Feeling a Brit at Open Championship
There are oh so many storylines heading into this year's Open Championship.
Will Rory McIlroy continue his momentum after a dominating win in the U.S. Open? Will the streak of 11 straight different major champions be snapped? Will we have the first American to win a major since Phil Mickelson at the 2010 Masters?
But most importantly, will The Eliminator hit another winner?
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You read that right, folks: After a handful of runner-up finishes, heartbreak and work late into the night, the Eliminator spit out McIlroy for the U.S. Open, and then watched the magic happen.
But we're hungry for more, and it's a good thing, since the British Open is upon us.
If you don't know how this works, don't worry, we are accepting late entries to the party. You see, 156 golfers will tee it up this week across the pond, but only one golfer will be victorious at week's end.
Everyone will be making a pick. Some will use statistics, some will go with a hunch, others might draw a name out of some sort of a hat, perhaps a beret or fez.
I, on the other hand, don't pick a winner, I pick losers. I'll use statistics, trends and prior history to tell you why 155 golfers just cannot win this weekend. By process of elimination (get it?), only one golfer will remain, and he must be the one to hoist the Claret Jug.
Let's get this show on the road.
First of all, dating back to 1976, only one of the 35 British Open winners has won in his first Open appearance, that was Ben Curtis in 2003. I look for that trend to continue, which takes 40 golfers out right off the bat.
Next, look for some prior success at the British Open. Thirty-one of those past 35 winners also had a previous top-25 finish at the Open Championship. That takes out another 42, and we're suddenly down to 74.
Parity has ruled lately in the majors. In fact, each of the past five major championships have been won by golfers who had never previously won a major championship. Let's take out the 29 remaining golfers who have a major win under their belts.
Next up, I like a little momentum heading into this tournament. Nine of the past 11 British Open winners made the cut in their last PGA Tour start. One-third of the remaining field gets eliminated; 15 gone, 30 left.
A sign of prior success on the Tour is also mandatory. Five of the last seven, and 21 of the last 25 Open Championship winners had a top-3 finish on the PGA Tour that season. Another 18 are gone, and we're down to the final dozen.
Look back to the top of this year's Masters leaderboard to get a taste for who might contend this week. Nine of the last 14 Open Championship winners finished in the top seven of that same year's Masters. Another 10 are gone, and we're down to two.
Let's finish this thing off. The last four, and six of the last eight British Open winners entered the event with five or fewer PGA Tour wins. That takes out Adam Scott, and leaves just one.
This weekend, look for the world's No. 1 to get career major No. 1. The Eliminator likes Luke Donald to win at Royal St. George's. Remember, the numbers don't lie.
The Eliminator: Step-by-Step:
1. Only one of the past 35 British Open winners won in their first start in the event. (40 eliminated, 116 remaining)
Floris de Vries
2. 31 of the past 35 British Open winners had a previous top-25 finish at the British Open. (42 eliminated, 74 remaining)
Fredrik Andersson Hed
Charles Howell III
Bo Van Pelt
3. The past five major winners were first-time major winners. (28 eliminated, 46 remaining)
Davis Love III
4. Nine of the past 11 British Open winners made the cut in their last PGA Tour start. (16 eliminated, 30 remaining)
Miguel Angel Jimenez
5. Five of the past seven and 21 of the past 25 British Open winners had a PGA TOUR top-3 finish that same season. (18 eliminated, 12 remaining)
6. Nine of the past 14 British Open winners finished in the top seven in that year's Masters. (10 eliminated, 2 remaining)
7. The past four and six of the past eight British Open winners entered the event with five or fewer PGA Tour wins. (1 eliminated, 1 remaining)
Your winner: Luke Donald
Matt Willis has been a production researcher with the ESPN Stats & Information group since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. You can reach Matt at ESPNMattWillis@yahoo.com.
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2011 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
2011 champion: Darren Clarke
Course: Royal St. George's
Where: Sandwich, England
Yardage, par: 7,211 yards, par-70
Topics: The Open Championship