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Past Issues
43. LIV Fever (2023-12-06)
42. Nothing Major (2023-11-15)
41. Driving Machine (2023-11-08)
40. How's Traffic? (2023-10-18)
39. Lucky Luke (2023-10-11)
38. Postmortem (2023-10-04)
37. Ryder Cup (2023-09-27)
36. Letzig Returns (2023-09-20)
35. That's a Wrap (2023-08-29)
34. Pick 6 (2023-08-23)
33. Tale of Two Glovers (2023-08-16)
32. Forecasting the FedEx (2023-08-09)
31. Postseason (2023-08-01)
30. Major Letdown (2023-07-25)
29. Underdogs (2023-07-19)
28. Up and Down (2023-07-11)
27. Validation for Rickie (2023-07-05)
26. The Ams Strike Back (2023-06-27)
25. Wyndham Rewarded (2023-06-20)
24. The Show Rolls On (2023-06-13)
23. Scottie's Scaries (2023-06-08)
22. Grillo, Mi Amigo (2023-05-30)
21. Major Koepka (2023-05-23)
20. Glory's Second Shot (2023-05-16)
19. We Meet Again.. (2023-05-09)
18. Big Tone (2023-05-01)
17. Health Check (2023-04-24)
16. Live From Harbour Town (2023-04-17)
15. Phil Thrills (2023-04-11)
14. Down Magnolia Lane We Go (2023-04-03)
13. Peaking for Augusta (2023-03-27)
12. Fall of The DeChambino (2023-03-21)
11. Top Scheff (2023-03-13)
10. Fore Right! (2023-03-06)
9. CH3.. Wins? (2023-02-28)
8. The Rahm Slam (2023-02-21)
7. Garbage Time (2023-02-14)
6. Little Misery (2023-02-07)
5. Rory Returns (2023-01-30)
4. Rahm Threat (2023-01-23)
3. Rising Maverick (2023-01-16)
2. Morikawa's Meltdown (2023-01-09)
1. Introducing Letzig (2023-01-02)

Underdogs

A couple of months ago we visualized the skill level of every major champion since 1995. One of the key takeaways was that, of the 4 majors, underdogs have the best chance of winning The Open Championship: 5 of the 7 lowest skilled major champions since 1995 got their wins at The Open.

To understand how the typical Open champion differs from the typical major champion, we've plotted their average skill profiles since 2004:

(An important note here is that 3 of the 5 low-skill Open Champions mentioned above occured before 2004: Daly, Curtis, and Lawrie.)

The average Open Champion has been slightly worse in all skill attributes except driving accuracy when compared to non-Open major champions. These differences are all very minor with the exception of driving distance, which accounts for nearly the entire skill gap between Open and non-Open champions. The average driving distance skill—measured in yards longer than an average PGA Tour pro—of Masters, PGA, and U.S. Open champions since 2004 is about 12 yards (think Keith Mitchell or Scottie Scheffler), while for Open Champions that number is just 7 yards (think Jordan Spieth or Matt Fitzpatrick). Bombing the ball simply isn't a prerequisite at most Opens the way it is at Augusta National or a typical PGA Championship venue, which opens the door for a wider range of golfers to potentially lift the Claret Jug at week's end.


Americans at The Open

Since 1995 Americans have, on average, made up 31% of Open Championship fields. Participation bottomed out in 2004 at 27% but has since rebounded to well above 30% in recent years. This year's Open Championship features 46 US players, 29% of the field.

In 21 of the 27 Opens played since '95, the percentage of Americans finishing inside the top-25 (yellow dots) exceeded their field percentage. Their best showing was in 2000, where 15 (60%) of the top-25 was American. Their worst was in 2009 at Turnberry, where only 5 US players finished inside the top-25—oddly, two (Watson and Cink) were in the playoff to decide the champion that year.

Despite their over-representation inside the top-25, Americans actually tend to underperform at Open Championships relative to their baseline skill. We estimate they are 0.12 strokes per round worse in Open Championships on average—the worst of any country.


