Hot Picks for The 2021 Open Championship

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Last week Lucas Glover shot 19-under at the John Deere Classic to win his first PGA Tour event in more than a decade. However, the real action was overseas where six of the top 11 golfers in the world were playing instead in the Scottish Open on the European Tour, as they usually do prior The Open Championship to get acclimated with links golf.

Mi Woo Lee defeated Thomas Detry and Matthew Fitzpatrick in a playoff to earn himself the prestigious Scottish Open title and a berth in this week’s Open field.

That might not necessarily spell good news for any of those three golfers, as every Open Championship winner since 2008 has finished outside the top 25 in his preceding start to this event. It is arguably the hardest major championship to predict each season. And if any of the first three majors this season is any indication, whoever breaks through this week likely will need to conjure up some magic of his own to get the job done.

Course Breakdown and Weather

Royal St. George’s Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, England plays host to The Open Championship for the first time since 2011. Darren Clarke shot five-under to win in 2011, finishing three strokes ahead of runner-ups Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. Greg Norman’s win in 1993 was the only winner who has ever finished lower than five-under, with a score of 13-under.

The course measures out to roughly 7,200 yards as a par-70. With Ben Curtis in 2003 as the only other winner here since Greg Norman, they along with Clarke make up an interesting and in some ways diverse group of former winners. But in their primes all three golfers were strong and accurate off the tee.

The forecast calls for high winds all four days this week, making it very unlikely that anyone will threaten Norman’s 13-under mark that he posted in ’93. Rain on Wednesday should soften the course up for Thursday’s round, but the easier conditions are not going to last long.

The course is not long and provides room off the tee with wide fairways and typically thick Open Championship-style rough that can make golfers pay a steep price if they miss them. But if a long-distance driver can consistently find the short grass off the tees, there will be plenty of chances to attack the greens with short irons.

The Favorites

The heavy favorite this week is Jon Rahm (+800), the world’s No. 1 golfer who is the only one going off with odds under 18-1. Rahm won the U.S. Open in the last major championship and showed solid ball striking last week at the Scottish Open, but a balky putter left him a couple strokes shy of making the three-way playoff. He is playing the best golf of anyone in the field without a doubt, but it is tough to back anyone not named Tiger Woods (and in his prime, at that) who is such a heavy favorite.

Next on the odds board are five golfers who certainly are capable of winning every time they step out on the golf course: Rory Mcllroy (+1800), Brooks Koepka (+1800), Justin Thomas (+1800), Jordan Spieth (+1800) and Xander Schauffele (+1800).

Thomas is the first golfer to jump off the page in this group, as he seems to have rediscovered his ‘A’ golf game following a bit of a mini-slump after winning the Players Championship in early March. Thomas showed serious improvement last week at the Scottish Open, where he finished tied for eighth place and looked smooth and non-stressed while doing it. Thomas ranks fifth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained on approach. Not many golfers on the Tour have the ability to get as hot as Thomas and he is a major champion who can win any time he gets hot with his putter. He putted very well last week, which should bode well for this week.

Schauffele played well at the Scottish Open last week, but he does not have a major championship yet and at 18-1 it is better to look at him for a top-10 finish or as someone to add to a daily fantasy lineup. The best golfer to add to your betting card along with Thomas is Koepka. The four-time major champion has played the most consistent golf of anyone in the last two majors, recording top-five finishes in three of his last four starts, including a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship and a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open. He is worth considering despite finishing outside the top 10 in three of his last four starts at The Open Championship, as playing well in previous Opens is not necessarily a prerequisite to suddenly winning one.

The two golfers to take from the group going off at 18-1 are Thomas and Koepka.

The next golfer on the odds board to consider is Dustin Johnson, who finished as the runner-up at Royal St. George’s in 2011. He is coming in this time at 20-1. Johnson has finished inside the top 25 in each of his last three events, but the Palmetto Championship at Congaree was the only event he seriously contended in. He has the golf game that can win here, but he has not the form needed to win at this event since he claimed the Masters in November, so that does not inspire much hope for him winning his first Claret Jug this week. Stay away from him.

The Picks
Justin Thomas
Brooks Koepka

Best Value Plays

The middle tier offers plenty of value plays this week with golfers like Viktor Hovland (+3000), Tyrell Hatton (+3300), Louis Oosthuizen (+3300), Bryson DeChambeau (+3500), Collin Morikawa (+3500) and Patrick Cantlay (+3500). Each of those golfers is impressive and it is likely that at least one or two of them will be in contention this week.

