British Open 2017: Nine interesting things about this year's event at Royal Birkdale
From the history of winners to the quirkiness of the past year and a half, here are some fun tidbits
The 146th Open Championship takes place this week at Royal Birkdale, and. The Open is the oldest, and often most intriguing of the four men's major championships, and this week is no different.
Birkdale has delivered some great history (and tremendous drama) over the years, and I expect much more of the same this time around. Here are nine of the most interesting facets to this third major of 2017 and 10th overall at what is often called the fairest test in the Open rotation.
1. Seven straight first-time major winners: They say the first time is always the most special, and Jason Day , Danny Willett , Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson , Jimmy Walker , Sergio Garcia and Brooks Koepka can attest to that. We have never seen a streak like this in the history of golf. The last time we even saw four first-time major winners in the same year was 1969, and now we're on the precipice of two straight seasons of it (with Day's 2015 PGA Championship to boot).
The fascinating part of all of this is that none of it is surprising. Would anyone be stunned to see Rickie Fowler , Thomas Pieters , Justin Thomas , Daniel Berger, Jon Rahm and Matthew Fitzpatrick reel off the next six majors in a row giving us three (!) straight seasons of first-time major winners? I wouldn't. Which means we're probably going to get a repeat of 2015 when Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy held all four of them at one time.
2. Look to Scotland: The Scottish Open has had a recent history of producing Open Championship-winning golfers. Potential candidates this year: Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar , Jason Dufner and Adam Scott .
3. Only one European has won Birkdale: Padraig Harrington is the lone golfer not from Australia or the United States to raise a Claret Jug on this course. Granted, there have only been nine of these things played at this course in the history of this tournament, but you would still think a single European would have won one of the other eight. Many got close (Seve Ballesteros among them), but none prevailed.
4. Breaking par will be tough: Nobody has broken par at Royal Birkdale in the last two Opens there. The closest to do it were Mark O'Meara and Brian Watts who tied at even-par 280 in 1998 before O'Meara won in a playoff. That year, the weather was so nasty in the third round on Saturday that nobody could crack a score of 70. If the weather is like it was on Monday for the practice round, the winning score will be well under par. If it howls and gusts like a proper Open, it will not be.
5. Who has rocked Opens recently? Only nine golfers have made the cut at each of the last five Open Championships.
- Adam Scott
- Dustin Johnson
- Matt Kuchar
- Jason Dufner
And 11 have multiple top 10s in that time period.
- Adam Scott: 4
- Sergio Garcia: 3
- Zach Johnson: 3
- Dustin Johnson: 2
- Graeme McDowell: 2
- Henrik Stenson: 2
- Rory McIlroy: 2
In terms of scoring average, Stenson has been the best.
6. Age is just a number? After watching Tom Watson nearly win The Open in 2009, I'm convinced anything can happen at this tournament. If you look at the recent history of old man winners (Phil Mickelson, Darren Clarke , Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els ), it's clear that anything has happened. One for the home crowd that will be beyond a fan favorite this week? I'm going with 44-year-old Lee Westwood .
7. A title defense? The last time a golfer successfully defended the major he won the year before was in 2008 at Royal Birkdale when Harrington did it. He was coming off his 2007 Open win at Carnoustie in a playoff over Sergio Garcia. That means little this week, but maybe Henrik Stenson will take a bit of encouragement from it.
8. Who can (almost) get to No. 1? Dustin Johnson will protect his No. 1 spot in the world this week no matter what, but a whole host of other top 10 golfers can reach career highs in the Official World Golf Rankings (including Rickie Fowler).
9. What will the weather be like? As of now -- and this changes by the minute in England -- there will be rain daily and 10-20 MPH winds. That's not bad for an Open, but what will interest players and viewers alike is who gets the wrong side of the draw on Thursday and Friday.
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