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*Full disclosure none of this matters because Tiger Woods is winning*
Course: Carnoustie Golf Links (Championship Course), Carnoustie, Angus, Scotland
-Par 71, 7402 yards; Last played here in 2007; won by Padraig Harrington at -7 after a 4-hole playoff with Sergio Garcia
-Fairways: Various Fescues (Brown Top Bent, Rye Grass, Annual Meadow Grass)
-Average Width: 22 to 26 yards
-Rough: Various Fescues (Bent Grasses, Wavy Hair Grasses)
-Expect around 2 inches in the first cut with 9 inches to 2 feet in deep stuff
-Greens: Brown Top consisting of 50% Bent, 30% Red Fescue, 20% Annual Meadow
-Field: 156 players; Cut is Top 70 and ties with NO MDF
– Probably the toughest links test in the world (see below)
Ernie Els: “I think Carnoustie is the toughest of the whole lot. It’s got length. It’s got great bunkering. You’ve really got to have your wits with you to play this golf course. It’s probably the best bunkered course that you’ll ever find anywhere in the world. I think this one and Lytham are really well bunkered, but this golf course has the length, as I say. And it seems like the wind always blows here.”
Carnoustie Golf Links
I think the above quote from one of the greatest of all time, Ernie Els, is a good way to start off this preview as he highlights in a few sentences what I plan on diving into for golf’s 3rd major. Designed in 1857 by Old Tom Morris and then redone in 1926 by James Braid, the course has not been touched since then and has been in British Open form ever since. This course is long. This course has brutal pot bunkers. This course has heavy winds in your face and brutal cross winds (see Barry Burn). When Harrington won in 2007, the winds were actually relatively calm for the week but he was the only one to shoot in the 60s more than twice, eventually tying with Sergio Garcia at -7 after 72 holes. If the wind gets up here, which I certainly hope it does, I see the winning score being in the -2 to -5 range. As if the wind potential and length wasn’t enough, holes 15-18 present not only the toughest test in links golf, but one of the toughest stretches in the world. How tough? In 2007, out of 1,224 Birdies or better made over the entire tournament, only 96 came on the last 4 holes. Total. That’s a mere 8%. If you remember, Harrington put two into the Barry Burn on his 72nd hole which eventually led to the tie with Garcia. The rest of course features fairways that average about 22 to 26 yards in width and while the rough isn’t US Open length, if you get into that fescue, weeds, etc. have a good time hacking out of there. Below here you’ll see a table like I normally present but this time we look at the hole names, since they’re badass, but also some notes I’ve gathered on each as well as total BoB made on each hole back in 2007. Let’s also go over some key holes and see where the scoring can come and where the double bogeys (or worse) can come too. Scoring averages are also from 2007.
Looking at the scorecard I think the glaring BoB holes are the two Par 5s, as is the normal on TOUR. “Spectacles” yielded the most eagles by far in 2007 and I expected this year to be no different. Hogan’s Alley, named famously after the late great Ben Hogan, is scorable has an extremely tight out of bounds area lining the left side. A downwind day gives the possibility of hitting it in two and even with a headwind, a 3rd shot wedge should be fine, but that out of bounds is always lurking. Hole 4, “Hillocks” features the only double green on the course and although one of the easier scoring holes (3rd easiest in 2007), a long putt can make for a miserable one. Holes 15-18:
15) “Lucky Slap”: As you’ll see in the quick notes, this has a dogleg left that seems somewhat straightforward, but a missed fairway almost certainly means a bogey if not a double. Players going into a headwind will more often than not find the pot bunkers 25 yards short of the green which is a hard enough shot as it is, let alone those steep, steep shot they’re now required to hit.
16) “Barry Burn”: This hole seems to be into the wind about 9/10 times and if the players are somehow more unlucky, they might even get a severe crosswind. This whole is a whopping 248 yards on average, but on some days depending on wind and tee box set up, this mammoth can be playing more like a 275-280-yard PAR 3. I think if you’re making par on this hole you’re gaining at least ½ a shot on the field.
17) “Island”: The “easiest” of the last four is no slouch. Like many of the long Par 4s out here, precision off the tee is paramount and even then, you’re more than likely left with around a 200+ approach shot. As is the theme for Carnoustie, and Scotland, have fun with that wind.
18) “Home”: Hardest hole on the course. One of the hardest holes in Europe. Bunkers line the entire right side but don’t worry, you can’t go left because out of bounds lines that too. As mentioned in my notes, more than just 2007, many other tournaments have featured players win (or brutally lose) on this hole. In a recent tournament a player just needed a double to win; he made triple. This 500-yard beast played 0.6 strokes over par and only featured 17 birdies the entire tournament in 2007. Amazing to watch but I couldn’t be happier that I’m a spectator instead of player come Sunday.
Trends and Key Stats
It wouldn’t be a major championship on TOUR without examining possible trends, current and past form, etc. to try and find guys that will succeed and/or win. We’ve already stated the obvious in that they should be a good wind and links player with the ability to also maybe play in colder weather (“cold” meaning under 70 degrees, via futureoffantasy.com). Looking at this table of the last 5 winners of The Open here are their 5 tournaments leading up to their victory.
Clearly they all had stellar recent form so I think even though recent form is always one of the biggest drivers week in and week out of performance, this week it’s especially supreme. We see they all won in one of their recent starts with the exception of ZJ, yet he still had 2 Top 5s and a Top 6 finish. Not bad. Next we can look at their Open Championship form. Yes it’s a different course each year but the conditions are normally quite similar and almost always somewhat “traditional” links style.
ZJ is once again the exception here of the only one without a Top 5 before their win but still a Top 6 and Top 9 finish will do for the sake of argument. We have our next “trend” if you will in that the winner will most likely have no worse than a Top 10 in one of their previous Open starts with preferably a Top 5. The last “trend” I’ll point out is that the OWGR #1 normally doesn’t win here. I say normally because why? Well Tiger Woods of course has won 3 times as the OWGR #1 player (of course he has). All that being said, DJ could easily go and win by 8 shots so I’m not saying the OWGR #1 won’t win.
So, what’s it going to take to compete? This course is quite long and while I don’t think it’s necessarily a bomber’s paradise, Driving Distance will certainly aid in success. In 2007, all 3 top finishers were 12th of better in Driving Distance, with Garcia ranking 1st. As I alluded to earlier and have said throughout, you have to HIT THE FAIRWAY. Hit the fairway. These fairways are tight and on some holes missing them could mean either a penalty out of bounds or an equally bad loss of strokes through fescue, high grass, and whatever else the player may find. Lastly, scrambling will be talked up heavily this week and for good reason. The top 3 finishers in 2007 ranked 4th, 6th, and 16th in Scrambling for the week, clearly showing their ability to get up and down with either a Texas wedge or excellent chipping.
Stats I think I’ll be targeting include SG: Ball Striking (Player’s rank in both total driving AND GIR), SG: APP (with SLIGHT emphasis on 200+), Par 4 Scoring (SLIGHT emphasis on 450-500 yards), GIRs Gained, Scrambling, Bogey Avoidance, and Fairways Gained. Please note that there should always be some emphasis on SG: T2G but since that is used each and every week I don’t include it in stats that I’m “targeting.” I will go into more depth on my finalized stats, players who’s form I like, course history, and more in my DFS article in the next day or two.
Maybe adding Reed and looking to maybe parlay DJ with something to get those odds up
That’s all for the course preview! Follow me on Twitter @sscherman and follow @AmateurHour_Pod too for picks, podcasts with FIRE guests, and weekly picks to win.