As Open Championship nears, Augusta link is on my mind

July 7, 2022 09:14 PM
USATSI_18377035

The Open Championship is still a week away, but my focus is already on the Old Course.

As one of the most famous golf courses in the world, St. Andrews has been used more than any other links in the Open Championship rotation (roughly every five years). Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the schedule in 2020, so this time around will mark seven years since the last Open Championship at the Old Course.

My dive into the 2022 edition began by looking back at the 2015 leaderboard at St. Andrews. I was already well aware of the connection between Augusta National Golf Club and St. Andrews, but I was still astonished by what I found.

Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie, the designers of Augusta National, took a great deal of influence from the Old Course. Many players have noted the similarities in the shots they see at both properties. 

Sam Snead, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Zach Johnson have won both the Masters and an Open Championship at St. Andrews. Jack Nicklaus, a six-time Masters winner, has won the Open Championship at St. Andrews twice. Tiger Woods won Opens at St. Andrews in 2000 and 2005 and has five green jackets.

Back to the leaderboard from 2015. Here’s a look at the Top 10 at St. Andrews that year with each player’s best finishes at Augusta National:

2015 Open Championship leaderboard with notable Masters finishes

1. Zach Johnson, Masters winner

T2. Louis Oosthuizen, Masters playoff loser

T2. Marc Leishman, two Top 5s plus an additional Top 10 at Augusta

T4. Jordan Spieth, Masters winner plus two runners-up and two third-place finishes

T4. Jason Day, three Top 5s plus an additional Top 10 at Augusta

T6. Sergio Garcia, Masters winner

T6. Danny Willett, Masters winner

T6. Justin Rose, Masters playoff loser

T6. Jordan Niebrugge (amateur), missed cut as an amateur in 2014 Masters

T10. Adam Scott, Masters winner

T10. Brooks Koepka, Masters runner-up

Johnson beat Oosthuizen and Leishman in a playoff. Oosthuizen won the Open Championship at St. Andrews in 2010.

In golf handicapping, we often talk about correlated courses and it’s something I lean on heavily. Golfers, from recreational players to tour pros, have courses that suit their eye and their game, courses where they feel a greater sense of calm and poise. It’s true for athletes in other sports as well.

St. Andrews is a golf course that has very wide fairways. It also has large greens with a lot of twists and turns. Around the greens, shaved runoff areas are the predominant test as opposed to thick rough. 

When you consider these general features, you’ll find a handful of other PGA Tour courses with similar characteristics. As my pursuit of finding the Champion Golfer of the Year continues, I have chosen to focus on these correlated courses. Obviously, we have already mentioned Augusta National. The Plantation Course at Kapalua, host of the Tournament of Champions, makes my list. So does Riviera Country Club (Genesis Invitational) and Trinity Forest (Byron Nelson in 2018 and 2019), a flat, links-style design. Whistling Straits, site of the PGA Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015, is another course I considered, along with Torrey Pines, host of the Farmers Insurance Open and also the site of the U.S. Open in 2008 and 2021. 

Of course, I also looked at how players have fared at St. Andrews when applicable. Since 2000, the Old Course has been home to four Open Championships plus the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a European Tour event in which two of the four rounds are played at the Old Course (similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach).

I found several players who have had success at all or most of the correlated courses. In Point Spread Weekly, which comes out Wednesday for subscribers, I have listed these players' best or most significant finishes at each course.

Enjoy the Scottish Open. I’ll be back next week for the head-to-head matchups that I played and those that I considered for the 150th Open Championship, and I’ll certainly be referencing the information listed here and in Point Spread Weekly. 

Don't miss this week's edition of “LongShots” for all the Scottish Open plays from myself, Matt Youmans, Wes Reynolds and our guest, Paul Williams of GolfBettingSystem.co.uk. Available at VSiN.com/podcasts.

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