- Matt Willis, NASCAR
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Now that we're well into the summer, I imagine you've hit the links at least a couple times and are rocking some sweet tan lines from your socks, sunglasses and golf glove.
If you're a professional on the PGA Tour, you think that this time of year is a perfect opportunity to add a major title to your résumé. Phil Mickelson added another Masters title already, while Graeme McDowell got his first at the U.S. Open.
Me and the eliminator method of picking winners? Well, I've got a runner-up finish with Lee Westwood at the Masters and just a made cut at the U.S. Open courtesy of Camilo Villegas. Sure, I don't get to collect a check for that, but the pride is something nice.
That simply isn't good enough. See, because what I do via the eliminator method is pick winners. As good as a second-place finish is, it's simply not a win. Go big or go home! So, let's make this take three of 2010, a perfect time to break through, and a perfect venue at St. Andrews.
For those of you unfamiliar with what I do with this little column, I simply pick a winner. Well, maybe it's not too simple or not the method you're used to.
First of all, while many of those who pick go with a hunch or look at some recent finishes and hot play, I use solely statistics, trends and history in making my picks. Furthermore, while most prognosticators pick winners, I'm in the business of picking losers, 155 of them to be exact.
When I take those 155 out of the equation, there's one golfer left standing. By process of elimination (get it?), he's the only one who can win this weekend's British Open. I call it The Eliminator. Let's do it.
First of all, dating back to 1976, only one of the 34 British Open winners has won in his first Open appearance: Ben Curtis in 2003. I look for that trend to continue, which takes 36 golfers out right off the bat.
Next up, look for only those with some prior Open success to make a run up the leaderboard. By my count, 31 of the past 34 British Open winners had a previous top-25 finish in the Open. We start to make a serious dent in the field, taking out 50 of those left.
So, what's next? I need somebody who's bringing at least a little momentum into the event. Nine of the past 10 British Open winners made the cut in their last PGA Tour (not European or Champions tour) start before the Open. Another 20 are left in the wake.
Look for somebody who's been at the top of the leaderboard at some point this season. Five of the past six, and 20 of the past 24, British Open winners had a top-three finish on the PGA Tour earlier that season. That's enough to eliminate another 28 golfers, and we're down to the nitty gritty.
Experience has paid off recently in the Open. Each of the past five winners has made at least 10 previous starts in the British Open. Twelve relative youngins are out, and we're down to our final 10.
Only the strong survive now.
Over the past decade, of the winners who had previously played in a British Open, six of the nine had finished in the top 11 in their last start in the event. That's enough for me to take out seven more, leaving us with just three.
You think I'm using just prior success at the British Open? You're wrong. Nine of the past 13 British Open winners finished in the top seven at that same year's Masters. That's impressive enough for me to take out two of the last three, Ernie Els and Robert Karlsson, and leave us with just one.
I went to the well at the Masters, and I'm going back at the British Open. Give me England's Lee Westwood to take home his first major title at the British Open.
Remember, the numbers don't lie.
The Eliminator: Step-by-Step
1.) Since 1976, only one player has won in his first British Open appearance.
36 eliminated, 120 remaining
Mark F. Haastrup
Jose Manuel Lara
2.) Thirty-one of the past 34 British Open winners had a previous top-25 finish at the British Open.
50 eliminated, 70 remaining
Fredrik Andersson Hed
Tom Pernice Jr.
Bo Van Pelt
3.) Nine of the past 10 British Open winners made the cut in their last PGA Tour start.
20 eliminated, 50 remaining
Miguel Angel Jimenez
4.) Five of the past six and 20 of the past 24 British Open winners had a top-three finish on the PGA Tour that season.
28 eliminated, 22 remaining
Richard S. Johnson
Davis Love III
5.) The past five British Open winners had at least 10 previous British Open starts.
12 eliminated, 10 remaining
6.) Six of the past nine British Open players with a previous Open start finished 11th or better in their last British Open.
7 eliminated, 3 remaining
7.) Nine of the past 13 British Open winners finished in the top seven in the same year's Masters.
2 eliminated, 1 remaining
Your winner: Lee Westwood
Matt Willis has been a production researcher with ESPN Stats & Information since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter" among other shows. You can reach Matt at ESPNMattWillis@yahoo.com.
4dMike Fish and David Purdum