However, the best value play this week is Patrick Reed (+4000). Reed is a nine-time PGA Tour winner who has a strong history of contending in major championships, with two top-12 finishes in his Open Championship career with four made cuts in six starts. Although he does not have a top-10 finish since The Memorial in early June, Captain America ironically is no stranger to playing well across the pond. He owns three European Tour victories and has traditionally found considerable success while competing in links golf. He is great at scrambling for pars in difficult conditions and ranks ninth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting on the year. At 40-1, take a ticket out on the former Masters champion to hoist the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon.

Lee Westwood (+5500) is an intriguing play to get the win this week, but he is not worth backing at the current number when you can buy better golfers at 60-1. The first golfer at 60-1 to back is Joaquin Niemann, who lost in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic to Cameron Davis two weeks ago after missing putts on the last two holes in regulation that could have secured him his second career Tour win. He has made 20 of 21 cuts this season with five top-10 finishes in the 2021 season. He has yet to finish solid at a major championship in his career and he has never made the cut at an Open Championship.

But as previously mentioned:
The Open Championship does not tend to be won by people with a great prior history in the event. Niemann has the ability to hit the ball well enough off the tee to compete with the best in the world this week and at 60-1, he is a hot putter away from his first major championship at 23 years old.

The other golfer at 60-1 worth a bet is Aussie Marc Leishman to win his first major championship. He has plenty of experience playing in high-wind conditions, relying often on his ability to bomb long irons and low trajectory shots. Leishman is the opposite of Niemann when it comes to history in this event, as he has finished sixth or better in three of his last six Open starts. He missed the Harris English-Kramer Hicock playoff by one stroke at the Travelers Championship last month. The Aussies have seen back-to-back winners in Europe with Lucas Herbert winning the Irish Open and Min Woo Lee winning the Scottish Open last week. Leishman has not played since that third-place finish at the Travelers, and with six PGA Tour wins in his career, he is more than capable of hoisting the Claret Jug this year and well worth the wager to do it at 60-1.

The Picks
Patrick Reed
Joaquin Niemann
Marc Leishman

The Longshots

The Open Championship and PGA Championship are the two majors with the highest odds of a longshot coming out of nowhere to hoist the trophy. Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at 300-1 earlier this season and there is a chance for another big payday in a similar odds range this week at Royal St. George’s.

Another Aussie worth a bet in former World No.1 Jason Day (+8000). Day may have fallen to 68th in the Official World Golf Rankings, but with 14th– and 10th-place finishes in each of his last two starts, he is worth taking a good long look at this week. The 12-time PGA Tour winner owns three top-10 finishes this season and appears to finally be playing healthy and happy golf out on the course. That could easily translate into a shocking win, just like we saw with Mickelson earlier this year.

The next golfer worth a bet in this odds range is Corey Conners (+12500). Conners owns seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season and contended at both The Players Championship and The Masters earlier this season. He was the first-round leader at the PGA Championship before fading over the final three rounds.

He ranks ninth in strokes gained off the tee this season and eighth in strokes gained on approach on the PGA Tour.

He is not great around the greens or with a putter in his hand, but anyone can get hot with the flat stick in their hand for one four-day stretch. He will give himself a chance with his driver and irons, and at 125-1 he is worth a flyer in this odds range.

The Picks
Jason Day
Corey Conners

One Golfer to Avoid

The one golfer who should not be approached with a 10-foot pole this week is bomber Bryson DeChambeau (+3500). His caddie quit on him before the Rocket Mortgage Classic, and heading to a course he has never played before that negates his distance off the tee.

He will be in trouble this week. In three starts at the Open Championship, DeChambeau owns two missed cuts and a highest finish of 51st place. He has improved his golf game greatly since 2019, but his major advantages off the tee box disappear for the most part the second he gets on a plane this week.

Stay away from the 2020 U.S. Open Champion at 35-1 this week at Royal St. George’s.

The Golfer to Avoid:
Bryson DeChambeau

*Odds courtesy of MyBookie

Joe Menzer / Author

Joe is an award-winning writer and editor who has covered the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, golf, various collegiate athletics and other sports for newspapers, Turner Sports, Fox Sports and ESPN. He has been on the beat for seven Super Bowls, six Daytona 500s and numerous NBA playoff series and All-Star Games. He once was dispatched to Rome, Italy to spend time with an NBA draft choice who opted to play overseas, after which he produced an award-winning series of stories. He also is passionate about fantasy sports and breaking down games in ways that even novice gamblers can use to make their most intelligent wagering decisions.

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