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By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
The Open Championship at the Home of Golf – unequivocally the purest form of the game we love.
For the 150th playing of The Open, we head to St. Andrews.
We visit the birthplace of links golf and one of the most revered locations for golfers and fans alike. The world’s best step foot on hallowed ground. Some for the first time, some for the 23rd time — like Tiger Woods. Every round feels new at this magical location Plus, with The Open being the final major on the calendar, what a glorious feat it would be to win HERE of all places?
Despite massive fault lines between the PGA Tour vs. LIV Tour drama rolling into the summer (and for the foreseeable future), seemingly nothing can overshadow the history and tradition behind St. Andrews. And for what it’s worth, the LIV Tour elites who had previously qualified ARE in this week’s field. But we do not know if this is the last time The Open allows them in.
IT’S COMING HOME
It’s not JUST the treat of The Open Championship week – it’s The Open at St. Andrews.
What is already a historic track produces a world-class, diverse field of golfers. I’m sure Euro Ryder Cuppers like Rory, Jon Rahm, or maybe U.S. Open victor Matt Fitzpatrick would love another shot at a Claret Jug at The Home of Golf. They’re complimented by Americans hopping the pond like world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, the red-hot Xander Schauffele, and basically every other top name you can imagine from the PGA Tour or DP World Tour. Notable LIV Tour golfers Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, and Phil Mickelson will all be on-hand to throw a “black cloud” over The Open and steal another major victory. Oh, and a guy named Tiger is back after skipping the U.S. Open to rest up. He wouldn’t be missing this one. No lack of storylines this time around.
THE OLD COURSE
What’s there to say? The 7300ish-yard track is virtually unchanged in its history. And, it has stood the test of time. Its best defense is a lovely lady named Mother Nature that can whip unimaginable winds and rains at a moment’s notice. It can also be a docile and tame day of sunshine where birdies fly. You truly never know, and that’s the madness and magic of Links Golf. The main factors for scoring are the weather you get and how you stay out of trouble. Deep dark pot bunkers loom at every corner, most notable the “Road Hole” 17th. While there’s room in the fairways off the tee, every last trundle, bounce and roll needs to be watched to see what lies ahead.
PICKING THE OPEN
When you are laying out your roster for the final major this year, keep in mind that links golf is VERY often an acquired taste, where the best performers this week will have several round under their belt in elements like this. For ball flight I favor a lower, stingier ball striker (Morikawa, Molinari), and look for players who have variety in short game and scrambling tactics, as no two shots are the same around the green at St. Andrews. Shane Lowry and Jordan are a couple more recent Open champions that come to mind with creativity around the greens.
MAKING YOUR PICKS
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for The Open, it’s links experience and creativity that reign supreme – a week for the intangibles to shine in a major championship.
1. Who’s hot and trending? – recent high finishes, top 10 streaks and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses. – Players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week. – While I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles. – While this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
Last week at the The Scottish Open, my picks were undoubtedly my worst of the year. Four out of six missed the cut, and even Alex Noren and Ryan Fox couldn’t prop me up and stay in the hunt. There’s no way to talk around a failure: last week’s pick were a D- and only Alex Noren’s half decent weekend prevents from being an F. Back to the drawing board!
THE SIXPACK OF PICKS
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
Tier 1: Rory McIlroy – The 2014 Open champion has some good vibes as of late, and a win in Canada recently shows great ball striking. The open format lends to his creativity and it feels right this week for Rory.
Tier 2: Will Zalatoris – As part of my oath to bet on Willy Z untilhe eventually wins, you can’t ignore his form. After a 69 and an injury withdrawal at last year’s Open, experience could come into play but he’s playing too well to not be in it.
Tier 3: Shane Lowry – The 2019 Open champion has a top 10 recently at the Irish Open, and his flighted irons and variety around the greens make a good match for St. Andrews. Just barely missed the cut in his 2015 start at the Old Course.
Tier 4: Bryson DeChambeau – This one evens surprises me, but I get the sense that this course works well for his bomb and gouge game. As long as he avoids the heather and knows when to lay off of driver, this could be a good week for the bomber at a track with reachable par 4’s.
Tier 5: K.H. Lee – The two time PGA Tour winner has quietly climbed into the top 50 in the world, and if there’s a newcomer that could surprise he would be my pick.
Tier 6: Kurt Kitayama – An American that has several years of DP World Tour and links golf experience under his belt, plus an impressively gutsy 2nd place finish last week at the Scottish Open.
My RYP One-and-Done Pick: Will Zalatoris
Where to watch: USA Network and NBC all weekend.
Why to watch: The season’s final major being played at the most historic course in the history of the game? Yes, I’ll be there.
What to eat: Fish & Chips for the win!
Purse: $14 million
Winner’s Share: $2.5 million
Who is the only British Open champ to break 70 for all four rounds at St. Andrews?