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Picking the winner: Process of elimination
Having trouble picking the winner for this week's Open Championship? Not to worry, PGATOUR.COM's Mike McAllister has it all down to a science.
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM Managing Editor
So you've done your research. Analyzed the entire 156-player field. And now you think you've got the winner of this week's British Open, your 1-in-156 pick. Well, good luck.
Meanwhile, we're taking the opposite approach. We're going to eliminate 155 players until the winner reveals himself. All it takes is 23 simple steps, using historical data, statistics and, hopefully, a little common sense (very little, in our case).
It worked for us at the U.S. Open, although the revelation that Tiger Woods would win at Torrey Pines was probably shared by, oh, 99.9 percent of the population (we know you Phil die-hards are still out there!). But this week without the injured Woods offers a much bigger challenge and a much more true test of the Process of Elimination. So here we go ...
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1. Let's start with the qualifiers. First, we'll all the players who got to Royal Birkdale through international qualifying:
Joshua Cunliffe, Darren Fichardt, Douglas McGuigan, Hennie Otto (Africa qualifiers); Andrew Tampion, Peter Fowler, Bradley Lamb, Ewan Porter (Australasia qualifiers); Danny Chia, Adam Blyth, Chih Bing Lam, Angelo Que (Asia qualifiers); Scott McCarron, Craig Barlow, Rich Beem, Matt Kuchar, Michael Letzig, Davis Love III, Alex Cejka, Kevin Stadler, Tom Gillis, Doug LaBelle, Tim Petrovic, Paul Goydos, Jeff Overton, John Rollins (America qualifiers); and Martin Wiegele, Johan Edfors, Alexander Noren, Simon Wakefield, Steve Webster, Jose-Filipe Lima, Simon Dyson, Pelle Edberg, Jean Battiste Gonnet, David Horsey, Paul Waring, Ariel Canete, Gregory Bourdy, Anthony Wall, Philip Archer, Peter Baker, Ross Fisher, Thomas Aiken (Europe qualifiers). Players eliminated: 44. Remaining field: 112.
2. Now, let's eliminate the local qualifiers:
Jamie Elson, a-Chris Wood, a-Rohan Blizard, Jean Van de Velde, a-Thomas Sherreard, Jon Bevan, Jamie Howarth, Philip Walton, Barry Hume, Jonathan Lomas, Peter Appleyard, Gary Boyd. Players eliminated: 12. Remaining field: 100.
3. No amateur has won the British Open since Bobby Jones in 1930, so let's eliminate all the other amateurs:
British Amateur champion Reinier Saxton and European Amateur champion Benjamin Hebert. Players eliminated: 2. Remaining field: 98.
4. Three alternates are now in the tournament, so they're just glad to be here. Let's eliminate:
Pat Perez, who's filling in for the injured Luke Donald; Camilo Villegas, who fills the spot opened up when Kenny Perry decided he'd rather play in Milwaukee; and Jerry Kelly, who's taking the spot opened up when David Toms withdrew. Players eliminated: 3. Remaining field: 95.
5. Ditto for the guys who grabbed the last two exemptions on Sunday:
Jay Williamson, who lost in the John Deere playoff; and Simon Khan, who placed fifth in the Scottish Open. Players eliminated: 2. Remaining field: 93.
6. No Asian-born player has ever won a major, so we can eliminate:
China's Wen-chong Liang; Japan's Hideto Tanihara, Michio Matsumura, Azuma Yano, Yoshinobu Tsukada, Shintaro Kai, Hiroshi Iwata, Toru Taniguchi and Ryuji Imada; Thailand's Prayad Marksaeng; and Korea's K.J. Choi. Players eliminated: 11. Remaining field: 82.
7. While we're dealing in countries, no European-born player outside of the British Isles or Spain has ever won a British Open since France's Arnaud Massy in 1907, so that eliminates:
Sweden's Peter Hanson, Henrik Stenson, Niclas Fasth, Robert Karlsson and Fredrik Jacobson; Denmark's Soren Hansen, Soren Kjeldsen and Anders Hansen; France's Gregory Havret; and Germany's Martin Kaymer. Players eliminated: 10. Remaining field: 72.
8. While it's good to see their faces, we should eliminate the Champions Tour-eligible guys:
Sandy Lyle, Tom Watson, Greg Norman, Mark O'Meara. Players eliminated: 4. Remaining field: 68.
9. Hard to see anybody outside of a PGA TOUR or European Tour player winning this week, so let's eliminate the players from the other tours:
Brendan Jones (Japan Tour), James Kingston (Sunshine Tour); Craig Parry, David Smail (Australian Tour). Players eliminated: 4. Remaining field: 64.
