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Handicapping

The Open Championship

The Open Championship
July 14-17, 2016
Royal Troon Golf Club Ė Ayrshire, Scotland
The Golf Channel/NBC
by: Evergreen of Predictem.com

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and after just one week without PGA Tour competition on my TV, I am certainly fond of the fact that we are now in full British Open mode. The Open Championship, as it is called in the UK, is the yearís third Major and while some folks donít like the luck factor that often comes into play, it is hard to argue with the historical significance of golfís oldest championship. The Open features so many things that are confined only to this championship that it makes for some of the most unique television of the PGA Tour year. Everything from the way the course looks to the weather to putting from the fairway make this event unlike any other. Zach Johnson enters the week as the defending champion from St. Andrewís and he will face an international field that is as strong as any. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth make up the betting favorites but the Open is probably the most wide open of all the Major Championships. The Open rarely requires a dominant physical game but it does demand one to be in full control of their shot. This opens up the potential to win to nearly anyone that can navigate the course, handle the weather and use some creativity to tackle the ups and downs of the British Open.

The Old Course at Royal Troon was established all the way back in 1878 and will host the Open for the ninth time. The par-71 course measures just under 7,200 yards and like most Open venues, has a few unique features. The par-5, sixth hole stretches out to 601 yards, making it the longest hole in British Open competition. On the other side of the distance coin lies the diminutive par-3 at number eight which measures just over 120 yards. Length is not the challenge there however but you might guess what is given the famous ďpostage stampĒ nickname of the hole, which refers to the size of the green. Troon sits on the coast of the Firth of Clyde so expect the typical British Open winds to come into play even if the course is a bit sheltered from the greater North Atlantic. Forecasts for the region are a bit of a farce but steady winds around 15mph are called for with rain most likely coming into play on Friday and Saturday. That is pretty much par for the meteorological course for the Open and scores are often determined by time of day over anything else as the brunt of the bad weather tends to be confined to the morning or afternoon. Players have their start times alternated on Thursday and Friday in an effort to play one round early and late with some hope that at least some holes will be played in scoring conditions. Troon has the whispy fescues that are common to links courses but also has vast stretches of gorse bush which wind up being unplayable in most circumstances. Justin Leonard won here in 1997 and Todd Hamilton hoisted the Claret Jug in 2004 so again, the best way to go around here is to be straight before long and avoid the big mistake.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at Topbet Sportsbook (Get a 50% bonus on your first deposit up to $250 FREE!). Here are our picks to win the 2016 British Open.

The Big 4

The books feature the Big 4 v. The Field bet in every Major and this year has the quartet of Dustin Johnson, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth getting 8/5 that one of those players wins it all. The straight betting has Johnson the outright favorite at 8 to 1 with Day and Rory at 9 to 1 and Spieth rounding it out at 10 to 1 to win. The Big 4 is one and one this year as Danny Willett paid the field side at Augusta but the Big 4 is 7-for-10 going back to 2014 so while this bet isnít ever going to pay a ton, you are getting four fantastic players that could win in any week. Letís take a look at the Big 4.

Dustin Johnson
DJ is becoming a big tournament specialist with his last five wins coming either in WGC events, the Tournament of Champions or a Major. He is making a play for the #1 OWGR spot after wins at the U.S. Open and Bridgestone and his recent Major Championship record suggests he is nearly a lock to contend this week. In his last eight Major starts, Johnson has been T7 or better on six occasions and that includes the period of time when he was, letís say distracted, by off-course issues. Apparently clear of personal setbacks for now, DJ is showing that he is a week-in, week-out threat to win, something that his talent suggested years ago. His British Open record is nearly spot-free with just one missed cut in seven starts and he has been inside the top-14 four different times. His best finish was a T2 back in 2011 and Iím not sure what anyone would point out to suggest he doesnít have a strong week again. Heís our #1 player in this field and should be taken in all head-to-head and 3-ball matches.

Jordan Spieth
The books have Spieth ranked fourth amongst the Big 4 but I put him second solely on his recent Major record. In his last six Major starts, Jordan has won twice, been second two more times and finished fourth before notching a T37 at the US Open. Of course, one of those 2nds featured his biggest Major gaffe when he washed two balls at the 12th at Augusta but the fact remains that he is a player on the biggest stages. Jordan is three-for-three in cuts made at the British and is coming off his best finish after a fourth place run at St. Andrews last year. It helps a bit that Troon allows for shorter hitters to excel as it will allow Spieth to focus on the target aspects of his game and make use of his tremendous mental game.

