How to pick a winner at the Open Championship

The only major to be held outside of the US has been dominated by experienced players for a long time

While the PGA Tour and American majors have favoured the young, big hitters over the past few years, the Open remains an old man’s game.

The only major to be held outside of the US has been dominated by experienced players for a long time, with nine of the last 12 Open champions having been over the age of 34.

Open pick a winner
Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of the 2019 RBC Heritage. (Tyler Lecka/Getty Images)

Four of those, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Darren Clarke, were in their 40s, so while you may like the look of Rory McIlroy – who is the 8/1 favourite in the golf betting – this is certainly a week to be looking at the older heads.

The Open is considered by plenty of people (albeit most of them British) to be golf’s truest test, and the tournament has historically leaned towards the best players in the world, with only a few outsiders coming from nowhere to win.

Of the past 14 champions, 11 were ranked among the top 30 players in the world at the time of their victory, including each of the last six.

It’s no surprise, given how well elite, experienced players have fared at this event, that most Open winners in the recent past have had plenty of career victories to their name.

Since 2005, 12 of the 14 champions had won at least eight times combined on the PGA and European Tours, with Stewart Cink in 2009 and Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 the only exceptions.

And winning in the past isn’t enough. It’s important for players to come into the Open in good form, as 10 of the last 14 winners had already claimed at one victory in the season that they lifted the Claret Jug.

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As the Open is traditionally held at links courses, it provides an entirely different test for players who are more accustomed to playing on the PGA Tour.

As a result, most champions have needed a few cracks at the tournament before they win it, and it’s very important to have played well at the Open at least once in the past.

Of the past 14 Open champions, 13 had previously finished inside the top 10 at the event at least once, while 12 of those had a top-six finish to their name.

Surprisingly, though, none of the last 10 champions finished better than 30th at the Open in the year prior to their triumph.

Six of those players missed the cut entirely.

The Open is such a mental test that it’s extremely tough to contend in successive years, so this year’s champion will likely be a player who wasn’t in the running last year.

This week we’re looking for a player who is at least 35 years old, ranked inside the world’s top 30, has won at least once this year and eight times in his career and has finished inside the top 10 at the Open in the past, but no better than 30th last year.

Two players fit the bill.

Dustin Johnson has only won one major to date despite being arguably the world’s best player for the past three years, but this week looks a great opportunity to add to his tally.

The world No. 2 has 21 career wins to his name, including two this year, and just about fits our age bracket at the age of 35.

He finished second at the Open in 2011 and missed the cut at Carnoustie last year.

Something to bear in mind, though, is that just two of the last 20 Open champions were coming off a missed cut in their previous start, and Johnson failed to make the cut in his last appearance at the Rocket Mortgage Classic last month.

Paul Casey also fits into each of our criteria.

The Englishman is ranked 15th in the world, having won the Valspar Championship in March, which took his tally of career victories to 16.

He finished joint-51st at the Open last year and has a career-best finish of third at this event. And while he’s yet to win a major, this could be his best chance given that he’s now 41.