Here’s a fun activity.
Go through the last 20 Open Championships and try to find a pattern of winners. Sure, the big names are there—Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, and yes, Tiger Woods. But of that group, only Tiger showed any consistency in the tournament.
Mickelson mixed missed cuts and DNP’s with finishes as high as 79 and as low as 2. Of course, he won the Claret Jug in 2013. Els came from nowhere to win in 2012 and even Rory did the same last year. His previous five Opens? 1, CUT, T60, T25, T3.
Weather, location and the uniqueness of links golf produce a far more random tournament than most stops. It’s not US Open random, which is a race through a thunderstorm to see who gets the least wet. It’s more like if players engaged in a PacMan competition where the difficulty of the game kept changing.
Prior to developing the concept for this post, I was doing some research to see if there was a correlation between finishing in the top-10 at the Open and competing in the Scottish Open, or the John Deere Classic, the week before the season’s third major.
I found that Zach Johnson’s back-to-back top-10’s in Britain were preceded by a win and a playoff loss just across the river from his home state of Iowa in 2012 and 2013. I also found that Victor Dubuisson and Edoardo Molinari each placed in the top-10 last year after missing the cut in Scotland. Then again, Mickelson won the Scottish Open in 2013.
In short, I found nothing at all. All past leaderboards are something to behold, but the Open stands out due the prestige and history of the tournament. Past success, whether one week ago or 10 seasons, doesn’t seem to matter. Nor does failure.
With that in mind, here are the five most random top-10 finishers in the past five Open Championships.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Kim (T5, 2011), Davis Love III (T9, 2011)
5. Mark Calcavecchia (T9, 2012)
At the age of 52 and 23 years after he won his only major at the Open Championship, Calcavecchia made a sterling run at Royal Lytham & St. Anne’s.
The Senior Tour player posted round of 68 and 69 on Friday and Saturday and fired a respectable 72 to clinch a top-10 finish. Remarkably, he tied with nine other players in ninth position.
4. Simon Dyson (T9, 2011)
A decorated player on both the European and Asian Tours, Dyson’s track record in majors is never-the-less lacking. Missed cuts and DNP’s mark his career.
Remarkably, Dyson has two top-10’s to his name, at Royal St. George’s in 2011 and a T6 at Southern Hills in the 2007 PGA Championship. According to Wikipedia, his nickname is “Dys.” So he has that going for him.
3. Alexander Noren (T9, 2012)
Unlike Calcavecchia, Noren was a no-namer who crept into contention in 2012. At 32, he’s competed in just 11 major tournaments. He’s missed cuts in five of them and withdrew from another.
Somehow, the Swede got hot on the weekend three years ago. Noren shot 69-69 to finish in that cluster at T9.
2. Robert Rock (T7, 2010)
Considering Rock’s lack of experience at Major Championships—nine appearances over a career that dates to 1998—he’s found success elsewhere.
The Englishman has two European Tour wins to his name including the 2012 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship where he beat both Rory McIlroy and Tiger Wood. The T7 at St. Andrew’s is by far his best performance at a major.
Perhaps keep an eye on Rock for the 2015 event?
1. Chad Campbell (T5, 2011)
Perhaps other names are more random than Chad Campbell’s but it’s worth signaling out the American at number one here. The former Amercian Ryder Cupper Campbell performed admirably at Royal St. George’s, countering a Saturday 74 with a Sunday 69 to tie Anthony Kim and Rickie Fowler in fifth place. (Side note: how good did American fans feel about Kim, 26 at the time, and Fowler, 22?).
That was basically it for the UNLV grad. He had won four times on the PGA Tour between 2003 and 2007. He was in a playoff at the Masters in 2009 with Kenny Perry and Angel Cabrera.
His 4 starts before his great finish in 2011, he was CUT, DNP, CUT, DNP. He hasn’t won a significant Tour event in 10 years. Have you heard from Campbell since that 2011 Open, though? He shot 64 last Friday in the Quad Cities and has a few top-10s this season. Other than that, we really haven’t heard much of anything from the surprise 2011 finisher.