2016 Open Championship Preview

2016 Open Championship Preview

Introduction

Royal Troon Golf Club will host the 2016 Open Championship on July 14 – 17. Returning for the first time in 12 years, this will be the club’s 9th time hosting The Open Championship. We're excited for the drama that lies ahead, because the club certainly has provided it to us in the past.

Quick Hooks:

  1. Todd Hamilton won the last Open Championship played at Royal Troon in 2004.
  2. Gene Sarazen made a hole-in-one in 1973, 50 years after failing to qualify in the 58th Open Championship at Royal Troon.
  3. The Par-3 8th, Postage Stamp, is the one of the golf's most famous short holes. Its original name was Alisa. The hole was renamed after Willie Park Jr. wrote that the holes’ “pitching surface skimmed down to the size of a postage stamp.”
  4. The Par 4 11th, The Railway, is named after the tracks that run just beyond a four-foot high stone wall that protects the right side. In his Open Championship debut, Jack Nicklaus made a 10. The hole was switched to a Par 4 for the 1997 Open.
  5. The last 6 winners of Open Championships at Royal Troon have been Americans.

From Humble Beginnings

Royal Troon Golf Club was founded 138 years ago as a 6 hole club after a meeting of local golfers in the Portland Arm Hotel. In the years to follow, the original layout would be the responsibility of James Dickie, Royal Troon’s first captain, and Charlie Hunter, Keeper of the Green at Prestwick Golf Club. In 1884, the club’s first 18 hole course was completed thanks in part to Dickie and George Strath, the club’s first Professional.

Royal Troon, as we recognize it today, was designed by Willie Fernie. His improvements made for many of the club’s most famous holes, including The Railway (11) and The Postage Stamp (8). Both holes were constructed in 1909.

If one championship golf course wasn’t enough, the club is also home to a Dr. Alister MacKenzie redesign. In the 1920’s, MacKenzie reworked Fernie’s Portland Course which opened for play in 1895.

In 1923, Royal Troon hosted its first Open Championship and would go on to host 8 more (1950, 1962, 1973, 1982, 1989, 1997, and 2004).

Design and Layout

A par 71, Royal Troon’s official yardage for the Open Championship is 7,175 yards. There are currently 98 bunkers compared to over 150 to in 1962. The course is known for having the shortest hole on The Open Rota. The aforementioned Postage Stamp measures a mere 123 yards, and it may play even more fierce with a new possible pin position available as the green has been extended closer to the front bunker.

Beyond the changes at the 8th, the course has gone through other modifications since the 2004 Open Championship. The most notably the tee on the 15th, a 499 yard par 4, was moved 50 yards to the left, making the hole 16 yards longer. However, it now plays straight back into the prevailing wind, as opposed to a left-to-right dogleg.

Additional small changes have taken place at nearly every hole, including some extending of greens and tee boxes.

A Course Fit for The King and Major Meltdowns

Royal Troon has had several of memorable Open Championship winners, but perhaps none greater than Arnold Palmer. In 1962, Palmer won the 91st Open Championship by dominating the field and finishing at 276, 12 under par for the tournament. In that same year, a 22-year old Jack Nicklaus, who had recently won that year’s U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club, made his first Open appearance.

20 years later, Tom Watson would win his 4th of 5 Open Championships, although without his usual flair for the dramatic. Watson said “I didn’t win this Championship, I handed it to me,” in reference to the 111th Open Championship. Bobby Clampett, a 22-year old American playing in his first Open, came out of the gates strong. He carded a 67 and 66 in his first two rounds. Clampett wouldn’t fare as well on the weekend. He would find 3 bunkers on the Par 5 6th en route to an 8 on the hole and 77 on Saturday. With a 78 on Sunday, Clampett would finish in a tie for tenth. Nick Price held a 3 shot lead with 6 to play, but limped in with a bogey at 13, a double at 15, and another bogey at 17 to finish T2.

Watson and Palmer aren’t the only multiple Open Championship winners to win at Royal Troon, Bobby Locke, winner of 4 Open Championships and nicknamed “Old Muffin Face,” won the 79th Open Championship in 1950. The wins at Royal Troon were the 2nd Open Championships for Palmer and Locke, both having won the year prior.

In 2004, the golf world won a date with Todd Hamilton who won the 133rd Open Championship after a four hole play-off against Ernie Els. Todd Hamilton joined Arthur HaversTom WeiskopfMark Calcavecchia, and Justin Leonard, all making Royal Troon the site of their only major victory.

Results and Trends

In reverse chronological order, we are going to run through the results of each of the last three Open Championships at Royal Troon. In this section, the player’s world ranking will appear next to their name in parenthesis. This ranking is taken from the Sunday prior to the Open Championship of each year.

2004 Open Championship Results and Trends

Winner: Todd Hamilton (56)

Top 5: Ernie Els (2), Phil Mickelson (4), Lee Westwood (63), Thomas Levet (64), Davis Love III (5)

Notable: Past winners of the Open Championship at Royal Troon, Justin Leonard and Mark Calcavecchia finished in the Top 20. Leonard finished T16; Calcavecchia, T11. Ben Curtis, last year’s Open Champion, missed the cut shooting 7-over after the first two days.

