With the first round underway at Royal Birkdale, we take a look at the last 10 Opens and when the champion in each of those events took to the front.
Stenson posted a supremely steady 68 in the first round at Royal Troon but few took too much notice of that effort as Phil Mickelson had equalled the lowest round ever posted in a Major Championship with a 63.
The Swede came into the picture with a fine 65 in round two but he didn’t end a day in front until the Saturday when a third round 68 saw him move ahead of Mickelson.
In 2015 Zach Johnson flew somewhat under the radar on day’s 1-3 as he maintained a strong position in touch of, but not in, the lead. He went into the final day three shots off the pace in a large group tied for sixth place. In fact, Johnson didn’t take to the front until he birdied the 72nd hole to tie the clubhouse target set by Marc Leishman. Johnson then won in a playoff against Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen.
Rory McIlroy led from start to finish in 2014 but his performance at Hoylake was exceptional and he is the only man in the last decade to win The Open wire to wire.
In 2013 Phil Mickelson didn’t hit the front until late on in his final round and the same can be said of Ernie Els who posted a number and watched Adam Scott crumble at Royal Lytham.
Darren Clarke moved to the top of the board after round two in 2011 as did Louis Oosthuizen in 2010. In 2009 Stewart Cink didn’t climb to the top of the pile at Turnberry until Tom Watson missed his par putt on the 72nd hole and Padraig Harrington snuck up on the leaders at Birkdale and moved ahead during the final day’s play. The Irishman had done a similar thing in 2007 but at Carnoustie he hadn’t seen his name rise to the top of the board until Sergio missed from 10 feet for par on the 72nd hole.
Looking at that then: Of the last 10 Open champions only one has led after day one, three have led after day two and four have led after day four. Taking it purely by the numbers, the average point the Open Champion has taken the lead in the last 10 years is 3.2 days into the tournament. Have a look at the board then at 3.30 on Saturday afternoon and see if the man at the top of the tree manages to stay there.
Year Champion Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
2016 Henrik Stenson T12 2 1
2015 Zach Johnson T2 T4 T6
2014 Rory McIlroy 1 1 1
2013 Phil Mickelson T9 T11 T9
2012 Ernie Els T6 10 T5
2011 Darren Clarke T6 T1 1
2010 Louis Oosthuizen 2 1 1
2009 Stewart Cink T5 T9 T6
2008 Padraig Harrington T35 T4 T2
2007 Padraig Harrington T8 T13 T3