The 147th Open Championship returns to Scotland at the famously brutal Carnoustie Golf Links, Angus, for just the eighth time in the championship’s history. Carnoustie has produced some of golf’s most dramatic finishes, from Jean Van de Velde’s 18th hole meltdown to Padraig Harrington’s playoff victory over Sergio Garcia. TSZ takes a look at who has performed well on the links this season and whose game can hold up around The Open’s most difficult layout.
There has been unusually low scoring in the past four championships with an average winning total of -16, whereas -7 was the average winning total during the previous seven editions, with double figures only being achieved once in this time span.
Carnoustie is renowned for being one of the most difficult golf courses in the world due to its thick and long rough, tight fairways, 18 holes that always change direction making the wind even more of a factor, and a four-hole finishing stretch where level par will gain you shots on the field.
This legendary status is further justified by The Open’s average winning total of level par from its seven championships.
What’s more, rounds in the 60’s are genuinely brilliant scores and will move a player up the leaderboard by multiple places. Four of the previous seven winners have shot in the 60’s during the final round with the last three all resulting in a playoff, showing that a course of this severity is very difficult to defend around.
If the weather continues to stay warm and dry, and the winds get up, this could once again be one of the most difficult and truest links tests in in The Open’s modern history.
The last time The Open Championship was held at Carnoustie in 2007, par five scoring average was the key area that permitted players to be in contention, scoring 4.57 on average. There are three par fives in total around the championship layout with two of these coming on the back nine and playing just over 500 yards, making these key holes to succeeding around Carnoustie.
Furthermore, contenders averaged level par for the par fours which collectively are some of the hardest on The Open rota.
In order to contend, players will need to take advantage of the shorter par fives and scramble around the difficult par fours, meaning their all-round game must be on point.
The world’s top 30 players were assessed on their previous record around Carnoustie in 2007, the 2018 Irish and Scottish Open results and their strokes-gained total ranking for the season. Experience around the Scottish links could be a key factor with only eight of the current top 30 players having played in 2007. Furthermore, playing the Scottish Open the week previous to The Open has yielded multiple winners of the season’s third major, highlighting the fact that competing on links in the build-up to The Open can be of a significant advantage.
Arguably the world’s most consistent player of the last 10 months, England’s Justin Rose heads to Carnoustie in good form having finished ninth at the Scottish Open and with the added confidence that he can perform around Carnoustie having finished 12th here in 2007.
Rose ranks second in SG: total with all facets of his game on point and he ranks 13th for par five scoring average. A course of this difficulty will identify any weaknesses and seemingly there are none at present for the Englishman, making him the firm favourite to claim his second major and get even closer to becoming world number one.
McIlroy’s season is still yet to get into second gear by his standards but there are signs of his best to come with a 28th
place finish at the Irish Open. Furthermore, whilst an amateur, McIlroy made his name at Carnoustie in 2007, finishing 42nd having led earlier during the championship.
Many claim McIlroy cannot perform around firm and fast golf courses, however with an Open Championship already to his name and a T5 and T4 finish in his last two Open outings, results would suggest otherwise.
He currently ranks 13th in SG: total and T13th in par five scoring average, showing his game is perfectly suited to Carnoustie. Expect him to be in contention heading into the final round.
Casey has decided against playing any links golf heading to Carnoustie, but a 27th place finish here in 2007 suggests he knows the course well and a T11 in The Open last year proves he has the game to compete around the links.
Ranking fourth in SG: total and T13th in par five scoring average, Casey has the game to tackle the fierce links and with two top-25 finishes already during this year’s major championships, expect him to be inside the top ten come Sunday.
Poulter’s game since returning from injury at the end of 2016, where he had to sit out the 2016 Open Championship, has yielded his first stroke play victory on the PGA Tour so he is playing some of his best ever golf.
A 27th place here in 2007 and a 30th
finish at The Scottish Open suggests the Englishman could have a major role to play this week. Ranked 29th in SG: total demonstrates all areas of his game are in place. Factor in a T14 finish at last year’s Open and being known as one of the best scramblers on tour makes him perfect to tackle the severity of Carnoustie. Expect a top-ten finish.
Woods’ record in recent years speaks for itself due to his back injuries; however, his most recent return at the beginning of 2018 is cause for optimism.
Tiger finished 12th here in 2007 and is currently ranked sixth in SG: total. A change of putter during his last outing saw a significant improvement on the greens, and taking into account his best performance of the season at the Valspar Championship (T2), where it was windy and he was required to hit fewer drivers, his game could all finally click to put himself in contention come Sunday afternoon for that 15th