1997 Open Championship Results and Trends

Winner: Justin Leonard (19)

Top 5: Darren Clarke (46), Jesper Parnevik (15), Jim Furyk (28), Padraig Harrington (102), Stephen Ames (108)

Notable: Past winners at of the Open Championship at Royal Troon, Tom Watson and Mark Calcavecchia both finished T10. The previous year’s winner, Tom Lehman, finished at even par for the tournament which earned him a T24.

1989 Open Championship Results and Trends

Winner: Mark Calcavecchia (19)

Top 5: Greg Norman (3), Wayne Grady (56), Tom Watson (22), Jodie Mudd (43)

Notable: The two past Open Champions at Royal Troon had different fates at the 1989 Open Championship. Tom Watson, winner of 1982 Open Championship, would finish alone in 4th while Tom Weiskopf, 1973, missed the cut by 1. Previous year’s open winner and World #1, Seve Ballesteros, struggled on the weekend to finish T77 at +11.

Q&A

With past champions proving successful at Royal Troon should I look past Hamilton, Leonard, and Calcavecchia?

12 years is a long time, and 50 is definitely not the new 30 in golf. However, there may be some hope for Royal Troon’s past champions.

Todd Hamilton is on the Champions Tour and his form hasn’t been all that bad. After missing the cut at the Senior PGA Championship, he’s gone T17, T61, and T29. If there’s something there, then maybe a walk down memory lane will ignite his game.

The same could be said for Mark Calcavecchia who has a stellar course history (Won in 1989, T10 in 1997, T11 in 2004). We wouldn’t be shocked to see his name pop on the Leaderboard Thursday – Saturday. Sunday is a different story.

Justin Leonard, most recently seen in the booth at the Barracuda Championship, has played in 9 PGA Tour events this season. He has two top Top 25s and made 9 of 11 cuts. In his last appearance at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in June, Leonard fired an opening round 67. However, he failed to break par in the final three rounds. We’re not sure if that's enough to go on besides the past champions’ trend and course history.

Can I trust Ernie?

No. We know you’re thinking that The Big Easy went to a playoff with Todd Hamilton in 2004 and finished T10 at Royal Troon in 1997. While the course history is favorable, he certainly doesn’t have the same magic he once did. If you’re going by what you saw at Congressional, don’t forget he missed 4 straight cuts prior to that event. He has been Mr. Strokes Gained Putting since the switch in equipment, but we’re still not forgetting the Masters.

Should I pick any of the recent Major Champions?

Zach Johnson – 2015 Open Championship

Last year’s Champion Golfer of the Year, Zach Johnson, comes into Royal Troon with good form and appears to be ready to defend his title. He has had a T17, T8, and T10 in his last three starts. His 69 and 65 on the weekend at the WGC Bridgestone point towards a bright future.

Last year was no fluke either. His past five Open finishes, in reverse chronological order, were Win, T47, T6, T9, and T16. With his wedge game and his driving accuracy, Zach Johnson should find himself on the leaderboard again.

Dustin Johnson – 2016 U.S. Open

Who’s ready for another shot tracer clinic? DJ is over the hump with a win at Oakmont and eviscerated whatever doubts you had with his win at Firestone. Primed to grab his second major, DJ might do bad things to Royal Troon. With his length and accuracy, he will likely follow Greg Norman’s performance in 1989, but meltdowns are a thing of the past.

If you have some archaic concerns about DJs not being an Open Champion caliber player, because he hits the ball too high or too far, let me remind you of the following:

Dustin Johnson was your first and second round leader last year. Back-to-back 75s had him plummet down the leaderboard on the weekend and finish T49. However, that was a different Dustin Johnson who had not played since his 3-putt at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.

His track record at the Open Championship is pretty solid.  Over the past five years, DJ has finished T14 - 2010, T2 - 2011, T9 - 2012, T32 - 2013, T12 - 2014, T49 - 2015.

Jason Day – 2015 PGA Championship

The World’s Number 1 has been playing some golf between last year’s Open Championship and now. Last year at St. Andrews, Day finished T4. However, he did have the 54-lead and a final round 70 left him one shot out of the playoff. 

His recent collapse at the WGC-Bridgestone may have many people off Jason Day, but remember what happened after the Open Championship disappointment last year? He won the RBC Canadian Open, and started the tear we are witnessing today.

This guy loves the smell of hardware and we can’t see him finishing outside the Top 10.

Danny Willet – 2016 Masters Champion

If there is anyone to fade from this group, it’s your reigning Masters Champion, Danny Willet. After a T37 at the U.S. Open, he’s had two consecutive missed cuts on the European Tour. He certainly hasn’t had the same form since his victory at Augusta, but his T6 at last years Open begs the question, who has been appearing on recent major leaderboards that could claim their first (and possibly only) major?

Got more questions? Hit me up on Twitter @brianpmccann, and I'll do the digging for you.