MAJOR nearly man Louis Oosthuizen is at it again. The South African finished third at last year’s US Open, was second in May’s PGA Championship, and second again at last month’s US Open. He is not entirely unfulfilled at the top level of course – he was the winner of the Claret Jug in 2010 – but his six runner-up finishes is a tally that must hurt even this apparently mild-mannered fellow. “I just need to pull it through and see if I can go one better on this weekend,” he said after a second round of 65 left him on 11-under for the week and two clear of Collin Morikawa.
Oosthuizen isn’t counting any chickens yet though. “My game is good, but I know it's a really good leaderboard,” he said. “I have to play good golf this weekend if I want to come out first.” He’s bang on there. Jordan Spieth is alone in third, one behind Morikawa, with Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler and Dylan Frittelli sharing fourth. Paul Casey, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm are among those six shots back on 5-under.
There’s absolutely no doubt that being in T13th or better at this stage is important because 23 of the last 25 winners of the Claret Jug were in that position after 36 holes. It’s repeated in the other event that define a golfer’s career. Of the last 100 majors held, only five saw a winner emerge from outside the top 15 at halfway.
Open champions tend to have a game that makes life easy for themselves. Five of the last nine winners ranked top three for hitting Greens in Regulation; the other four ranked top five for Scrambling. In other words, they were ticking off the pars. Then nine of the last 10 winners ranked 11th or better for Putt Average – they were taking advantage of enough birdie opportunities.
Let’s also recall a few other trends: nine of the last 10 winners had already recorded a championship top 10, nine of 10 played the week before the event, eight of the last 10 champions were already winners that year.
Ready for the weekend at The 149th Open.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 16, 2021
Who do those numbers favour? Well, Morikawa, Scheffler and Frittelli suffer with their Open inexperience; the latter two also have no win this year.
The top trio are right on track with the stats, but their prices are about right: Oosthuizen 9/4, Spieth and Morikawa both 9/2. If I were to favour any of them it would be Spieth, but we’re on him from the get-go at 18/1 so he’s covered.
I’m not convinced that Johnson is yet playing well enough to back at 15/2 and Rahm lacks an Open top 10. I haven’t mentioned the unlikely five players currently tied seventh (Dani Von Tonder, Emiliano Grillo, Marcel Siem, Andy Sullivan and Justin Harding), but inexperience counts against them.
I’m most tempted by Paul Casey. “Very, very happy where I stand right now,” he said after a 67 for T12th. He praised his relatively new left-below-right putting grip for improved short putting and that was a key element for Darren Clarke when he won at Royal St George’s 10 years ago.
Casey has an Open top 10 and he has a win this year. That’s the good news. Less good is that he didn’t play last week, but he did get to celebrate earning qualification for the Olympics and it prompted him to say: “The older I get, the better things seem to get. The Open, I'm obviously mega excited about next week. It seems to make it more exciting as an Englishman playing in England. Then it's the Olympics and the Ryder Cup. I've got a great opportunity here to have a summer which could define my career, if I capture lightening in a bottle.”
He very nearly won the PGA Championship last August, only one man scored better than him over the last 54 holes of last September’s US Open, he briefly led November’s Masters, he was fourth in May’s PGA Championship, and seventh in last month’s US Open. He’s in great major championship form, in other words. I like him at 33/1.
Already advised: Jordan Spieth 18/1 (currently third)
Adding: Paul Casey at 33/1