By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
Comparing the paths of winners of The Open Championship can be like judging who hits the most efficient home runs in baseball. The result is the same but the execution varies. Some years, hitting fairways is critical (e.g. Carnoustie). Other times, the race to the Claret Jug can resemble a putting contest (e.g. Turnberry in 2009). And let's not forget about the impact of the weather (e.g. take your pick).
Ernie Els won the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes by one stroke over Adam Scott. Somewhat lost in the Aussie's bogey-bogey-bogey-bogey finish was that Els came home in bogey-free 4-under after a birdie-free, 2-over 36 on his outward nine. The Big Easy simply put himself into position to pounce on the Claret Jug should Scott stumble. Lo and behold. Els led the field last year in greens in regulation and posted 7-under 273 despite ranking 43rd in putting and 61st in scrambling.
Darren Clarke actually took a similar route to success at Royal St. George's in 2011, finishing second in greens hit, but he ranked fifth in putting. Louis Oosthuizen turned St. Andrews into his personal playground in 2010 en route to his seven-stroke romp (thanks in part to a plum spot in the late-early draw). The South African placed fourth in distance off the tee, first in fairways hit, T12 in GIR, first in putting and fifth in scrambling.
If we can connect one thread between these three, it's that they did their heavy lifting on the par 4s. Loyal readers of this weekly feature are not surprised as it's been the recurring theme for months.
Oosthuizen and Els led their fields in par-4 scoring average; Clarke finished T2. In fact, you have to go back to Padraig Harrington's first Open at Carnoustie in 2007 to find the last champion that didn't rank first or second in par-4 scoring average.