You’re only as old as the man you Muirfield…
While golf’s other three Majors have been dominated by a crop of emerging talents, the youngsters - in relative golfing terms - the Open Championship remains one for the elder statesmen. The seasoned pros, hardened by years of bruising battles, unfazed by the brutalities that this tournament can present.
Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Rory McIlroy are all recent Major winners aged in their 20s, while Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson have all taken recent accolades in their early 30s.
However, winners of the Claret Jug in the past two years - Ernie Els (2012) and Darren Clarke (2011) - have each been aged 42, while the average age of Open Championship winners over the past six years is 36.3 years, with only the 27-year-old Louis Oosthuizen winning aged under 35 in that same period.
Els is a 29.00 chance to successfully defend the Claret Jug; a feat only Tiger Woods has achieved in the past 30 years. Phil Mickelson - aged 43 - is the 21.00 co-fourth favourite, Lee Westwood - aged 40 - is a 29.00 chance and Harrington - now 41 years of age - is at 61.00.
Scottish Open offers poor indicator…
Although Phil Mickelson has been the subject of plenty of support in the ante-post markets following his Scottish Open win, history suggests that he is one to avoid this week. No player has ever won the Scottish Open and Open Championship in the same year, while most that contend in the Claret Jug’s traditional warm-up event tend to struggle in the main event.
Last year Jeev Mikah Sing and Francesco Molinari went to a play off in the Scottish Open, then finished an unflattering 69th and 39th respectively in the following week’s Open. In 2011, Scottish Open winner Luke Donald missed the cut at the Open, while only one of the players who finished within five shots of the Englishman at Castle Stuart could manage a top 50 finish at Sandwich a week later.
Since the Scottish Open moved to Castle Stuart in 2011 only one player - Alexander Noren - has finished in the top 10 in both events in the same year.
The trends suggest avoiding the temptation to back Mickelson at odds of 21.00 for the win and 5.00 for a top five finish, likewise the man he beat in a play-off last week, Branden Grace, who is quoted at 67.00 here.
Previous success preferable, but not essential…
At seven of the last eight Open Championships, the winner has placed tied sixth or better at a previous Open Championship before going on to lift the Claret Jug. The one exception to that rule is Louis Oosthuizen, who had never even made the cut prior to claiming golf’s most coveted prize at St Andrews in 2010.
Back in 2004, Todd Hamilton mastered Royal Troon having missed the cut twice and finished tied 45th in his previous three Open attempts, while Ben Curtis’s shock win in 2003 was in his debut Major. The American was to miss the cut in his next three Opens and has since failed to make it to the weekend in the last four.
Most recent history suggests plumping for a player who has Open Championship form, but the golden rule is not to rule anyone out of the equation. This truly is the most open of championships...