Open Championship Form Guide
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2014 The Open Championship | Preview | 14 Jul 2014
The Open Championship this week returns to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the first time since 2006 and just the second time since 1967, the venue now considered more than capable of handling the logistics of the goliath that is the modern day Open Championship.
In 2006 Tiger Woods scored an emphatic victory after fighting off challenges from Ernie Els and Chris DiMarco to win by four shots in an awesome display of strategic golf where his driver was seldom in use.
Woods will now arrive at Royal Liverpool as the world number seven having played only once since early March. His chances of a repeat 2006 performance seem all but forlorn and it will be left to the more in form and tournament hardened players to fight out the finish.
Scott will begin the Open Championship as the world number one following a series of good finishes in major championships over the past three years or so. Scott’s best finish in a major until that point came, interestingly, at this very venue in 2006 when he finished 8th despite dropping several shots late in his round. Scott won in Fort Worth this year, finished 4th at the Memorial and recorded his best ever finish at the US Open when 9th at Pinehurst so he is in good form has good memories of Royal Liverpool. His chances appear very good although in the perfect world I would like to have seen him find room for one more event in the lead-up as it will have been more than a month since his last competitive outing.
On three occasions Stenson has been inside the top three at the Open Championship including last year when he finished runner-up to Phil Mickelson during a great run of form. Stenson’s form in recent starts has also been excellent, putting together five top tens in his last six starts culminating in a runner-up finish in Germany. He had finished 4th at the US Open earlier so there appears no reason why he can’t be in the thick of it once again. Perhaps surprisingly, given that he finished 3rd to Mickelson last year, Stenson did not play the Scottish Open in the lead-up.
Rose comes off an impressive win at a very demanding Congressional three weeks ago and another great win in Aberdeen last week. Perhaps surprisingly though, Rose has a very ordinary record at the Open Championship despite finishing 4th there at as a 17 year old in 1998. In his last sixteen starts in the event he has not recorded one top ten so that is of some concern for those who might otherwise think him a great chance this week. He is though in great from and might turn that record on its head.
Day has shown a great capacity, in his still relatively short career, to love the big stage. Seven top tens in 14 major starts further emphasises just that. He does not, though, enjoy such a good record at the Open Championship with a best of 30th in three starts. There have been excuses though and perhaps it would be better to focus on his overall major record and some of his recent form. He was superb at the US Open on a limited campaign and, although he withdrew from the Quicken Loans event, if his thumb injury is fully healed then he has some sort of chance to add to his fine major championship record.
McIlroy missed the cut at the Irish Open at his second to last start and mixed a brilliant with a very ordinary game last week in Scotland. His form generally though in 2014 has been good. Whether it has been the expectation issue that bothered him when playing in front of home fans it is hard to say but other than a 3rd place finish behind Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews in 2010 he has not played the Open well especially for one of his class. When he is good he is very good however and if he is good this week then the rest of the field may well be playing for second.
If Woods was to this week win his first major in more than six years then it would be a huge surprise which is hard to say about a 38 year old with 14 majors to his credit. He missed the cut on his return to tournament golf at Congressional and has not played since so despite his brilliance it is hard to imagine him being sharp enough to challenge at Royal Liverpool despite his great history at the venue.
Kaymer has won two big events this season including his dominating victory at the US Open. He disappointed in his following start when missing the cut in his homeland but then played well when 12th in Paris two weeks ago. Kaymer has made five of six cuts at the Open Championship for a best of 7th at St Andrews in 2010. He is, though, now back to where he was when the world number one and do not be surprised if he dominates in the manner he did at Pinehurst.
Mickelson is the defending champion but his form in recent months has been well below that he was producing at this time last year. His inconsistency is the main concern, although last week’s 11th place finish and final round of 65 were very encouraging. Last year he had come off two or three top three finishes leading into the event but he is not at that peak at present. It is perhaps hard to see him defending but he is not without hope.
Watson is a two time major winner but his record at the Open Championship has been average at best. There is an indication he is coming to terms with links golf with improvement in recent years. His missed cut at the US Open was a concern although his form overall in 2014 has been very good. I can’t see him winning but he is a mercurial figure, capable of anything at times.
