Twelve of the last 20 editions of The Masters have been won by an American – some 60%. The success rate for those playing on home soil holds true in the U.S. Open (50%) and the PGA Championship (65%) as well.
But in the Open Championship? The hit rate falls to 45%, which hints somewhat at the alien conditions the players must overcome at Links golf courses in Britain and Ireland.
Here, more than anywhere else, opportunity knocks for the non-American elite.
The irony won’t be lost on Rory McIlroy that the Open returns to Merseyside in 2023 at the Royal Hoylake club – he won the tournament here back in 2014.
Those good memories have seen the Irishman installed as the 8/1 favourite in the Open Championship odds for 2023, where he is flanked by both American (Scottie Scheffler at 8/1, Brooks Koepka at 12/1) and European (Jon Rahm at 9/1, Viktor Hovland at 14/1) stars.
A case can be made for any of that quintet, as it can for many others in the field. Rickie Fowler, who smashed the tournament record low score at the US Open in June, finished in second place at Royal Hoylake in 2014 behind McIlroy – Adam Scott, Marc Leishman and Shane Lowry, a future Open winner, were also in the top-ten.
Twenty-two minutes. That’s how long Rickie Fowler held solo claim of a record 128 years in the making. https://t.co/faZJLV80KS— CNN (@CNN) June 16, 2023
But it’s another American whose game is perfect for the unique challenges of Links golf, and who finds himself in stellar form leading into the final major of the year.
Xander Schauffele also fired in a round of 62 at the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club, which was further evidence of his fondness for firm and fast conditions. That will stand him in excellent stead ahead of a return to an environment where he has enjoyed success before.
Cometh the Hour
Not all American players have a fondness for Links golf – that is evidenced by their record in the Open Championship.
But Schauffele’s game is set up perfectly for such conditions. He has a low ball trajectory off the tee that helps him to hit beneath the breeze and keep his ball under control, while his iron play in the mid-range is outstanding – in fact, he ranks as the best from 150-175 yards on the PGA Tour. That yardage is vital at Royal Hoylake, a medium-sized Par 72 layout at around 7,350 yards.
When he does miss, Schauffele is adept at scrambling out of the rough and saving par from around the green, so when you add it all together the 29-year-old looks perfectly poised to add another American name to the Claret Jug.
In five attempts at the Open Championship so far, Schauffele has posted a tied-second return (Carnoustie, 2018) and two other top-20 finishes – a tantalising glimpse of what he is capable of.
Interestingly, the Californian also won the 2022 Scottish Open – a high-calibre event played on the Links at the Renaissance Club in North Berwick. Schauffele bested former Open champions like Jordan Spieth and Cameron Smith by some five shots.
It’s incredibly hard to win elite-level tournaments these days given the depth of quality in the sport, with Links golf providing the ultimate test of skill and psychology. All the evidence suggests that Schauffele is up to the task – he could be the next American raider to win Great Britain and Ireland’s major.
Listen to our incredible chat with Billy Foster!