And then there was one.
It’s time for the pressure in professional golf to ramp up a lot this week as the world’s best players converge for the 150th Open Championship, the year’s fourth and final major.
It’s only fitting the 150th edition of the event, which is better known as the British Open, will be held at the Old Course at St. Andrews, the home of golf. Rory McIlroy is the consensus betting favorite at sportsbooks across the US.
The majors definitely stand out as golf’s toughest tests. From course setups to perks for the winner, these events are four must-play tournaments that anyone and everyone wants to be part of annually.
Each of them have their own idiosyncrasies that give them their own identities. At the Masters, the main one is the event is as elite as they come. There are usually only around 80 to 90 in the field. There are no qualifying sites or Monday qualifiers. There are also “patrons” on site rather than fans. Make of that phrase what you will.
The PGA Championship typically has the strongest field of the majors. Only professionals tee it up at this event so amateurs need not apply. Granted, there are 20 PGA club professionals who qualify but they are still deemed golf professionals.
The U.S. Open is where great golfers go to survive and good golfers go to watch their scores soar. This one always features the tightest fairways, longest roughs and quickest greens. Par is usually a good score and more than one golfer has walked away wondering what went wrong.
And it truly is an open championship as anyone (no matter gender) is eligible to try to make it into the field. And a lot of people tried. In 2022, almost 9,000 players were part of the early local qualifying stages held at many, many different sites.
Then there’s this week’s event: The Open Championship. What sets this one apart from the rest are two big factors. The tournament is across the pond where the weather can–and is– unpredictable and then there’s the challenging course layouts.
The first, the weather, can be as unpredictable as weather can be. Cold and rainy? Cold and windy? Windy and rainy? Even…gasp…sunny? Wait five minutes and there’s a good chance it will change.
Then there’s the courses. This is where it gets tough for many golfers. Links-style layouts are a whole other ballgame. Keeping the ball low and working on running the ball up onto greens (while avoiding bunkers) is unfamiliar to many U.S. golfers who must adapt quickly.
And don’t forget about the bunkers. Get in one or two of these babies and they may have to send in a rescue squad complete with a ladder.
More than one golfer has spent two, three or more strokes attempting to just get out. And sometimes those shots may have to be sideways or backwards.
So here we are, gearing up for the year’s final major.
If you’re making the trip as a fan, be set to enjoy watching some of the world’s best golfers try to survive. If you’re a player in the field, well: Good luck, you’re likely going to need it.
Odds to Win the Open Championship (FanDuel)
Rory McIlroy +1000
Xander Schauffele +1200
Jordan Spieth +1500
Jon Rahm +1600
Scottie Scheffler +1800
Matthew Fitzpatrick +1800
Shane Lowry +2000
Justin Thomas +2100
Cameron Smith +2200
Patrick Cantlay +2600
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Pressure is Everything
Pressure? These majors have it in spades. It’s not only the pressure of the event, it’s the pressure of the surroundings.
These tournaments are always held at prestigious sites and the course workers are given instructions to make sure the course is not only in tip-top shape but is also tough…but fair. (Well, for the most part. Some U.S. Open courses have gotten a little out of hand when it comes to going from challenging to unplayable but that’s a different story.)
Everyone’s read about what it takes to win a major. The years of suffering. The miles traveled only to fail to even make the cut. The bad shots that golfers hardly ever make when the pressure isn’t this great.
But it is weeks like this one which is why it’s going to be tough to go against the oddsmakers when we’re looking for a winner. The cream usually rises to the top on the biggest stages and it doesn’t get much bigger than when you combine the Open Championship and St. Andrews.
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‘X’ Marks the Spot
Sometimes it just pays to ride the hot golfer.
Right now, that would be Xander Schauffele. He’s down to +1200 after last week’s Scottish Open win after closing last week at +2000.
We’re thinking that’s still a good price. After all, he’s been solid when he takes his game on the road…way, way on the road. A couple of quick notes: He won the gold medal in the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo.
He’s also coming off back-to-back wins in tournaments he’s entered (the Travelers Championship and last week’s Scottish Open). Add in the fact he was T-7 at the Scottish Open in 2021 and was T-10 at last year’s Open Championship and you’ve got the makings of a golfer who is as hot as they come.
In total, he’s won three of his last six starts after about a three-year drought and he’s quickly climbing the FedEx Cup rankings (3rd now, moving up from 8th) and world rankings (5th now, moving up from 11th).
There’s no reason he can’t keep that ascent going this week.
It May Be Time for a Repeat Champion
It’s been awhile since someone has won back-to-back Open Championships. Padraig Harrington (2007 and 2008) won back-to-back titles right after Tiger Woods won back-to-back times in 2005 and 2006.
It can happen and we’re thinking the defending champion, Collin Morikawa at +2800, can join an elite group of players with that honor.
Morikawa is coming off the victory in 2021 and he was also the DP Tour’s Player of the Year in 2021. He’s not having the best of years in 2022 but his play in the majors has been all-world. He was solo fifth in the Masters, T-55 in the PGA Championship (with a bad third round) and then, most recently, he was T-5 at the U.S. Open.
He’s becoming Koepka-like in the way he can raise his game up a couple of notches when the brightest lights are shining. He missed the cut last week at the Scottish Open which can be both good and bad news. Bad because he doesn’t feel the pressure of weekend rounds. Good because it gives him a chance to work on getting his game fine-tuned for a week when the world will be watching.
Tiger Woods? Sorry, Not Going There
For some reason, Tiger Woods comes into this event as low as +4000 at some betting sites.
He’s +6500 at FanDuel and Tiger fans will probably say that’s about right. But looking at his numbers and finishes, there’s no way he should be ahead of 20 or so players who have had solid finishes in the previous three majors…one of which he sat out (the U.S. Open), one of which he faltered on the weekend (the Masters where he finished T-47) and one he withdrew from (after the third round at the PGA Championship).
If you’re betting on Tiger, here are two numbers you might want to make sure you factor into your equation: He’s ranked No. 994 in the world golf rankings and 229th in the FedEx Cup points race.
Sure, those number are because he’s been hurt and MIA. But, and here’s the important part, he hasn’t shown he’s in good enough form to even be on our radar.
OK, he won the 2019 Masters as a longshot, but we’re thinking he’s out of rabbits to pull out of his hat.