2012 British Open: Is Adam Scott’s four-stroke lead safe?

PGA golf professional Adam Scott chips out of ...

Adam Scott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog that focuses on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Australian Adam Scott sits at 11-under after the third round and takes a four-stroke lead into the final round of the British Open. He leads  Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and American Brant Snedeker. Tiger Woods is five shots back.

The question: Is his four-shot lead insurmountable?

Looking back at the past 50 British Opens, there have been only four times when the third round leader had a lead of four strokes or more and lost the tournament. Interestingly enough, each of the four times occurred since 1995.

Here’s a few other quick stats about those golfers who have led the British Open after the third round since 1962:

* In 27 of the last 50 tournaments (54 percent) the golfer leading after the third round (or was tied for the lead) has won the tournament.

* Of the 23 tournaments where the third round leader eventually lost the tournament, in three tourneys the eventual winner came from one stroke back to win; in 12 tourneys, the winner came from two shots back to win.

* Scott’s four-shot lead is the 11th time since 1962 that the third-round leader goes into the final round with a lead of four shots or more. In nine of those previous 10 times, the third-round leader won the tournament; the only exception was in 1999 when third-round leader Jean van de Velde blew a five-shot lead at the start of th day on Sunday and lost the tournament to Paul Lawrie in a playoff.

Following are the biggest third-round deficits to win the British Open since 1962.

Third-Round Deficit, golfer, year

-10: Paul Lawrie, 1999

-6: Padraig Harrington, 2007

-5: Justin Leonard, 1997

-4: John Daly, 1995

-3: Tom Watson, 1975; Tom Watson, 1982; Sandy Lyle, 1985; Mark Calcavecchia, 1989

The last golfer to come from behind after the third round to win the British Open was American Stewart Cink who was tied for sixth after the third round in the 2009 tournament. He was two shots back going into Sunday’s round, but tied third-round leader Tom Watson at the end of 18 holes on Sunday. He defeated Watson in the playoff.

Of note is that Watson won two of his British Opens after being behind by three shots going into the final round.

Following are the golfers who have won the most British Opens in the last 50 years who were not in the lead after the third round.

Jack Nicklaus, 3 (1966, 1970, 1978)

Seve Ballesteros, 3 (1979, 1984, 1988)

Tom Watson, 2 (1975, 1982)

Padraig Harrington, 2 (2007, 2008)

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