The Open Championship: Do Preparation Trends Matter When Picking A Winner?

Posted By Esten McLaren on July 16, 2019 - Last Updated on July 18, 2019
british open trends

There were many different ways for golfers to prepare for The Open Championship at Royal Portrush Northern Ireland this week.

The PGA Tour in North America has been in a bit of a lull since Gary Woodland won his first Major championship at the US Open. The average strength of field has declined each passing week, according to datagolf. Meanwhile, the European Tour schedule, as it typically does, ramps up in preparation of the sport’s oldest event.

Many of the top players in the Official World Golf Ranking have been making the trek across the pond to participate in events such as the BMW International Open (Germany), the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucia Masters (Spain), and the Irish Open and Scottish Open over the past month. Some had their own reasons to stay in the US for the Travelers Championship, Rocket Mortgage Classic, 3M Open, and last week’s John Deere Classic.

While some choose to practice up on links-style courses and grow accustomed to the time change and weather conditions on the British Isles, others choose to remain at home and stick to routine for as long as possible. Dylan Frittelli, ranked No. 133rd in the world a week ago, and Bernd Wiesberger chose a schedule based on which tournaments would give them their best chance to make it into The Open field via The Open Qualifying Series. Both won their respective tournaments last week to get into the tournament.

The third option, typically deployed by those who locked up their spots in The Open Championship months, or even years ago, is to take the bulk of the time in between the US Open and The Open Championship off of competitive golf and prepare on their own; either getting in a few extra rounds at Royal Portrush or on similar local courses.

The following chart looks at the schedules and results of the past 10 Open Championship winners dating back to 2009. All 10 have employed one of the three aforementioned preparation strategies or a combination of the three. Four of the six most recent Champion Golfers of the Year won on one tour or the other within four weeks of their Open title. Only Rory McIlroy in 2014 failed to record a top-5 finish in his four-week buildup to his victory at Royal Liverpool.

YearWinnerOWGRLead-Up SchedulePlace
2018Francesco Molinari15W1: John Deere Classic (PGA)
W2: NA
W3: Quicken Loans National (PGA)
W4: NA
2
NA
1
NA
2017Jordan Spieth3W1: NA
W2: NA
W3: NA
W4: Travelers Championship (PGA)
NA
NA
NA
1
2016Henrik Stenson6W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: NA
W3: BMW International (Euro)
W4: US Open (Major)
T13
NA
1
WD
2015Zach Johnson25W1: John Deere Classic (PGA)
W2: NA
W3: Travelers Championship (PGA)
W4: US Open (Major)
T3
NA
6
T72
2014Rory McIlroy8W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: NA
W3: NA
W4: Irish Open (Euro)
T14
NA
NA
MC
2013Phil Mickelson5W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: The Greenbrier (PGA)
W3: NA
W4: NA
1
MC
NA
NA
2012Ernie Els40W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: NA
W3: NA
W4: NA
T52
NA
NA
NA
2011Darren Clarke111W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: Open de France (Euro)
W3: NA
W4: NA
T66
MC
NA
NA
2010Louis Oosthuizen54W1: Scottish Open (Euro)
W2: Open de France (Euro)
W3: NA
W4: US Open (Major)
MC
WD
NA
MC
2009Stewart Cink30W1: NA
W2: NA
W3: Travelers Championship (PGA)
W4: US Open (Major)
NA
NA
MC
T27

What does this mean?

Over the past decade, no real trends exist based on preparation strategies. And while the most recent six winners showed a penchant for success in the preceding weeks, the previous four seemed to come from nowhere. It’s why The Open is considered to be the Major championship where “chance” and weather-related “luck” can play the largest factors.

The sportsbooks have been quick to adjust odds based on the recent results of certain players on either Tour in 2019. World No. 13 Matt Kuchar had his odds drop from as high as +5000 a week ago to a low of +3300 at both FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook following his T20 finish at the Scottish Open. Frittelli moved up from unlisted to +15000 at FanDuel following his JDC win.

Other factors to consider this week

Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell (Portrush) and McIlroy (Holywood), presumed to hold significant home course advantages, have stayed consistently valued at the books despite having little more experience on the recently-renovated Dunluce Links under championship conditions than any other golfer. McIlroy — who set the course record of 61 as a 16-year-old at the old version of Dunluce Links in 2005 — has just a T34 at the Scottish Open since his T9 at the US Open. McDowell missed the cut at both the Irish and Scottish Opens. He continues to have lower odds than significantly higher-ranked golfers such as Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau, Webb Simpson, and Patrick Reed based purely on his preceived hometown edge.

World No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who has dominated golf’s Major circuit since winning his first of two US Opens in 2017, has his own secret weapon for Royal Portrush. Caddie Ricky Elliott hails from Portrush and estimates he has played more than 1,000 rounds on the course. It’s likely a large reason Koepka remains the No. 2 favorite to McIlroy at both DraftKings and FanDuel despite his recent 65th-place finish in a week field at the inaugural 3M Open before taking a week off before the 148th Open Championship.

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, Koepka has attracted the highest volume of bets (10%) and money wagered (20%) to win The Open. McIlroy has been the second most popular golfer with bettors this week, generating 9% of handle and 7% of bets.

For more, check out our complete British Open Betting Guide for this week’s tournament in Northern Ireland.

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