Ahead of the final round of the 2016 Open Championship, the perception is that there are only two possible winners: pacesetting Henrik Stenson, the 4/6 favourite, or the man he displaced at the top and who remains just one shot behind, Phil Mickelson at 11/8.
However, the events of recent Open Sundays suggests that there is a strong case for opposing the Swede, and that it isn’t necessarily his decorated pursuer alone who stands a chance of prospering if the leader flubs his closing journey around the Royal Troon course.
Bill Haas at 25/1, Andrew Johnston at 66/1 and JB Holmes at 100/1 may be six, seven and eight strokes adrift, but revisiting the last decade is enough to teach punters that strange things happen at this stage of the third major. Improbable victors emerge so often that the word no longer applies.
For starters, here’s the key trend to scare Stenson: six of the previous nine men in front when play got underway on Sunday failed to convert the advantage.
Sure, the 40-year-old has been impeccably consistent so far, scoring between 65 and 68 in every round, yet that doesn’t preclude the possibility of complete capitulation.
In 2012, Adam Scott went from 64, 67 and 68 to 75, while in 2008, Greg Norman leapt from 70, 70 and 72 to 77. Final-day pressure continually creates carnage.
The reason why Mickelson isn’t assured to be the one to profit from any choke despite being in comfortably the best position is that it rarely unfolds that way at the Open.
Six golfers have rallied from behind to take the title in the past nine years, but a mere one of those did so from second place, and that was in 2008 when Padraig Harrington, who was sharing the runner-up spot with K J Choi, overhauled Norman.
Only one of the other five climbed from T3 – that again was Harrington, who was sharing the berth with six other participants way back in 2007 – with the others springing from T5, T6 (twice) and T9 (it was in fact Mickelson who achieved this ascent three years ago).
Likewise, none of those late chargers came from one shot back: the average deficit was four strokes, with two leaping from six back and one from five.
Comeback triumphs are becoming more common rather than less – three of the last four final-day leaders were leapfrogged, and each of their deniers began the day three shots or more adrift and fifth or lower in the standings.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.