Sobel: Recent History Shows Anything Can Happen This Weekend at the British Open


Steve Flynn, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Lee Westwood

  • The stage is set for the final two rounds of the 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
  • Jason Sobel explains why recent history suggests to expect the unexpected this weekend in Northern Ireland.

Just in case you needed a little reminder, this thing ain’t over.

That’s not just a catch-all, it’s-anybody’s-ballgame, never-over-‘til-it’s-over kind of statement, either. This one has some serious stats to back it up.

Since 2012, only two 36-hole Open Championship leaders – Jordan Spieth in 2017 and Rory McIlroy in 2014 – have converted those advantages into victory two days later. On those seven total occasions, four eventual champions were at least three strokes back entering the weekend, with three of them in 10th-place or lower, including Francesco Molinari, who was T-29 and six back at this point last year.

Those numbers might not mean much without some comparative analysis, so let’s take a look at the other three majors during that span, each of which has been played eight times already.

At the Masters, four 36-hole leaders ended up winning, only two were at least three shots back and none were lower than eighth place.

At the PGA Championship, again four midway leaders converted, while only one was at least three shots off the pace and none were lower than seventh.

And at the U.S Open, five leaders entering the weekend wound up winning, only two were at least three shots back and just one (Webb Simpson, who was T-29 in 2012) was lower than fourth place.

To summarize: In recent years, the 36-hole conversion rate is half as much at The Open as any other major; the other three have combined for just one more winner beyond three shots off the lead; and there have been two more winners at this event alone who were 10th-or-worse than each of the other three altogether.

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