Kuchar is one of the game’s best player not to have won a major but, although he has been very consistent over the last two years or so, he appears to have lost form a little of late. He has played the Open Championship well enough in recent starts including when 9th in 2012 and at his best he could quite easily contend.
Garcia has generally played the Open well, recording seven top tens with a best of second in 2007. Surely he must win a major at some stage during his career. The Spaniard has been inside the top ten on six occasions in 2014 and importantly he finished a very good 5th when the Open Championship was last played at Royal Liverpool. He is a bit of a tease in major championship golf, however, most feeling he would have at least won one by now, fifteen years after his amazing runner-up to Tiger Woods at the PGA Championship in 1999.
Furyk has played the Open well on occasions including a total of four top five finishes. He finished 4th at Royal Liverpool in 2006 and although he has not been quite so good in the last few years he has played well in 2014 and if he was to better his previous best of 4th then it would be no real surprise.
Matsuyama is emerging as one of the games genuine superstars and I have little doubt he will become Japan’s first major winner in the years ahead. Matsuyama’s breakthrough PGA Tour victory at the Memorial highlighted his amazing capacity to handle the big arena. Matsuyama has already recorded two top tens in major championship golf including his very good 6th place behind Mickelson in this event last year. That was a performance beyond his years and experience but now, one year further on, he is more than capable of improving on that.
Johnson appears well below his best at present and despite a relatively good record at the Open including a runner-up finish to Darren Clarke in 2011 it would seem he is struggling to find that sort of form at present.
McDowell warmed up for the Open Championship with a great victory in France a week ago and a 6th place at the Irish Open in front of what were essentially home fans a week earlier. Perhaps surprisingly, given his heritage and background on links courses, McDowell has a poor record at the Open Championship, often starting the week well but finishing poorly. The one exception was at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012 when he finished 5th despite, again, a final round of 75.
Spieth played the Open Championship for the first occasion last year, made the cut and finished 44th, not a bad debut. Now the world number 10, Spieth has been one of the fastest improving players in the game over the past twelve months. He displayed when runner-up at Augusta National that major championship golf titles are not out of his reach even at this early stage of his career. Might give a sight for quite a way.
For an Englishman, who is a previous world number one, Donald’s record at the Open Championship is hardly one befitting his place in the game. Sure, he has finished 5th at Turnberry and Royal Lytham & St Annes but in a total of 13 starts there have been only three top twenties. His results this season have been a mixture with two or three near misses on the PGA Tour but his Open Championship record is a concern for his admirers. He finished well at the Scottish Open last week with a final round of 66 perhaps enhancing his chances.
Bjorn is having a great season on the European Tour and although he missed the cut at the French Open he played better at last week’s Scottish Open. Bjorn has been twice runner-up at the Open Championship and while victory might be beyond him this week he may well have another very good finish.
Fowler finished runner-up at the recent US Open and other than a blowout last year, when his game was not at the same level it is now, he has played the Open Championship well. His 5th place at Royal & St Georges was an indication that this style of golf does not bother him unduly. He has recorded only one round worse than 72 in his last 12 rounds at the Open Championship and had a very good week at the Scottish Open when 8th. He might be an under the radar chance this week.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
Jimenez continues to defy logic, winning European Tour events into his fifties and finishing a remarkable 4th at the Masters in April. This will be the Spaniard’s 23rd Open Championship and while no player over the age of 46 has won a major, Jimenez, at the age of 50, perhaps has the best chance to do so this week. He has started the Open very well in recent years but faltered over the weekend but there is something about the way he is playing that suggests if he gets a good start he could hang around for much longer.
Johnson has finished inside the top ten at each of the last two Open Championships and although his form for much of the past few months has been below his best he did play well last week at the John Deere Classic and may well be buoyed by that effort. Johnson took a long time to play the Open Championship well but he has been very good in recent years.
Bradley has played the Open Championship just twice but has done well enough. He finished 13th last year at Muirfield and has played pretty well this season, His 4th place finish at the US Open was eye catching and importantly he has already won a major championship so that monkey is not on his back.