Championships at St. Andrews, are both past Masters champions. The 2010 champ, Louis Oosthuizen, finished runner-up at the Masters two years later. The top 10 of the 2015 Open Championship leaderboard includes Masters champions Jordan Spieth, Danny Willet, Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia. It also features top-five Masters finishers in Brooks Koepka, Jason Day and Marc Leishman. The two courses share in common wide open fairways with uneven undulations, over-sized greens and tight green-side lies with negligible rough on property. Both also reward a patient and thoughtful strategy that comes with experience.  

If we take a thousand-foot view of broad characteristics like wide fairways, high winds, and light rough, the top-10 PGA TOUR players in SG: TOT in these conditions are Collin Morikawa, Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Sungjae Im, Russell Henley, Xander Schauffele, Chris Kirk and Garcia.

Desert Golf On The Scottish Coast

If we extrapolate those conditions and remove the context of links golf, we see a very similar profile to desert golf. It may seem odd to compare links golf — synonymous with cold, windy, and wet conditions — with desert golf. But there are more similarities than you might think. Both feature firm fairways with ample rollout, leveling the field between bombers and longer hitters, and penalizing erratic drives with rollouts into natural hazards. Both are also susceptible to random gusting winds and tend to be designed more linearly with less emphasis on shot-shaping around doglegs.

The correlation of players who thrive in both desert and links conditions is actually pretty staggering. Tony Finau has a polished links record with a T3 at the 2019 Open Championship along with five other top-20s since 2016 between the Open and Alfred Dunhill. On desert set-ups, the Arizona resident has played just as well with T2 finishes at the Saudi International and WM Phoenix Open. Rickie Fowler has one of the best links course resumes on the PGA TOUR and also regularly contends in desert conditions, including a win at the 2019 WM Phoenix Open and a T3 at the 2021 CJ Cup. Graeme McDowell has won at both the Saudi International and Scottish Open. Brooks Koepka regularly contends at both the WM Phoenix Open and the Open Championship. Collin Morikawa and Webb Simpson also fit.

It may seem a bit of a stretch, but I’ll take a stance on some of the top desert golfers, particularly younger players with little links history.

Combine performance across comp links and desert courses and the top-10 players in Comp Course History here are Patrick Cantlay, Bryson DeChambeau, Justin Thomas, Sungjae Im, Finau, Xander Schauffele, Jon Rahm, Louis Oosthuizen, Morikawa, and Harold Varner III.

KEY STATS TO CONSIDER

  • Par-4 Scoring
  • SG: OTT
  • SG: APP
  • Driving Distance
  • SG: ARG (Low/Light Rough)
  • SG: Putting (Total) / SG: P (25+ Ft) / 3-Putt Avoidance
  • Birdies or Better Gained
  • SG: TOT (High Winds)
  • Open Championship History / European Links History
  • Comp Course History

Given the different types of shots required at an Open Championship links course, it’s not a week to blindly follow the stat model. The shot-making on standard PGA TOUR courses doesn’t necessary translate. History has shown, however, that players in top form entering the Open tend to leave with the Claret Jug. Few surprise winners have emerged. Since 2012, every winner has fallen inside the OWGR top-40.

This week, on a course with the rare composition of 14 par 4s, I’m going to weight Par-4 Scoring most heavily as a means to also proxy recent all-around form. The top 10 in Par-4 Scoring going into this week are Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Shane Lowry, Jon Rahm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Scottie Scheffler, Cameron Young, Tony Finau and Hideki Matsuyama.

Aside from Par-4 Scoring, I’m shying away from modeling off of any specific hole ranges or proximity distances. Variable wind throughout the week will produce approaches from drastically different ranges day to day. Instead, I’m looking more broadly for the top approach players, as this has proven to be one of the top-correlated stats among Open Champions. The top-10 players in SG: APP entering this week are Will Zalatoris, Cameron Smith, Scheffler, Schauffele, Max Homa, Russell Henley, Viktor Hovland, McIlroy, Thomas, and Matsuyama.

Custom Stats

Putting is the most volatile stat to predict. However, it’s no coincidence that the strength of the last four Open champions at St. Andrews has been putting. With massive greens and tight, undulated runoffs, players will have to be comfortable with putter in hand. They must lag put over severe undulations from over 25 feet fairly often.

Looking at a weighted average of Total Putting, SG: P (25+ Ft) and 3-Putt Avoidance, the top-10 putters best suited for St. Andrews are: Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Smith, Justin Rose, Mackenzie Hughes, Harris English, Justin Thomas, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Cantlay, Zach Johnson and Sam Burns.

Players without a confident short game get exposed on a links course, as despite the oversized greens, the wind and firm conditions force approaches off the green and require creative touch. Short game on a links course is a different skillset than your typical PGA TOUR stop. So I’m looking for players who thrive on courses with tight lies surrounding the green. The top-10 players in SG: ARG in these conditions are Louis Oosthuizen, Jordan Spieth, Kevin Na, Danny Willett, Webb Simpson, Dustin Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood, Scottie Scheffler, KH Lee and Cantlay.

