Sobel: Which Golfers Fit the British Open Winner’s Profile?

Credit:

Ian Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Francesco Molinari holds the Claret Jug after winning the 2018 British Open.

  • The average winner of the past 10 British Open tournaments has been 35 years old and ranked 30th in the world.
  • Jason Sobel analyzes this year's field to find the golfer who fits that profile and could hoist the Claret Jug in 2019.

It’s time to figure out this week’s Champion Golfer of the Year using a little thing I like to call math.

Nothing that’s going to bust the calculator, mind you, just some simple, easy-to-understand kind of math.

Using the average world ranking and age of the past 10 Open Championship winners, let’s find current players with a similar profile who at least fit the narrative, if not the optimal numbers.

Using this formula before last month’s U.S. Open, we were correctly able to deduce that Tommy Fleetwood would be the champion!

Uhh … maybe not.

Fleetwood finished a mere T-65, but our calculations did list Jon Rahm (T-3), Xander Schauffele (T-3), Matt Wallace (T-12), Patrick Cantlay (T-21) and Jason Day (T-21) as potential contenders who similarly weren’t far from the overall averages.

Let’s take a look at those past 10 British Open winners:

Anyone notice some, um, inconsistent patterns here?

First off, you’ll find that recent winners of The Open are much older, on average, than those of the other three major championships — and for good reason, as it’s the lone major where power doesn’t outrank things like guile and experience.

Secondly, you’ll see that these numbers are all over the board. In the past decade, three players age 27 or younger have won the Claret Jug, while the other seven have been 35 and older. It was always believed that the sweet spot for elite golfers in their prime was around 28-34, but that hasn’t been the case here.

Now let’s examine those OWGR numbers. In the past six years, Johnson has been the lowest-ranked champion at 25th in the world, with four already inside the top-10. In the four before that, though, no winner was ranked higher than 33rd, with Clarke a lowly 111th.

When we average out these numbers, we find that the typical recent Open champion has been just over 35 years old and ranked 30th in the world. Of those who have won, that profile most closely resembles Stewart Cink, who beat Tom Watson in a playoff 10 years ago.

But which current golfers in this week’s field fit those criteria? Let’s see who’s closest:

As I wrote in my U.S. Open preview, now we can start doing the Goldilocks thing.

Keegan Bradley and Shane Lowry are just a bit too young; Sergio Garcia is too old. Marc Leishman and Chez Reavie are ranked too high.

And by one spot on the ranking, Rafa Cabrera Bello is ranked too low, even though he’s extremely close to fitting the profile.

Instead, the closest to our average winner is none other than Kevin Kisner, who — oh, by the way — just happened to finish in a share of second place at Carnoustie last year.

If you believe in this formula, then it might wind up being Kiz over RCB in a playoff this week at Royal Portrush.

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