“It’s a great tournament for the older players,” Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee recently said. “I always joke it’s like the movie ‘The Night At The Museum.’ The dinosaurs come to life, and they’ve got a chance.”
This is the truth, there are cold, hard facts that back that statement up. The Open Championship is an older player’s sanctuary. In the last 24 majors, the five oldest winners came from the Open Championship…Henrik Stenson (40), Phil Mickelson (43), Darren Clarke (43), Ernie Els (42) and Zach Johnson (39). You could even go back to 2008 and 2007 when Pádraig Harrington won the event at ages 37 and 36.
So the question is: why does the Open Championship favor an old-man’s game? Here are a few deciding factors.
The Course Layout
Golf has become a game where it is so easy to bomb a ball down the fairway, so much so that a 300-yard drive is par for the course (pardon the pun). So for older players who may not have the length they used to, these links courses allow them to use the ground as a tool off the tee.
“I love the creativity of being able to hit shots and utilize the ground,” three-time Open winner Tiger Woods said of the British Open in 2013. “That’s something that we don’t have in the states. We don’t really play that game here.”
Greens also tend to play slower in Open Championships due to the winds that come into play (don’t worry I’ll get to that in a little bit). This is advantageous for sticking approach shots, preforming a bump-and-run shot around the green, and allows a player to be more aggressive with his putts.
Take notice to hoe these top-10 shots were played in various Open Championships:
With Age Comes Experience
As the old saying goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, well these old dogs don’t need to learn a new trick for this major.
This goes without saying that the experience from playing a links course in a major championship many times will teach a player a thing or two. An older player (especially a former champion or top-10 finisher) will be inclined to learn from their mistakes of the past.
If you are faced with turbulent winds, wouldn’t make sense to flight the ball lower and use the ground as a tool? See how I tied that in there. This is exactly how the course was meant to be played because unlike any other major, the Open Championship embraces the challenge of less-than-comfortable weather conditions.
If you’re older, wiser, and experienced then you would know the weather will not be favorable and that playing the course the way it is designed will be beneficial. This is the only time in golf where the course acts like your friend…just as long as you don’t find yourself in a sand trap that is ten feet below sea level.