Slightly later than first anticipated, we’re finally here. The halfway point in the Open. At this stage your Open Championship punts are either flying high and in the mix, or heading home to watch the rest of the tournament from the comfort of their couch. Is it time to stick with your ante-post selection, or is this the moment you re-invest and try to pick out the winner of the claret jug? Here at the Paddy Power Blog we’ve crunched 15 years of statistics to figure out just where the winner tends to be at the half-way stage to help you pick the winner with just 36 holes remaining.
On the face of it, being top of the leaderboard is no bad thing. 47 per cent of winners were leading at the half way point, so that’s a positive pointer Dustin Johnson – DJ has rattled the crossbar at a few majors already in his career. That’s good news for a player with a heart-warming comeback narrative on his side, but to piss on the fairytale a bit, if we dig a little deeper there’s more evidence that coming off the pace is the more likely result.
Firstly, of the seven winners who led after 36 holes, three of them were Tiger Woods (in 2000, 2005, and 2006). Tiger was a different animal a decade ago and isn’t going to go wire-to-wire at an electric pace like he once did. Not in a field as competitive as this.
Secondly, every winner since the turn of the millennium who wasn’t leading on Friday night, ended up coming from three shots behind or more. Ernie Els (2012), Padriag Harrington (2007) and David Duval (2001) were all six or seven shots off the lead after 36 holes but came back to win golf’s oldest Major.
This year’s turning point is uncommonly fascinating. Not only does our potentially maiden major winner have some major winners snapping directly at his heels, but massing not far behind those rivals are a large rabble of in-form youngsters and wiley old campaigners who could eke out a couple of rounds to get them right in contention. 23 players are within six shots of Johnson and in total there are around 40 players within eight shots of him who, depending on how the winds blow, could reasonably shoot two rounds of 68 (or a variation on that total score) to get themselves in the mix. Not easy, but not quite Roy of the R&A stuff either.
Adam Scott, Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen are obvious contenders giving their major wins and further down the field a few names pop out as potential winner. Jordan Spieth is the obvious pick, but Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel, Jason Day, Martin Kaymer and even veteran multiple major winners, Padraig Harrington and Retief Goosen are all in a position to pounce. The biggest deficit overturned at this point in recent years has been seven shots so although its feasible, it’s probably unrealistic that former Open winners, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and – yes – even David Duval – unrealistic, but it would be interesting to see how DJ responds should one of the veterans shoot a low number in Sunday’s eventual third round.
Almost as much fun as looking at who might win, in fact way more fun, is looking at who absolutely won’t. Tiger has once again missed a cut by the distance of one of his wayward drives. Other big names like Bubba Watson, Ian Poulter and sadly, Miguel Angel Jimenez are now free to explore Scotland’s east coast.
The saying tells us that good things come to those who wait and after frustrating a couple of days disruption, the last two days of the Open are likely to putt up some high drama for us to enjoy.