Event: The Open Championship
When: July 20-23, 2017
Where: Royal Birkdale GC Southport, ENG
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
Do you like watching golf that is played on what looks like a goat pasture and features wildly changing weather? Well, my friend, you are in luck as we have again arrived at The Open Championship. The 146th edition of what Americans call the British Open takes place this week at Royal Birkdale, a course that has been prominent for both the mens and womens Open Championships over the years. The British Open has to be the quirkiest of all the Major Championships and perhaps the most, well, open because of all those quirks. The links golf, complete with crazy bounces and putting from the fairways, alongside sometimes unimaginable weather conditions make for a very unique tournament every year, even if most British Opens have a very similar look and feel each time. We were treated to a stunning two-man duel at Troon last year with Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson laying waste to the field before Stenson outlasted Lefty and set a tournament record while winning his first Open at 20-under par. All the big names are teeing it up this week with Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth listed as 14 to 1 favorites by most online betting sites. Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm and Jason Day are popular contenders as well. Padraig Harrington returns to Birkdale to defend his 2008 British Open title with just about every other name you can think of also looking to add their name to the Claret Jug.
Royal Birkdale has been absent from the Open rotation since 2008 but this will be the 11th time the Southport course has hosted the Open since 1954. The last three editions have been all over the map as Harrington and 1998 champ Mark OMeara survived legitimate grinds to win but Ian Baker Finch cruised to an 8-under winning total in 1991. The weather, of course, played a major factor in the scoring differences and we should expect the same this year. Forecasts for the week predict seasonal averages but when the winds blow is as important as how hard. Morning pairings may get the best of the scoring on one day while the afternoon wave has the better of it the next. The R&A does a good job of mixing the start times so that no player faces the worst of it on both Thursday and Friday but sometimes that just happens. Distance is not a key factor at most Opens due to the true out and in of links layouts but Birkdale will play right around 7,200 yards at par-70 for the championship. Again, depending on the wind direction and strength, players will see a hole play Driver then 6-iron on one day but need no more than 3-iron then 9-iron the very next day. Knowing how to play this type of golf, both physically and mentally, is more important than base skill level. The Euro players have seen much more of this style of course and weather but some of the international edge is receding as talented Euros often come to the U.S. the play college golf and miss much of that links indoctrination that the previous generation of players got. Ball control is paramount at any Open. Knowing when and how to attack is key as well as having creativity around the greens given the seemingly endless amount of short game situations a player might encounter. Whether you like British Open style play or not, you do kind of have to admit that watching this championship each year is a bit of welcome fun.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight who we think are the best bets. We make some picks to win and break down a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at Bovada Sportsbook (50% bonus up to $250 FREE and your credit card will work there!) . Here are our picks to win the 2017 British Open Championship.
Sergio Garcia (18 to 1 odds to win)
Even with a Green Jacket in tow, the British Open is Sergios best Major in terms of overall record. He has made 16-of-20 cuts in his Open starts with ten top-10 finishes, including two runner-up nods. He has made the cut in 16-of-18 Majors going back to 2013 and he has not missed a cut on the Tour this season. He is first in total driving, 2nd in strokes gained off the tee and 3rd in overall tee-to-green performance. Players will see just about everything during this week and having such high marks across the ball striking board is a good sign that Garcia can handle the Birkdale offer. He is 6th in greens hit but just 113th in proximity so there might be a lot of two-putt pars, although that is just fine at most any Major. His 107th overall putting average doesnt seem like a plus stat but it is just fine for Sergio when you factor in so many years past when he was outside the top-175 in almost all putting metrics. The putter isnt a strength yet but he has made strides on the greens and has enough of the clutch gene to roll one in when it really counts.
Louis Oosthuizen (45 to 1)
Like Garcia, Louis has made the most of his British Open appearances from a career perspective. He has only made five of ten cuts but won the Claret Jug in 2010 and had a near miss with a playoff runner up in 2015. He has missed just one Major cut in his last fourteen appearances and is a perfect 12-for-12 in cuts made on Tour this season. He can handle the star-studded fields as evidenced by his T2 at this years players and his 14th rated tee-to-green stat is a good indicator he is swinging it well. Oosty is always one of the better ball strikers in any event and his putting is better than statistically advertised. Louis is a ho-hum 118th in GIR putting but improves to 33rd in total putting average and rolls it well enough in the clutch to net the 13th best scrambling mark. He can get in prolonged runs of pars but that is not a deal-breaker until the scoring pace starts to get into the double-digits below par.
Ian Poulter (66 to 1)
Poulter gets the longshot tag after nearly losing his PGA card earlier this season but he is not your dime-a-dozen journeyman on Tour. The Ryder Cup tested Englishman has 12 EPGA Tour wins and has two WGC wins to prove he can best any field. He has made the weekend in 10-of-15 Open Championship starts with three top-10 finishes, including a T2 at Birkdale in 2008. Since securing his card, Poulter has been T2 at the Players Championship and turned in a nice T9 at the Scottish Open last week. He is pretty average when it comes to tee-to-green metrics but is 2nd in performance around the green, including a 4th best scrambling rate and a top-40 overall putting average. He almost never three-putts and that will be a large factor throughout the week as British Open greens are not hard to hit but notoriously hard read and roll.
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for the best array of single round matches and a the best variety of prop bets.
Koepka is fresh off a Major breakout but pretty much all of the British Open experience lies with Casey. Paul has teed it up in fourteen Open Championships, making the cut in nine and one his best finishes came at Birkdale in 2008 when he was T7. Brooks is making just his fourth British appearance and has a T10 last year but also a T67 and a missed cut on his record. Koepka is a modern-day power player and will be able to take advantage of the kinds of rolls you see at links course but Casey is the more predictable and measured player. I think Casey and his top-10 ranks in greens hit and overall tee-to-green performance will get the edge on Koepka even through Brooks is the statistically better putter. One thing I do not like is when the superior putter in a head-to-head trails in scoring average and even with that putting edge, Koepka is 27th in scoring with Casey at 12th. I fear that Brooks needs a couple more years to be a consistent British Open contender and Paul has the experience edge and a nice skill set to boot.
It is tough to forget Rose splashing on the scene at Birkdale in 1998 with his T4 finish that made him the low amateur. That was the last time Rose competed as a non-pro and even though he struggled for much of his early career, he made his way to the top of the golf world as a Major Champion and Olympic gold medal winner. This is a 50/50 bet on the stat sheet and I normally avoid those in principle but I think Rose is the correct pick here as he will have a ton of support as well as a ton of comfort and that comfort is like an additional club in the bag at an Open. Matsuyama is a brilliant talent but he relies so heavily on volume birdie chances and I do not think you can forecast that many quality chances this week. Hideki is in the 180s in putting average rank and that is not a good indicator of success when you are heading into a course that can get goofy with reads and wind affecting putts. There is too much polish on Roses overall game and experience with English golf to go away from him.
Good luck and good golf.