Sobel’s 2019 British Open Preview: Do Players Perform Better at Majors After a Week Off?

Jul 16, 2019 04:00 PM EDT

Bruce Kluckhohn, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka

  • The 2019 Open Championship begins on Thursday, July 18 at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
  • One of the greatest debates in golf is whether players should take the week before a major off or if they should play a tune-up tournament.
  • Jason Sobel uses historical data to see if you're better served backing players who rest the week before the British Open.

The most debatable topics are those which have no correct answer. There’s no point in arguing over pints at the 19th hole when a conclusion can be reached by a Google search.

All of which makes this one an unending loop of debate which has never been – and never will be — properly solved: Should elite-level golfers play or prep in the week leading up to a major championship?

Tiger Woods chose to prep in the week before 13 of his 15 major titles, competing in an event before only his 2000 and ’07 PGA Championship wins. Phil Mickelson would rather play, parlaying previous-week starts into all five of his major victories.

Clearly, the reason there’s no proper solution is because it’s a matter of personal preference.

“It’s so player dependent,” Charles Howell III explained. “For me, it’s play the week before, but with my major record, I’d ask someone who’s won some of these things and ask what they did.”

OK, fine. Here’s Brooks Koepka: “The only reason I play the week before is for prep. If I’m home, I’m not practicing. The only time I play golf is on the Tour. I’m not practicing at home. I don’t practice at all. Playing the week before lets me practice, so I can build up a rhythm.”

Indeed, much like Mickelson, each of Koepka’s four majors have taken place after he played the previous week. And the results haven’t even mattered – he’s finished, in order, 37th, 30th, 5th and 4th on those four occasions.

All of which got me thinking: Even if players insist it is personal preference, do the numbers suggest a trend from one camp over the other? And more importantly as far as current handicapping is concerned: Should we give extra attention to those competing in the Scottish Open or John Deere Classic this week, in advance of next week’s Open Championship?

I decided to run some numbers.