Golf’s final major of the year is here. The Open Championship, also known as the British Open, kicks off Thursday at Royal St. George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent, England. The last Open contested at this course was in 2011, won by Darren Clarke, and before that Ben Curtis won in 2003.
After being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Shane Lowry (+4000) returns to defend his 2019 title, when he won the first major of his career at Royal Portrush.
The Open Championship will have 156 players in the field, with Jon Rahm set as the +750 favorite to win at BetMGM followed by Brooks Koepka (+1400), Xander Schauffele (+1600), Jordan Spieth (+1800), and Justin Thomas (+2000).
Players to consider/stats to use
With a small sample size for course history — which is also quite dated — what I did was look at recent form and how players have performed in all majors. The Royal St. George’s Golf Course is a par 70 and roughly 7,200 yards. Though it is shorter in length, it’s known to be a bit of a difficult tee shot. Considering it’s right off the bay, the conditions can also be quite windy. With undulated greens, narrow fairways, wind, plenty of bunkers, and rough that can be menacing, I’m looking for the all-around good player.
Stats that can be helpful: Strokes Gained Off the Tee, Strokes Gained Around the Green, Strokes Gained Approach, Par 4 scoring (since it’s a Par 70), bogey avoidance, and sand saves.
Picking a winner can be a tough task, so instead of looking at who can win, I’ll be looking at one of my favorite bets to make: full tournament head-to-head matchups. Here are three that are worth a grab.
Louis Oosthuizen -165 over Tommy Fleetwood
Oosthuizen has become somewhat of an “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” type of player. Since 2015, he has finished runner-up in a major event five times, including back-to-back this year in the PGA Championship and the U.S. Open. Another runner-up finish was in the 2015 Open Championship. In his last five tournaments, Oosthuizen has five consecutive Top 20 finishes, four of which were in the Top 10. He’s not only coming into this event with good form but has the stats to back up a possible good run. He’s top 20 in bogey avoidance, sand saves, and approach, and in the top 35 for around the green. The best part of his game is his putting. Oosthuizen has gained strokes putting in 13 of his last 14 events.
The price is steep but warranted. Fleetwood on the other hand, has missed the cut in three of his last eight events, has lost strokes putting in six of his last eight events, and lost strokes ball striking in four of his last eight events. This year has not been kind to him, finishing 46th, missing the cut, and finishing 50th in his last three majors. Fleetwood did, however, take second in the 20219 Open Championship, but he is coming into this event a bit on the rocky side.
Brooks Koepka -125 over Dustin Johnson
Koepka should be an auto buy for every major. The idea that he shows out for the big events is pretty accurate. In his last 10 majors, Koepka has finished top five in seven events, including two wins and three runner-up finishes. Looking at those last 10 majors played, Koepka has gained strokes in every category all but twice. The two times he didn’t, he finished 29th in the 2020 PGA Championship and missed the cut in 2021 The Masters.
At the Open, he’s finished 10th, sixth, 39th, and fourth in his last four trips overseas. Statistics tend to be irrelevant for him because like a switch, Koepka just has the ability to turn it on when he needs (or wants) to. Plus, he’s coming into this event in great form, taking fifth at the Travelers Championship.
In three majors played this year, Johnson has missed the cut in two: the Masters in April and the PGA Championship in May. He bounced back with a 19th place finish at the U.S. Open but has a less stellar history of playing at the Open, with just one top-20 finish in his last five trips.
I wouldn’t say I don’t like Johnson in this spot, but I will say I like Koepka more.
Louis Oosthuizen (+3300) and Brooks Koepka (+1600) are two players I like to win The Open Championship. Rather than betting on either to beat everyone in the field, I’ll look to them to win against just one other player. Since betting outrights are fun and add an element of entertainment, however, consider taking head-to-head bets at your normal bet sizing and perhaps take outright bets at a quarter or a fifth of the price. You get both a fun sweat and protect your bankroll.
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