Five players including Rory McIlroy and 2022 major bridesmaid Will Zalatoris hit all the key trends identified by Niall Lyons for finding the winner at The Open Championship.
We are less than two weeks out from the year’s final major at the Home of Golf and following a successful trends piece last month where we pinpointed Matt Fitzpatrick as the US Open winner it is time to narrow our focus on potential winners of the 2022 Claret Jug.
What are the key trends to predict major success?
With the majors we tend to concentrate on the world's top 30 and that is no different at the Open. Only two players this century have won the Open outside the world’s top 100 and the average world ranking of the winners in that stage is 13 despite the huge number of Ben Curtis who was ranked 396th before winning at St George's.
Undoubtedly one of the more obvious trends when looking to St Andrew's is the connection to Augusta. Looking back at previous results points to Augusta form being very important. Below are the results of the last three Open Championships held in Fife.
|2015 Open||Masters Best|
|2010 Open||Masters Best|
|Rock||Has Not Played|
|2005 Open||Masters Best|
28 golfers have filled the top 10 spots over the last three St Andrews Opens and the Augusta record makes quite the reading. Between them they have 15 Masters wins with Tiger winning the most (five). A further nine golfers have finished runner up at Augusta National and only four had not posted a Masters top 10 at some stage in their career.
Obviously future winners and contenders at Augusta may yet occur but it'd be foolish to ignore past history there within the top 30 in the world and see who fits the bill. A win, runner up or top five finish at the Masters almost looks to be a pre-requisite if wanting to contend at St Andrews. Let's have a look at who fits that bill in the world’s top 30.
|Name||Best Masters Finish||Previous Major Finish|
|Scottie Scheffler||Win||Runner Up|
|Rory McIlroy||Runner Up||5th|
|Cameron Smith||Runner Up||CUT|
|Xander Schauffele||Runner Up||14th|
|Will Zalatoris||Runner Up||Runner Up|
|Brooks Koepka||Runner Up||55th|
|Louis Oosthuizen||Runner Up||CUT|
|Sungjae Im||Runner Up||CUT|
As ever in these major previews while a strong trend remains relevant we shall exercise it. The previous major finish remains a highly important part of the jigsaw when looking for contenders of the following one. Fitzpatrick finished 5th at the PGA before going on to win the US Open.
Zalatoris who was runner up at Southern Hills repeated that feat once again in Boston. When applied to the above with the Masters importance it leaves a small but prestigious list of golfers.
Scheffler (14/1), McIlroy (9/1), Morikawa (20/1), Matsuyama (33/1) and Zalatoris (25/1) look the five most likely, and once again, like I said in the US Open trends piece, I'll be amazed should any of these golfers not place at the Open Championship in a few weeks’ time.
Which of the five is best suited?
Scheffler continues to break records and no doubt is kicking himself following a missed opportunity at Brookline. It is difficult to rule out another huge performance and his swash buckling style should suit the test at St Andrews. His only jaunt to the Open so far resulted in a T8 finish at St George's.
With five top eight finishes in his last six majors, he is a prime candidate to go well again. Morikawa will attempt to go back to back, a feat which has only been achieved by Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington. Regardless of his generational talent, Morikawa will do well to overcome that hurdle.
McIlroy will have plenty of home support and having shot 63 on the opening day in 2010 has some good memories around here. Another chance fell through his fingers in Boston and this looks to be the story of the year to date in the majors. One round looks to be spoiling his chances each time, although it must be said he is a lot more competitive in these events than in recent years.
Matsuyama's finish in the US Open is ominous and he could play his part at St Andrews. He finished 18th in 2015 but has missed three of his last four cuts at this Championship.
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Fifth and finally, Will Zalatoris, who was forced to withdraw in 2021 following an opening round of -1. On the 15th hole that day he hacked out of the rough and injured his leg and back in the process. He finished the round in respectable fashion anyhow but doctors advised him to pull out. He will feel he has something to prove given he now has runner up finishes in the other three majors.
Last year at St George's was his maiden appearance and the slower greens in Scotland may just prove to be the tonic he needs to get over the line. His early career in the majors reminds me of Mickelson with so many close calls, although it must be said he hasn't made the mistakes that the left hander did when he was in contention in majors early on his career.
Zalatoris looks a lot more poised and it'd be a surprise were he not to go well once again in the biggest event of them all. There is always room for an outsider competing at St Andrews as it can be bullied by the longer hitters but despite the superlative long game Zalatoris possesses it is his putting that attracts all the attention.
He putts better in Major championships and a chance to display his major worth once again, this time on slower greens may just prove to be the answer in turning those bridesmaid tags around.
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