The Open Championship returns to England after going to Scotland and Northern Ireland the last two Opens. Rory McIlroy, the new number 1 player in the world, has opened up as a 9-1 favorite in Royal St. George’s, which last held the Open in 2011. In that Open, Darren Clarke held off Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson to win his first major championship. Tiger Woods did not play nine years ago as he was recovering from knee surgery and will make his first visit to Royal St. George’s in 17 years where he lost by two shots to eventual champion Ben Curtis. Defending champion Shane Lowry will highlight a field of approximately 156 golfers.
Jon Rahm comes right behind the favorite McIlroy at 10-1, followed by Brooks Koepka at 11-1, Dustin Johnson at 14-1 and Tiger Woods at 16-1. Justin Rose then follows at 20-1 and Tommy Fleetwood at 22-1.
To start, McIlroy presents himself as the best pick at 10-1. He is the overall favorite and he should be. The venue doesn’t set up as perfect for him as it does some other Open venues given St. George’s isn’t a birdie fest. Clarke’s winning score was -5 in 2011 and Curtis’ winning score was -1 in 2003. Weather plays a major role, obviously, and it’s impossible to predict what it will be like, but should the weather be good, I do think McIlroy can play his game the best of anyone. Less wind means higher shots and ball-strikers come to the top. There’s no better ball-striker in the game than McIlroy, and he has familiarity with the links.
If the weather isn’t as good, which is a good bet, give me Tommy Fleetwood at 22-1. A year ago, Fleetwood came in as the runner-up to Lowry at Portrush and is one of the best links players in the game. His low ball-flight is perfect for St. George’s and the winds that come with it. Fleetwood hasn’t won a major yet but is knocking on the door. He has three runners-up finishes in majors since 2017 and currently ranks #11 in the world.
Three Long shots
Let’s start with Adam Scott who has great value at 28-1. Scott is in the prime of his career and may be the best golfer in the world with only one major championship, right up there along with Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, and Justin Rose. He is a great links player as evidenced by his near misses at the 2012, 2013 and 2015 Open Championships. Last year, he posted two top-10s in the majors. This is great value for a player who is on top of his game right now and is a great fit for St. George’s.
Another great value long shot is Louis Oosthuizen at 50-1. Ranked No. 17 in the world at the moment, Oosthuizen has already posted five top-6 finishes this season across the globe. Not to mention, he’s perfect for major championships. He has the “Runner-up Grand Slam”, finishing a runner-up in all four majors, and also won the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews. Great value for Oosthuizen here at 50-1.
Looking for a super dark horse? Why not Eddie Pepperell at 80-1. The native Englishmen has come on to the scene not just for his humor and likability, but also his golf game. While he hasn’t gotten off to the best start in 2020, there’s a lot of time for him to change that before St. George’s. Over the last two seasons, Pepperell has two wins and several top-3 finishes. He also had a close call at the 2018 Open Championship where he finished 6th.
Tips to Betting a Winner
Royal St. George’s is not an easy course, as we mentioned above. Weather is also likely to be a factor at some point, so you’ll want to pick a winner that is coming in playing well and can handle the potential winds that come with links golf. High ball hitters tend to struggle if the weather is a factor. Not to say Americans don’t fare well at the Open, but you tend to look at more European names to play a factor as they are more used to this type of golf.
The last two champions were not on anyone’s shortlist, Shane Lowry and Francesco Molinari. Good solid golfers, but not the superstar names you think of when winning. So don’t go to the sportsbook assuming it is going to be a favorite that will win the Open.
Playing Prop Bets
These odds will come out usually the week before the Open. Don’t play scoring props without looking at the weather forecast. St. George’s is a par-70; in perfect weather, you can shoot a 63 or 64 there, but in four days of bad conditions, you’ll be hard-pressed to break 70. So keep that in mind. It’s a challenging course, especially if the winds blow, but it can be had in good conditions.
Other bets you can consider playing are holes-in-one, match-ups, and predicting the finishes for some of the top players. Where will Tiger Woods finish? Well, last year Woods missed the cut, citing back soreness, but a year before that he nearly won at Carnoustie. Again, keep an eye on the forecast as his back struggled to hold up in the bad Portrush conditions last year, but did well at warm Carnoustie in 2018.
Rory McIlroy finishing in the top-5 is probably the best player prop. McIlroy missed the cut a year ago when expectations got the best of him in his home country, but from 2014 to 2018, McIlroy posted a 1st, T-5, T-4, and T-2 (He did not play in 2015 due to injury). You would have four times in the last five years if you played that prop.
Also, don’t be hot to jump on Dustin Johnson. While he finished 2nd at St. George’s in 2011, Dustin Johnson has finished outside the top-40 in four of the last five Opens. Jon Rahm, however, is a different story. The Spaniard is learning how to play majors. He finished in the top-11 in three of the four majors a year ago, and as of Feb. 18, has finished in the top-10 in 14 his last 17 events. Bet on a top-10 finish for Jon Rahm and you’ll likely cash in.
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