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy gets the third spot in my Big 4 ranks as he is a former Open champ and also a low amateur from way back in 2007. He has the experience with links golf and should be chomping at the bit to take another shot at the Open after missing last year due to an ankle injury. Outside of his win in 2014, he has just one other top-25 finish but it was a T3 and he has only one missed cut on his British record. He didnít get to defend his 2014 title and I think that means something in terms of motivation. Rory is also being pushed by multiple threats and that has put him somewhat under the radar for the first time in his career. He hasnít lost an ounce of talent and after four Major wins, he knows how to take on the challenge. I would tag him as 2b alongside Spieth and the gap between him and Johnson is only created by DJís recent hot spell.

Jason Day
Having a player of Dayís caliber listed fourth seems a bit controversial as I write this but out of these Big 4, I think he is rightly behind the others, at least for this tournament. Day has not missed a cut in five British starts but has just one top-25 finish, a T4 last year. St. Andrews and Troon are pretty different in terms of where you can miss so I donít put a lot of stock in his finish as a trend although it is good to see that he is getting more comfortable with the style of play. Look, when you win the Palmer, the Match Play and the Players Championship, you have proven you can beat anyone under any circumstances so while I like Jason as part of the Big 4, I would rather take the other three over him in a head-to-head.

Picks to win

Louis Oosthuizen (45 to 1 odds to win)
Oosty broke out in 2010 when he basically lapped the British Open field in winning by seven strokes. His other standout Open finish came last year with a runner-up and he hasnít missed the Open cut since 2010. He won in Perth earlier this season for his seventh Euro PGA win and he hasnít been worse than 21st in any WGC event this year. He is a big time player and this is his best statistical Major. He isnít quite a British Open specialist as he is more talented than simply that but his impeccable ballstriking really lends itself to gaining shots on the field under sketchy circumstances. He has played, and won, all over the world so he wonít be affected by travel or the links style. I have him as one of the best value bets in the field both to win and in head-to-heads.

Graeme McDowell (90 to 1)
90 to 1 is getting really long to still have a solid argument for a player but Graeme makes for a good bet this week based on his recent Open record. He has missed the weekend just once in his last eight Open starts and has T5 and T9 finishes in two of his last four. If you take out his 2010 US Open win, the British Open is his best Major and that makes a lot of sense as he grew up playing golf in this part of the world. He has a Scottish Open win on his career record to further prove he can handle the links style and his style and accuracy fit well with what Troon demands. It might be a surprise based on the betting sheet but Graeme winning wonít be a shock to those that follow golf.

Joost Luiten (150 to 1)
I was stressing to remember ever calling for a bigger upset so this might be the longest shot I have ever called for. Luiten is a 30-year old from the Netherlands that mostly kicks it around the EPGA. He has four wins overseas and is 5th in EPGA scoring this season so he is no slouch. He has played well enough to qualify for 12 majors in his career, making the cut in half of them. That isnít great but there arenít many players that have immediate success when they make their first few trips to places like Augusta or Oakmont. He did manage a respectable T39 at the US Open this year so maybe he is rounding into some comfort zone with the Majors. Iím backing him this week based on his top-15 greens hit stat from the Euro Tour. Hitting accurate shots at Troon is paramount and Luiten has proved his approach game to be world class. He will have the familiarity necessary to handle the layout and weather and while he is a legit longshot, he has the potential to be a solid performer and pay on a top-10 finish bet or clean up as a head-to-head underdog.

Head-to-Head Matches

Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check out 5Dimes Sportsbook for single round matches and prop bets.

Adam Scott v. Sergio Garcia (our pick to win: Scott)
Both players have pretty spectacular Open records and it is a bit surprising that neither has won this event. Sergio has nine career top-10 finishes at the British including T2 and T6 runs in the last two years. Thatís great but Scott counters that with a four year run where he has been in the top-5 three times and 10th last year. Both are nearly identical when it comes to statistical predictors but Scott is ranked as the best player on Tour when it comes to approach shots and that has to pay off this week. Sergio is carrying that weight of trying to win that first Major and while the Open might be his best chance to get one, I think Scott is the better bet in this match.

Phil Mickelson v. Zach Johnson (our pick to win: Johnson)
Phil, the 2013 Open champ, headed to the Scottish Open last week in hopes of gaining some links golf momentum. It didnít really work out for him as he never contended so it seems like the pesky things that have been holding him back this season are firmly in play. Lefty has only missed three cuts in his 22 Opens but has just three top-10 finishes. Zach has just as many top-10ís in ten less starts and hasnít missed the cut in nine straight. Phil is outside the top-100 in both fairways and greens hit and I think that is just too much to overcome. Mickelson has been putting great but making putts at the British is never as easy as it is elsewhere so even that positive is somewhat muted this week. Zach should have a lot of good mojo going as the defending champion as his accurate approach should be tough to beat at Troon.

Good luck and good golf!

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