10. We know it's always intriguing to watch the English golfers with the home-course advantage, but the fact of the matter is only one Englishman has won a British Open since 1969 (Nick Faldo, who won three of them). So let's eliminate the remaining Englishmen:
Paul Casey, Justin Rose, Lee Westwood, Nick Dougherty, Graeme Storm, David Howell, Ian Poulter, Oliver Wilson, Richard Finch. Players eliminated: 9. Remaining field: 55.
11. While we're at it, let's just go ahead and eliminate everybody else from the British Isles:
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie, Ireland's Padraig Harrington (who's battling a wrist injury) and Damian McGrane; and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell. Players eliminated: 5. Remaining field: 50.
12. Let's eliminate anybody who has appeared in a video this year hitting a tee shot while wearing only blue jeans and a cap and smoking a cigarette:
John Daly. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 49.
13. We know these guys have major credentials, but adding a second major to their resumes at this point in their careers would be a surprise. So let's eliminate former major winners who are not in the top 75 of the FedExCup standings:
Todd Hamilton, David Duval, Tom Lehman, Mark Calcavecchia, Michael Campbell, Ben Curtis. Players eliminated: 6. Remaining field: 43.
14. This guy would be THE feel-good story if he did win, but we're not expecting a fairy tale coming true this week. Sadly, let's eliminate:
Rocco Mediate. (Besides, he wouldn't want to win without Tiger in the field anyway!). Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 42.
15. Are you in the top 30 in the Official World Golf Rankings? If not, then sorry, you're out:
Richard Green, Hunter Mahan, Mike Weir, Retief Goosen, Woody Austin, Sean O'Hair, Stuart Appleby, Scott Verplank, Zach Johnson, Tim Clark, Brandt Snedeker, J.B. Holmes, Rod Pampling, Jeff Quinney, Scott Strange, David Frost, Charles Howell III, Bart Bryant, Lucas Glover, Nick O'Hern, Richard Sterne, Pablo Larrazabal. Players eliminated: 22. Remaining field: 20.
16. No player this decade has won the British Open without playing more tournaments on the PGA TOUR than the European Tour -- last year, Padraig Harrington played 18 TOUR events and 15 European Tour events. And since the FedExCup standings indicate how strong a player has performed on the PGA TOUR this season, let's eliminate anybody outside the top 20:
Andres Romero, Ernie Els, Steve Stricker, Angel Cabrera, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Rory Sabbatini, Aaron Baddeley, Stephen Ames. Players eliminated: 8. Remaining field: 12.
17. Any British Open rookies left? Yep, just one. Let's eliminate:
Anthony Kim (although he'll be interesting to watch this week). Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 11.
18. Now it's down to the nitty-gritty. Any of the 11 names left could win. So let's look at British Open performances and eliminate any players who have not finished in the top five in a previous start:
Stewart Cink, Robert Allenby, Boo Weekley, Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman. Players eliminated: 5. Remaining field: 6.
19. Mark O'Meara's win at Royal Birkdale in 1998 was the last time a player in his 40s won the Open. Don't see it happening this time. Sorry, Vijay Singh. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 5.
20. No left-handed player has won the British Open since Bob Charles in 1963. Sorry, Phil Mickelson. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 4.
21. Only one player since Greg Norman in 1993 has won multiple British Opens (that would be Tiger Woods, in case you may have forgotten about him). So in this case, winning a previous British Open doesn't offer good odds. Sorry, Justin Leonard. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 3.
22. How about non-winners this year? After all, while it may make a player more determined to break his drought, it also might make him press just a tad down the stretch.
Either way, we can eliminate Jim Furyk, who has five top-10 finishes this year and ranks 15th in FedExCup points but hasn't posted a victory in his last 25 TOUR starts dating back to the 2007 RBC Canadian Open. Players eliminated: 1. Remaining field: 2.
23. Thus, it boils down to Spain's Sergio Garcia vs. Australia's Geoff Ogilvy (who, for the second consecutive major, finds himself in the final two of our Process of Elimination). So let's look at their TOUR statistics this season. Garcia drives it a little farther; Ogilvy putts it better. In all-around ranking, Ogilvy is 21st, Garcia 22nd. Not much difference there.
So let's just go to the bottom line: Who produces the lowest score at the end of the day?
Garcia ranks 5th on the TOUR in scoring average at 69.60 over 42 rounds. Ogilvy ranks 15th at 70.01 over 44 rounds. Over four days, that's more than a 1-1/2 stroke difference.
So there's your winner -- Sergio Garcia, finally winning his long-anticipated first major. Considering Garcia has finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven British Open starts, it's as good a pick as any.