British Open 2017: A most favorable major to 40-somethings

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British Open 2017: A most favorable major to 40-somethings

PGA Tour

British Open 2017: A most favorable major to 40-somethings

SOUTHPORT, England – The British Open oddsmakers aren’t exactly favoring experience.

Padraig Harrington, the 2008 Open champion, is a 66-to-1 shot to win this week’s Open at Royal Birkdale. Phil Mickelson, winner in 2013, is 50-1. Defending champion Henrik Stenson is 33-1. Ernie Els, the 2012 champ, is 250-1. And 2011 winner Darren Clarke is the longest of long shots at 1000-1.

Are the bookmakers missing a trick with their ageist thinking? Maybe. But you can’t really blame the odds makers for the above odds. They’re right to list Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler as 16-1 joint favorites on current form.

Except current form doesn’t always count in the Open Championship. Power doesn’t necessarily give the young guns an advantage either. Experience and guile count for a lot in links golf.

Age doesn’t seem matter as much in the game’s oldest major compared to the other three majors. Stenson was 40 when he lifted last year’s Claret Jug. Mickelson was 43 when he triumphed at Muirfield in 2013. Clarke won at Royal St George’s as a 42-year-old in 2011. Nineteen years ago, Mark O’Meara became champion golfer of the year at the age of 41.

It’s why Harrington turns up here as a 45-year-old hoping to lift the old claret jug for the third time.

“Obviously an Open Championship can be played by a shorter hitter,” Harrington said. “As you get older, you get shorter relative to the field. A guy hitting the right ball flight will hit it further into the wind: 160 miles an hour efficient ball flight is going to go further than 180 miles an hour inefficient. That’s why an older guy can compete with the younger guys.

“A lot of the younger guys are physically gifted, but they don’t have the experience with links golf. Assuming decent, tough enough conditions, it’s a tournament for experience. Everybody can compete –short and long hitters. It’s not one dimensional, the Open Championship.”

Justin Rose isn’t quite in the 40-plus bracket, but the 36-year-old agrees.

“There’s a lot of experience required to play links golf, Rose said. “I think it’s a form of golf you can learn to love over the years, if it’s not something you feel immediately naturally. I think that you can learn to love it. The length of the golf course isn’t really a big deal. I think the ball runs a long way, so the course can play relatively short. Obviously, it can play incredibly long, as well, but that’s given the wind conditions. If someone learns how to control their ball flight, they have just as much distance off the tee as a long hitter who hits it up in the air.

“For me creativity around the greens, but strategy as well, avoiding bunkers, great course management is incredibly important in an Open Championship, maybe older players have learned that skill and have a bit more patience, possibly.”

Sounds like the bookmakers might just need to lower a few odds on the so-called “oldies” in the field. Just don’t be surprised if a 40-something wins this week to continue an Open Championship tradition.

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