Rankings Update

Top 10 (see all)
Player DG OWGR
Scottie Scheffler 1 1
Rory McIlroy 2 2 1
Jon Rahm 3 3 1
Patrick Cantlay 4 4
Xander Schauffele 5 6
Tyrrell Hatton 6 1 13 3
Viktor Hovland 7 1 5
Cameron Smith 8 1 7
Rickie Fowler 9 3 22 1
Collin Morikawa 10 19
Notables
Tom Kim 34 8 24 1
Steve Stricker 41 8
Ludvig Aberg 61 5 301 2
Adrien D. du C. 93 20 275 46
Nicholas Lindheim 94 52 196 222
Vincent Norrman 100 30 164 122
Parker Coody 258 106 333 132
Pierceson Coody 377 2 158 2

Tom Kim set the golf world on fire at the end of 2022, winning twice on the PGA Tour and starring for the International side at the Presidents Cup. Kim has played unspectacular golf for most of 2023, falling to as low as 48th in our rankings, but a T8 at the U.S. Open and a T6 at last week’s Scottish Open has him back up to 34th.

For the last few years it's looked like Pierceson was the better of the talented Coody twins—he turned pro as the 3rd ranked amateur in the world (67th on our all-time list) and found early success on the Korn Ferry Tour with two wins. Parker had a slower start to his pro career but has been slowly gaining momentum—a T4 last week gives him 4 top-11 finishes since May on the Korn Ferry Tour. This consistency has Parker 34th on the Korn Ferry points list and 258th in the DG rankings. Meanwhile Pierceson, who has been less consistent but has a win, is 15th and 377th on those lists, respectively. The tortoise-versus-hare nature of their brotherly rivalry is similar to that of Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard.


Player Feature


Week That Was

Winner Event True SG xWin
R. McIlroy PGA — Scottish Open +3.6 0.385
N. Lindheim KFT — The Ascendant +3.33 0.181
V. Norrman PGA — Barbasol +2.32 0.004
C. Jarvis CHA — Euram Bank Open +1.99 0.001
S. Stricker SNR — Kaulig Companies +1.72 0.0
D. Lamb CAN — Quebec Open +1.39 0.0

Three weeks ago, 26-year-old Davis Lamb had never had a positive true SG event in his career. He’s now won back-to-back PGA Tour Canada events (as a Monday qualifier for the first one!), averaging +1.1 and +1.4 SG per round along the way.

Scottie who? Steve Stricker continued his ridiculous run on the Champions Tour, winning for the 8th (!) time in his last 17 starts on the senior circuit. Stricker is now 41st in our rankings, wedged between Mito Pereira and Min Woo Lee. Stricker has a long history of breaking the DG model; it's good to see him continuing that tradition into his late fifties.


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Past Issues
43. LIV Fever (2023-12-06)
42. Nothing Major (2023-11-15)
41. Driving Machine (2023-11-08)
40. How's Traffic? (2023-10-18)
39. Lucky Luke (2023-10-11)
38. Postmortem (2023-10-04)
37. Ryder Cup (2023-09-27)
36. Letzig Returns (2023-09-20)
35. That's a Wrap (2023-08-29)
34. Pick 6 (2023-08-23)
33. Tale of Two Glovers (2023-08-16)
32. Forecasting the FedEx (2023-08-09)
31. Postseason (2023-08-01)
30. Major Letdown (2023-07-25)
29. Underdogs (2023-07-19)
28. Up and Down (2023-07-11)
27. Validation for Rickie (2023-07-05)
26. The Ams Strike Back (2023-06-27)
25. Wyndham Rewarded (2023-06-20)
24. The Show Rolls On (2023-06-13)
23. Scottie's Scaries (2023-06-08)
22. Grillo, Mi Amigo (2023-05-30)
21. Major Koepka (2023-05-23)
20. Glory's Second Shot (2023-05-16)
19. We Meet Again.. (2023-05-09)
18. Big Tone (2023-05-01)
17. Health Check (2023-04-24)
16. Live From Harbour Town (2023-04-17)
15. Phil Thrills (2023-04-11)
14. Down Magnolia Lane We Go (2023-04-03)
13. Peaking for Augusta (2023-03-27)
12. Fall of The DeChambino (2023-03-21)
11. Top Scheff (2023-03-13)
10. Fore Right! (2023-03-06)
9. CH3.. Wins? (2023-02-28)
8. The Rahm Slam (2023-02-21)
7. Garbage Time (2023-02-14)
6. Little Misery (2023-02-07)
5. Rory Returns (2023-01-30)
4. Rahm Threat (2023-01-23)
3. Rising Maverick (2023-01-16)
2. Morikawa's Meltdown (2023-01-09)
1. Introducing Letzig (2023-01-02)