Why You Must Break 70 in Round 1 to Win The Open

Many champions of recent times have broken 70 in the first round

Why You Must Break 70 in Round 1 to Win The Open
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We look back at the winners of the Open Championship since 2006 and reveal what it takes to win the year's final Major

Why You Must Break 70 in Round 1 to Win The Open

As everyone knows, you have to be at your absolute best to land any of golf’s major championship. But does that mean being at your best at certain points, or over the entirety of the tournament?

The Open Championship is different to golf’s other three Majors in the sense that the weather plays such a significant role. An over-par round might be excellent if the conditions are poor, or dreadful if you’re on the good side of the draw and conditions are benign.

With all that in mind, we’ve gone back over the last 11 years to see what the average score compiled by the winners in each round is.

Of course, the disparate nature of conditions and courses means some years are considerably tougher than others, but it’s interesting to take a look nonetheless.

The only player to shoot an over-par opening round and still win The Open since 2006 is Padraig Harrington, who shot a 74 in 2008 – five shots higher than the next-worst Thursday performance.

The key finding is that, in 12 of the last 13 years, the eventual winner has broken par in the first round. In fact, the average round-one scoring average is 67.4 – a shot less than the second-best day for scoring, Sunday, and 2.4 shots lower than the worst day, Saturday. It's ironic that round three is often referred to as moving day. That certainly doesn’t apply in the Open.

By contrast, five champions shot rounds in the 70s on Friday, six did so on Saturday and four failed to record sub-70 scores on Sunday.

Shane Lowry - winner of the 148th Open in 2019 - followed this same formula, with an opening round 67 at Royal Portrush.

He also followed the similar path in his final round, shooting a 1-over par 72 on a tricky scoring day in Northern Ireland.

So, the formula seems pretty clear this week: shoot a good score on Thursday. If you do that, it gives you a great platform to push on, a buffer against potential bad weather and the opportunity to have a bad round and still contend in the tournament.

However, there are constraints when it comes to the bad round. Since 2006, no one has shot a 75 or above and gone on to win the Claret Jug.

Nick Bonfield
Content Editor

Nick Bonfield joined Golf Monthly in 2012 after graduating from Exeter University and earning an NCTJ-accredited journalism diploma from News Associates in Wimbledon. He is responsible for managing production of the magazine, sub-editing, commissioning and feature writing. Most of his online work is opinion-based and typically centres around the Majors and significant events in the global golfing calendar. Nick has been an avid golf fan since the age of ten and became obsessed with the professional game after watching Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel win The Masters and PGA Championship respectively in 2003. In his time with Golf Monthly, he's interviewed the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Jose Maria Olazabal, Henrik Stenson, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Billy Horschel and has ghost-written columns for Westwood, Wayne Riley, Matthew Southgate, Chris Wood and Eddie Pepperell. Nick is a 12-handicap golfer and his favourite courses include Old Head, Sunningdale New, Penha Longha, Valderrama and Bearwood Lakes. If you have a feature pitch for Nick, please email nick.bonfield@futurenet.com with 'Pitch' in the subject line. Nick is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade M1 Fairway wood: TaylorMade RBZ Stage 2 Hybrid: Ping Crossover Irons (4-9): Nike Vapor Speed Wedges: Cleveland CBX Full Face, 56˚, Titleist Vokey SM4, 60˚ Putter: testing in progress! Ball: TaylorMade TP5x