The perfect profile of player for this week should be above average in both the adjusted putting and around-the-green metrics, as well as Driving Distance, SG: APP and SG: TOT at the Open or comp links courses. Just 12 players meet that criteria: Thomas, Tony Finau, McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Scheffler, Shane Lowry, Cantlay, Hideki Matsuyama, Keegan Bradley, Fleetwood, Gary Woodland and Simpson.

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SAM BURNS

Sam Burns WDs from WGC-Dell Match Play | Golf News and Tour Information |  Golf Digest

If you asked me on Jan. 1 who I thought would win the 2022 Open Championship, my answer would have been, “It’s way too early to tell. The Open is so weather-dependent I wouldn’t recommend placing any futures until the week of the tournament when the forecast and wave advantages become more clear.”

And if you responded saying that’s no fun, give me a real answer, then I would have said Sam Burns.

Seven months later, Burns has doubled his career win total with victories at the Valspar and Charles Schwab Challenge. So, my confidence in his fit for this course has only grown. Burns has just one Open Championship start under his belt and has never played a professional event at St. Andrews before. But, he should feel comfortable from the get-go at The Old Course, considering he shares the same namesake as hole No. 1: Burn.

If we get a severely weather-impacted week that devolves into a scrambling contest, Burns may be in trouble. However, if conditions play tame, and long hitters can freely swing for the greens on the sub-400-yard par 4s, Burns will have a distinct leg up. In that scenario, The Old Course favors the longest hitters who can make the most putts. Burns has proven he can thrive in birdie-fests by leaning on the strengths of his driving distance, elite approach play and streaky putting.

Stat Ranks And Trends

Burns is the only player in the field to rate top 20 in Driving Distance, SG: APP and SG: P. Looking more broadly, he joins Justin Thomas as the only two players to rank top 30 in Driving Distance, SG: APP, SG: P, SG: P 25+ Ft and 3-Putt Avoidance. Burns is about field average in SG: ARG, but this links set-up should play to his advantage, allowing him to scramble with putter in hand from these tighter lies.

An Open Championship trend: each of the last five champions had posted a runner-up finish within five starts. Sam Burns technically checks that box, finishing Runner up to Xander Schauffele at the JP McManus Pro-Am just prior to the Scottish Open. If conditions stay moderate, Burns has the perfect profile to attack St. Andrews despite the lack of links experience.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2022 BRITISH OPEN

Rory McIlroy is the favorite to win the 2022 Open Championship and for good reason. He’s in excellent form, has great links history and possesses the distance off the tee to generate birdie and eagle opportunities that other mere mortals simply cannot. I gave a thought to a single-bullet Rory betting card this week, but if links golf has taught us anything over the years, it’s that things rarely go the way we expect.

After Tiger Woods took the U.S. Open off, it’ll be refreshing to follow him along on a course where he’s realized so much success, and one which should not prove as grueling a walk for him. He has a great chance to find his way through the cut at what may be his last chance to properly contend at St. Andrews.

With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2022 British Open odds as well. With pricing already out for the final major of the year, I’ve broken the list down by actualized pricing/odds tier for DraftKings.

In my model, I’m emphasizing Par-4 Scoring as a proxy for recent form, Driving Distance, Weighted SG: P (TOT, 25+ Ft, 3-Putt Avoidance), SG: APP, and British Open Event History. Then, a more balanced mix of SG: OTT, Birdies or Better Gained, SG: ARG (tight around the green areas), SG: TOT (High Winds) and SG: T2G (Comp Course Conditions).

Model Favorites

For the second week in a row, Justin Thomas rates out No. 1 in my model. Thomas ranks top-five across the board in key stats this week, including Par-4 Scoring, Comp Course History, SG: TOT (High Winds) and 3-Putt Avoidance.

More surprisingly however, Tony Finau climbs to the No. 2 spot, excelling in all comp condition metrics. He’s top-10 in Par-4 Scoring, Open Championship History, Comp Course History, SG: TOT (High Winds), SG: T2G, SG: Ball Striking and SG: P (25+ Ft).

After Thomas and Finau, the rest of my model’s top 10 features Rory McIlroy, Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, Xander Schauffele, Shane Lowry, Patrick Cantlay, Will Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick.

As always, I’m trying to stay patient with my betting card in the week of a major, looking to wait out any special odds boosts or drifting odds after the Scottish Open completes. With that said, my current betting card already includes Max Homa 90-to-1, Gary Woodland 140-to-1, and Victor Perez 150-to-1. I will add Sam Burns and Finau at the best numbers available and look to complement the card with two or three other names before Thursday.

Check back in later this week for more updates, and best of luck navigating the 2022 British Open odds!

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John Haslbauer Avatar
Written by
John Haslbauer

John Haslbauer writes about golf betting and advanced golf metrics for TheLines.com. He is a passionate golf fan, golf writer, and (casual) golfer. A graduate at Syracuse University, John works out of Jersey City as a Director of Media Strategy for HBO and HBO Max. He created the website thepgatout.com at the start of 2021 and is active on Twitter (@PGATout). No, he is not a tout. The Twitter handle is a joke. Touts are lame. We hate touts.

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