The Old Course at St. Andrews is hosting the Open Championship this weekend for the 29th time – the last being in 2010. With a field as deep as the ones you find at these majors, you will need to find something to help you narrow down your selection set – some kind of stat or gut feeling, or just an expert you happen to trust – because otherwise it can get overwhelming fast. All of these guys are just so good at golf, how are you decide which one is going to hit his putts and avoid those bunkers this weekend? Good luck.
One thing you probably heard plenty of over the past week or so is that Jordan Spieth was a fool for not heading over to the U.K. earlier than he did, getting used to the style of golf, the weather, the time change, the accents and whatever else. He wouldn’t have been alone – plenty of players from all over the world who spend a lot of time playing on the PGA Tour stateside instead opted for last weekend’s Scottish Open. It makes perfect sense: the weather, time zone and accents ARE all going to be pretty similar to what players encounter next weekend at St. Andrew’s. Kinda like how every public course in Georgia is sort of like Augusta, for all the same reasons.
As it turns out, the Scottish Open leads into the Open Championship every year, so I figured I would take a look at the numbers and decide if I should be scared off by or attracted to Spieth’s win this weekend at the John Deere Classic, held on the banks of the Mississippi River (about as American as it gets). Yeah, it was an easy course, and the field was shallow. But then again, these guys are pros, and Spieth notched his fourth win of the year. And no matter how easy the course, he did shoot a 61 on Saturday. A SIXTY-ONE. He was -17 in two days. I don’t care how easy it should have been – so far, I am impressed.
Last year, Rickie Fowler finished T2 at The Open after playing in, and finishing T8, at the Scottish Open. The year before that, Mickelson won the Scottish on his way to a major win at Muirfield. But maybe, just maybe, that is evidence of a need to be playing well heading into the Open Championship and not a commentary on preferable travel plans? Maybe.
Tiger has three Open Championship titles and has never played in the Scottish Open. Last year, Ryan Moore finished T12 at The Open after wrapping at a T7 the weekend before… at the John Deere Classic. In 2013, Zach Johnson went from a T2 at TPC Deere Run to a T6 across the pond. Phil finished T16 at the Scottish Open in 2012, and then missed the cut at the one that counted a weekend later.
All of which is to say, if you think Spieth is playing like the best player in the world right now, you’re right, no matter where it was on display last weekend. And if you think he looks like a guy primed to improve on his -2 T36 at Royal Liverpool from last year, you’re probably right about that too. Good luck.