Bundle and buckle up for a wild ride at Open

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Brooks Koepka at 10-1 odds will win The Open Championship. Period. End of story.

Well, that was the easiest paycheck we’ve ever earned.

Oh, you want a little more about this week’s Open? O.K., we’ll delve into the tournament’s what, where, when and why because we know the who: Koepka.

The 2019 Open Championship will be held at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. The course is a par-72 layout that reaches 7,317 yards. The links course, which last hosted the event way back in 1951, has undergone dramatic renovations. Part of the revamp included the creation of two new golf holes over the past couple of years in getting ready to play host to this prestigious event.

Now, back to the story at hand: Koepka winning. The reason he will hoist the Claret Jug is simple as the guy, at least in his current form, is laser-focused on playing in majors. And playing extremely well. That in and of itself isn’t that big of a deal. But what is a big deal is that focus and ball-striking ability have resulted in an amazing streak when it comes to majors. If the PGA Tour listed every event as a major, Tiger Woods might just be looking over his shoulder and see Koepka right behind him in the chase for Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18.

But there are just four per year. And while Koepka has a modest six career PGA Tour wins, four of those are majors. He’s also recorded back-to-back U.S. Opens (2017 and 2018) and back-to-back PGA Championships (2018 and 2019).

Another way to look at it is this: He won the 2018 PGA Championship last August. He was T2 in The Masters this year. He then won the PGA Championship before finishing second in this year’s U.S. Open.

If you’re a numbers guy (and who isn’t if you’re in the betting game and reading this), there’s a distinct pattern here with Koepka posting a 1st, a 2nd, a 1st, a 2nd … and now another 1st? We certainly think so as he will take his show on the road this week across The Pond.

Oh, and did we forget to mention that his golf game travels very well? Well, it does. He’s got nine international victories, including the 2014 Turkish Airlines Open and back-to-back wins (of course) at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in 2016 and 2017.

And one final nugget that may have eluded golf fans and bettors is the fact that Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, grew up a driver and 5-iron from Portrush and it was where Elliott learned the game. A little extra knowledge certainly can’t hurt Koepka’s chances.

And speaking of home-court advantage, let’s not overlook two guys who are hometown heroes here — Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell. 

McIlroy, 8-1, is a no-brainer and expects to be in these events. We want to concentrate on McDowell, 50-1, who is over the moon just to be in the field.

McDowell grew up playing on this course and while the layout looks different to him these days with a few layout changes, the atmosphere and fan support in the area and on the course will be just as welcoming.

All that aside, McDowell could be in the mix come Sunday morning (for us on the West Coast). It’s just in the cards. After all, just getting into the field was nothing short of a miracle. He holed a 30-foot putt on the 72nd hole of the RBC Canadian Open to get the chance to see his name on the tee sheet for the 2019 Open Championship.

To say he’s going to be determined to play well in front of family, friends and countrymen would be an understatement.

Then there’s the chance for Tiger Woods at an on-the-rise 20-1 odds. Sorry Tiger fans, his major victories for the year are over. Sure, he’s won The Open Championship before, but it’s been 13 years since he hoisted the trophy (winning in 2000 and 2005 at St. Andrews and 2006 at Royal Liverpool).

But this is the same scenario we’ve already seen in 2019. He hasn’t teed it up in competition for the last month and we all saw how well that worked when he took time off after winning The Masters. He then proceeded to put an MC on the board at the PGA Championship.

This time, he’s also not playing any events between major appearances. He’s just practicing and he’s practicing in Florida (he’s likely to have been in shorts and a nice mock T-shirt and riding around in a cart without a bit of gorse anywhere on the property). That’s not going to prepare him for the change in weather the players are certain to face.

Can he win The Open Championship? Of course. He’s already proven he’s got the game. But when he’s coming off a month of non-tournament play, his early-round play usually shows rust. And it’s rust he simply can’t shake off nearly as easily as in his early days.

One final Open note. Our pick last week, Bernd Wiesberger (down from 200-1 to 80-1 after his victory at the Scottish Open), won’t win back-to-back events for two reasons. One, he struggled down the closing holes and he had to dodge a couple of makeable putts by Benjamin Hebert early in the playoff before winning. Two, Koepka is in the field this week and it’s a major.

There’s also a secondary event, the Barbasol Championship, being held in Kentucky for those who didn’t qualify for the Open Championship. And that means a few extra FedEx Cup points are up for grabs. In this field, more than 90 of the players are outside the top 100 meaning the 300 points — and the victory — can be life-changing and season-extending.

We like a couple of guys who were in the hunt all week at the John Deere. Russell Henley (20-1) and Adam Schenk (30-1) have got to be saying ‘what if?’ Both played three solid rounds but had one round they’d love to have back. This might be the week to string four great rounds in a row and post a victory.

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About the Author
Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman

Bill Bowman is a Las Vegas-based writer who has more than 40 years in the sports-writing business. He's spent the past 18-plus years covering the golf scene in Vegas including 10 years as a writer/editor with VegasGolfer Magazine. He also contributes to the GolfNow Network of websites and Las Vegas Golf Insider.

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