By studying the form at recent Open Championships, Stuart Hood identifies the player most likely to lift the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool.
1. Old Tom Morris is the oldest Open winner. He was 46 years and 19 days old when he won his fourth Open at Prestwick in 1867.
Subsequently, we dismiss the chances of anyone aged 47 or over, which eliminates Mark Calcavecchia, John Daly, Nick Faldo, Todd Hamilton, Tom Lehman, Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, Mark O’Meara, Steve Stricker, Tom Watson, Mark Wiebe and, most reluctantly, Miguel Angel Jimenez.
2. Since 1900, the youngest Open winner is Seve Ballesteros, who was 22 years, three months and 12 days old when he won at Royal Lytham in 1979.
Thus we take out anyone aged 22 or younger, which means we must lose Matteo Manassero and Jordan Spieth.
3. Only Ben Hogan (1953), Arnold Palmer (’62), Jack Nicklaus (’66), Gary Player (’74), Tom Watson (’77) and Tiger (’05) have won the Masters and the Open in the same year.
So we strike current Masters champion Bubba Watson off the list of contenders.
4. No one who has qualified for the Open Championship via Open Qualifying Series (International Final Qualifying) has ever gone on to win the title.
So it’s goodbye to George Coetzee, Rhein Gibson, Hiroshi Iwata, Jin Jeong, Bryden Macpherson, Cheng-Tsung Pan, John Senden, Yoshinobu Tsukada, Justin Walters, Ashun Wu, Dong-Kyu Jang, Juvic Pagunsan, Hyung-Tae Kim and Tomohiro Kondo.
5. Each of the 11 Open Championships that have previously been held at Royal Liverpool were won by a player who had already recorded a top-10 finish in the Open.
Hence this giant cull that removes Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jonas Blixt, Gregory Bourdy, Keegan Bradley, Roberto Castro, Ashley Chesters, Jason Day, Brendon de Jonge, Graham DeLaet, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Jason Dufner, Matt Every, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Harris English, Tommy Fleetwood, Stephen Gallacher, Branden Grace, Bill Haas, Russell Henley, Billy Horschel, Thongchai Jaidee, Hyung-Sung Kim, Chris Kirk, Masanori Kobayashi, Pablo Larrazabal, Marc Leishman, Alexander Levy, Shane Lowry, Joost Luiten, Ryan Moore, DA Points, Patrick Reed, Brett Rumford, Charl Schwartzel, Webb Simpson, Richard Sterne, Kevin Streelman, Brendon Todd, Peter Uilhein, Jimmy Walker, Dawie van der Walt, Boo Weekley, Bernd Wiesberger, Gary Woodland and YE Yang.
6. Nine of the last 14 Open champions had recorded at least one top five in the previous six majors.
A lack of recent major form sees us erase Thomas Bjorn, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, David Howell, Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Paul Lawrie, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Louis Oosthuizen and Brandt Snedeker.
7. Eleven of the last 14 Champions had won at least five European or PGA Tour events prior to claiming the jug.
It’s the end of the road for Thomas Aiken, Ben Curtis, Rickie Fowler, Mikko Ilonen, Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari and Chris Wood. (Curtis is the closest to staying in, with four).
8. The last 10 Open champions had won a European or PGA Tour event that season or the season before.
We remove Angel Cabrera, Stewart Cink, Darren Clarke, Luke Donald, David Duval, Jim Furyk, Padraig Harrington, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Ian Poulter and Nick Watney.
9. The last player to come back and win the Open the year after they had finished in second place was Jack Nicklaus in 1978.
With regret, we take out last year’s runner-up to Phil Mickelson on the scorched links of Muirfield, Henrik Stenson.
10. Finally, 10 of the last 14 Open champions had previously won a major or a WGC event.
So, with sadness, our final cut ends the hopes of Lee Westwood.
Ernie Els, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Tiger Woods.
And the our winner is:
The 33-year-old Englishman’s Open record is poor but he has recorded three top-15 finishes in the oldest major, he is coming back into form after an injury-hit start to the season and his ultra-accurate iron play is perfectly suited to the test at Royal Liverpool. Add these to the fact that five out of the last six Open winners had missed the cut the previous year and you have our selection. Justin Rose will recover from sitting out the weekend at Muirfield in 2013 to win in 2014.