The 150th Open Preview

The Old Course at St. Andrews returns to host The Open for an iconic 150th edition.

This will be the 30th time that St. Andrews has hosted, which is the most of any host venue.

There will not be any late add-ons to the field like we saw last week so the field will sit at 156 golfers to start the week. That will be trimmed to the top 70 and ties after 36 holes.

Let’s jump right in to discuss the course.

The Course

The Old Course at St. Andrews needs no introduction. It’s the Home of Golf.

Looking at the scorecard we see a par 72 that plays to 7,313 yards. It’s not a traditional par-72 though as there are only two par 3s and two par 5s.

A steady stream of par 4s puts an emphasis on driving it well. Par 3s obviously do not test that aspect at all while par 5s often put too much emphasis on distance.

At the Old Course, golfers will see extremely wide fairways. With firm conditions, we should expect to see some monster drives, even from the shorter hitters.

There are 110 bunkers littered around the course and most of them are true hazards. You want to avoid them at all costs, unlike many weeks out on TOUR where golfers would rather be in the bunker than the rough. That’s not the case here.

On a hole-by-hole basis, there are seven of the par 4s that play under 400 yards. Barring extreme wind, that will put a lot of wedges in the hands of these golfers. From there, they will be forced to use their creativity and shot-making skills to maneuver their way into the greens. It’s not target golf though. There is no spinning it back, only forward.

The greens are huge targets with seven of the greens being double greens shared between holes. That leads to a very high percentage of GIR (around 75%) but does not mean the course is easy with the irons. There will be plenty of poor approach shots that end nowhere near the hole and give the golfer a lag putt from outside of 100 feet.

For grass this week, golfers will see fescue and bentgrass on the fairways with native grass in the rough and fescue-based greens that have bentgrass and poa annua in them as well. As we typically see at the event, greens are generally average speeds at best and sometimes give players trouble when trying to adjust from the faster speeds they see on a week-to-week basis.

Looking at the 12 most recent rounds played at The Old Course, we’ve seen the field average as low as 69.7 for a round while also seeing it play as tough as 75.1 for a round. A majority of rounds do end up near the magical par number (72). Mother Nature makes the final call though.

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Quotes on the Course

Louis Oosthuizen: “The key thing is you’re going to have long birdie putts around this golf course, and you’re going to have to make those 30-footers around here, a lot of pins that’s probably going to be the closest you can get to in some conditions.

Dustin Johnson: “I think it fits all types of players. I think you’ve got to enjoy links golf. You’ve got to be able to use your imagination around here. It definitely helps the more times you play it to know the bounces and where to land the ball to get to certain flags and certain pins. ”

Tiger Woods: “You know, the first thing I ever heard about St. Andrews is that all you do is hit it as hard as you can and aim left.”

Phil Mickelson: “The driver is never taken out of your hands. You can hit driver on just about every hole, and there’s plenty of room on a number of holes. I feel like it gives you a much bigger option off the tee, and “It’s a great second-shot golf course to where you always have a shot into the green, but sometimes it’s such a difficult shot that you’re still fighting for par or bogey from the fairway.”

It’s a grip-it and rip-it week with just two par 3s on the layout. Do not confuse that for bomb-and-gouge though because it still requires a bit of course strategy to avoid all of the hidden bunkers and avoid missing right.

Correlated Courses

Let’s look at the leaderboards over the last five years and see where the most crossover success can be found, when it comes to other courses played on the PGA TOUR or DP World Tour:

The Open Course Rota
Augusta National Golf Club

A lot has been written about Augusta National and how the course architects were deeply inspired by the Old Course at St. Andrews. Perhaps that is why we’ve seen so much crossover success among the iconic venues. Of course, good golfers are going to rise to the top in big events but there seems to be a clear crossover link between the type of names you see, Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen being two prime examples.

The Weather

Thursday: Cloudy with a high of 67 degrees. Wind at 8 to 15 MPH.

Friday: Cloudy with a high of 69 degrees. Winds at 10 to 20 MPH.

The early-week forecast calls for relatively calm conditions, by Scotland’s standards. However, we know better than to trust a weather forecast this far in advance. Keep an eye on the expected wind numbers as the week progresses.

Golfers to Watch

Xander Schauffele
It’s funny how the narratives can change so quickly in golf. For years it was Brooks Koepka who seemingly could not finish outside of the top 10 in a major while someone like Schauffele “couldn’t close.” Yet when we look at recent results we see that Koepka has three straight major finishes outside of the top 50 while Schauffele arrives with back-to-back wins (as well as a team win at the Zurich and JP McManus Pro-Am win). Schauffele’s form looks an awful lot like Scottie Scheffler’s early in the season right before he won the Masters. Many were saying, “he can not keep winning” but then he proved those doubters wrong. Will Xander do the same?

Matt Fitzpatrick
The Englishman is seemingly on the wrong side of every weather draw lately. He fought through it last week to still manage a top 10 in Scotland. His added distance should help him at a driver-heavy course like St. Andrews and he’s proven he can handle tough conditions if the winds start to whip, like they often do in Scotland.

Jordan Spieth
Links golf and Spieth go hand-in-hand. He’s a magician at working with uneven, rolling terrain and also seems to find a way to put it close with a wedge in hand. He’ll have lots of opportunities to use his creativity with a wedge, with seven of the par 4s measuring under 400 yards.

Scottie Scheffler
He did not have his best stuff last week in Scotland but he’s still hard to ignore near the top of the board. Tiger Woods is the only golfer to win The Open while being World No. 1. Woods accomplished that feat three times with those of those wins coming at St. Andrews.

Tiger Woods
Speaking of Woods, he is back in action this week after skipping the last major. He won the 2000 and 2005 editions of The Open at St. Andrews. This event also has the oldest average age of a winner so it’s as good of a spot as any to see him pop again, perhaps outside of his playground, Augusta National.

Tommy Fleetwood
He lived up to his reputation on links layouts last week with a top-5 finish in Scotland. It’s a dangerous game to chase the “motivated to win” narratives but Fleetwood circles The Open every year on his calendar and it would mean that much more to get the job done on his favorite course on the planet.

Rory McIlroy
The Northern Irishman arrives with seven straight top-20 finishes with a win thrown into that mix. He’s bagged top 10s in all three majors this season and appears to be inching closer and closer to another major title. He had to miss The Open at St. Andrews in 2015 due to injury but posted a T3 back in 2010.

Ranking the Field

1. Rory McIlroy
2. Scottie Scheffler
3. Xander Schauffele
4. Justin Thomas
5. Jon Rahm
6. Matt Fitzpatrick
7. Shane Lowry
8. Cameron Smith
9. Jordan Spieth
10. Tommy Fleetwood
11. Patrick Cantlay
12. Will Zalatoris
13. Dustin Johnson
14. Joaquin Niemann
15. Hideki Matsuyama
16. Sam Burns
17. Collin Morikawa
18. Tony Finau
19. Viktor Hovland
20. Louis Oosthuizen