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PGA Tour Stats Review: Entering the British Open

Jeremy Schilling

Schilling covers golf for RotoWire, focusing on young and up-and-coming players. He was a finalist for the FSWA's Golf Writer of the Year award. He also contributes to PGA Magazine and hosts the popular podcast "Teeing It Up" on BlogTalkRadio.

The PGA Tour is overseas for this week's Open Championship, the third major of the season. Royal Liverpool - also known as Hoylake - is the venue - and thus commences America's one week (or three if you follow the other two British Opens) love affair with links golf. Here's our stats preview.

History Lesson

Phil Mickelson is the defending champion, winning last year at Muirfield. Most people remember Hoylake for Tiger Woods' victory there in 2006 where he only hit one driver and absolutely dominated a firm and fast golf course.

Tiger is obviously coming off the back surgery and has only made one rusty start since. He does feel comfortable here and could be a wild card pick because, heck - Tiger has surprised us before. Mickelson, meanwhile, has been inconsistent all year, and while he put together a strong final round at the Scottish Open last week, we've been on record saying you should not pick Mickelson until he shows you consistency over several rounds. That hasn't happened.

So if you're iffy on whom to pick, you may want to avoid those two.

Who to Pick

Our recommendations start with Rickie Fowler, who has had a strong major run this year. He's gone T5 at Augusta, T2 at the U.S. Open and, in his tune-up for this week, finished T8 at last week's Scottish Open. There he shot a Sunday 65, including an inward 32, showing he's on strong form for this week.

Also strong on form for this week is Justin Rose, who won the Scottish Open, and has won his last two starts, with his victory at the Quicken Loans National a couple weeks ago. We highlight that finish because at a Royal Liverpool that will feature fescue rough you want no part of this week, accuracy will be extremely important. At Congressional, which played like a U.S. Open, Rose hit 64.29 percent of his greens, ranking T11 in the field. Rose is a smart pick this week.

And then there's Jordan Spieth, who has contended in the first three "huge" events this season (Masters, Players, U.S. Open), only to come up short. He still hasn't won since a year ago last week, but did finish strong at the John Deere last week, putting up a final-round 66 to finish T7.
And one can't forget about Martin Kaymer, who won those last two "huge" events, The Players and the U.S. Open. He's second on the PGA Tour in total driving and fourth in the all-around ranking.
Other more under-the-radar picks include Thorbjorn Olesen, Harris English, Angel Cabrera, Jason Dufner and Adam Scott.

Driving Accuracy

As mentioned, this is a lush Hoylake, a far cry from the firm, fast and burned out version seen in 2006. As a result driving the ball in the fairway will be at a premium this week.

The top players in the field in the driving accuracy ranking this season on the PGA Tour:

6. Zach Johnson: 71.80 percent
8. Billy Hurley III: 70.57 percent
10. Jim Furyk: 69.72 percent