British Open 2023: A rapper and the 'Barbie' movie(!) help our wrong writer make his winning pick for Hoylake
We live in a time of the ridiculous and incomprehensible. Nineteen straight days of temperatures of 110 degrees or higher in Phoenix, while golf ball-sized hail blankets Calgary like a spring snow. The most popular song on Spotify in India right now, “Tere Vaaste” (For You) celebrates romance (“I will bring the moon from the sky for you, along with 16, 17 stars”), while here in the U.S. we are “singing” a song by a gentleman known as Gunna (no surname, apparently) with a title I can’t display here but loosely translated might mean, “I beg to differ.” As described by one chronicler, this 125-second soliloquy “showcases his unapologetic confidence, dominance, and unwavering spirit in the modern rap scene.” (“The Way You Look Tonight,” it ain’t.) And the biggest movies of this moment are a twin bill that salutes womanhood in the form of an insipid doll world made real, followed by a celebration of how nuclear holocaust became a winning strategy. (And yes, I’ve already booked tickets for my Barbie-Oppenheimer double feature.)
But I digress. Or do I? Frankly, there’s nothing more ludicrously preposterous than my picks to win men’s major championships. That I’ve had two winners and just missed a third in my last five tries (after going 0 for the preceding 40), though, makes me feel like showcasing my own unapologetic confidence, minus Gunna’s verbose vulgarity, of course. I must say it feels almost like I’ve discovered plutonium and more specifically what to do with it.
It seems only fitting amid the current cataclysm then that I end up with as perfectly bizarre a choice as possible for the staid Open Championship, especially at a venue where the most important feature might be a contrived out of bounds line. What seems likely this go-round with my calculations and tabulations is what statisticians refer to as a “regression to the mean.” Or what my dentist calls intellectual halitosis. “You can chew Clove gum ‘til Tuesday, brother. You're still going to reek like spoiled haggis if you don’t yank out those rotting teeth.”
Gingivitis aside, my method of gradually culling the field of a major through a Bachelorette-like gauntlet of made-up statistical qualifiers has gotten lucky lately. It can’t work again, can it? Well, after laboring through the exercise with this week’s cast of dramatis personae, I can assure you of one thing. As Gunna might say, no f-ing chance.
But we press on. For this major, the history of the championship and in particular the venue will be my most crucial determinants. First, despite the Wyndham Clark and Collin Morikawa of it all, I still believe you need major championship experience to win on a championship links. The least amount of major championship experience that led to hoisting the claret jug over the last decade was eight majors (Morikawa in 2021). So everyone in the field who isn’t playing in at least his eighth major is out.
Next, I want someone who knows what winning is, particularly recent winning. As it turns out, every player who has won at Hoylake since Harold Hilton in 1897 had recorded a victory in the preceding 12 months. That’s right, even Alf Padgham (1936 Open winner at Royal Liverpool) won the News of the World Match Play. Arnaud Massy (1907) had claimed victory in the Grand Duke Michael’s Tournament against a field of 12 at Cannes. Peter Thomson (1956) had won earlier at home in Australia at something called the Speedo. (Yes, that Speedo.)
The win requirement culled our field of 156 down to 45. Somewhat helpful, perhaps, but really not consequential. Kind of like what my guidance counselor said when I asked if putting “Pac Man Club secretary” on my college application for Harvard would make a difference: “Only to the lead in your pencil.”
Inspirational as that was, I needed to cut deeper toward the bone to get at a champion. Since all past Open champs at Hoylake had previously posted a top 10 in the Open, so, too, must it happen again this year. That takes our field from 45 to 19. And since I’m fascinated by par-5 scoring in this era of distance, and Rory McIlroy led the field in par-5 scoring when he won in 2014 at Hoylake, I figured the contenders this year ought to have a par-5 scoring average that was at least as good as McIlroy’s 4.55 average for the entirety of the 2014 season. That got us to 13 stout names that included the likes of Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Justin Rose, Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, Scottie Scheffler and pre-tournament and semi-defending champion McIlroy himself. That’s Murderers Row-type stuff. Even I can’t mess this up.
But anyone who knows what’s going on in the world knows that sounds an awful lot like Ken talk, when what we need is some big brain Oppenheimer action. Sadly, like Ken, my functionality here is essentially “just beach.” So while I thought I was being smart by trimming the field further, what I really was doing was pushing us toward a conclusion that is as empty-headed as an interview with President Barbie by Journalist Barbie.
Our wrong writer is thinking outside the box as he looks to Ken (Ryan Gosling) and Barbie (Margot Robbie) for help picking this week's Open winner.
Seriously, I thought it would make sense to look at the statistics for “right tendency,” which calculates the percentage of tee shots that end up right of the fairway. That’s where all the debilitating out-of-bounds is at Hoylake, particularly on the par-5 18th. If the stats say more than half of your misses are right of the fairway, it can’t end well, can it?
While that further reduced the field to just six, I pushed my luck just one step farther, or in this case, too far. Given that Tiger Woods won at Hoylake in 2006 without ending up in a single fairway bunker, I figured the player among our final group with the lowest percentage of driving into a fairway bunker would be the ideal choice.
Or I suppose it would have been if that player didn’t turn out to be, er, Henrik Stenson, by a razor thin margin over Scottie Scheffler. Admittedly, Stenson’s a sturdy enough former Open champion who at another time and place—or universe—might actually be a choice who made sense. But never as much sense as Koepka or Cam or Rahm or Rory or, of course, Scheffler. It’s like I chose Michael Cera for best actor over Cillian Murphy.
Should Henrik Stenson be happy or upset that he's our pick?
Yet, I am not that smart. Fact is, I only just realized that Stenson actually still is playing professional golf. Turns out, he plays on the LIV Tour. He’s with the Majesticks, which I’m told is different than The Aristocrats. Actually, he’s even won an event. I believe it was LIV Bedminster. Which, of course, is much different than the News of the World Match Play, Grand Duke Michael’s Tournament or the Speedo.
Or maybe it’s exactly the same.
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Is it the British Open or the Open Championship? The name of the final men’s major of the golf season is a subject of continued discussion. The event’s official name, as explained in this op-ed by former R&A chairman Ian Pattinson, is the Open Championship. But since many United States golf fans continue to refer to it as the British Open, and search news around the event accordingly, Golf Digest continues to utilize both names in its coverage.
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