At long last, the Open Championship — or the British Open — has returned.
The Open was the only major tournament not played last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Luckily, we have the prestigious test of golf back for 2021, as Royal St. George’s — one of the oldest courses on the rota — hosts the final major of the season.
Here’s our betting preview of this weekend’s tournament.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Shane Lowry (15-under at Royal Portrush in 2019)
THE COURSE — Royal St. George’s Golf Club (Sandwich, Kent, England)
Yardage: 7,189 yards
Royal St. George’s is a classical links golf course set on the shores of Sandwich Bay. It’s flat as can be with no trees, which means the weather will be a massive factor this weekend.
The advanced forecast looked like it was going to be fairly calm, but as Thursday nears, that’s becoming a little less certain. The good news for players is it appears they won’t have to deal with rain, and the temperatures certainly will be comfortable. Definitely nothing out of the ordinary.
The wind, however, is a different story, and ultimately, that’s what matters. If it starts blowing, that’s going to cause a whole lot of issues for the field. It’s difficult to predict, though, especially along the water where things can change instantly. However, here’s what the wind forecast looks like as of Tuesday.
Going off that, it doesn’t appear to be much of a draw bias. The biggest gusts in Rounds 1 and 2 look like they’ll be in the morning, meaning there’s not a huge tee-time advantage over the course of those two days. With gusts approaching 30 mph on the weekend, though, we could be in for a treat.
Without weather, this course could get picked apart. Early indications from players are recent rain has really softened the course, and that makes the fairways play wide. That rain works both ways, though, as the rough is quite thick and fertile. If you miss the fairway and have to hack it out, you might be in trouble, especially considering the greenside danger that awaits with laughably massive bunkers.
There are mixed reviews among the players, to say the least.
“I think the biggest thing here is the course, even before the rain yesterday, the course was quite lush, quite green,” Rory McIlroy said at a Tuesday press conference. “Maybe we weren’t getting the bounces we’re accustomed to getting here at St. George’s with the bumpy fairways. Honestly, I think the course plays a little better that way, so I was pleasantly surprised. I walked away from the golf course Saturday and Sunday thinking this is a much better golf course than I remember it being. I think that’s just because of the way it’s playing. I think it’s perfect.”
Brooks Koepka, on the other hand …
“I dunno. It’s not, it’s not my favorite venue we’ve played. I haven’t seen all 18. I’ll see the back nine today. Quite a few blind tee shots, kind of hitting at nothing. Fairways are quite undulating. I dunno. It’s not my favorite of the rotation, put it that way.”
(Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook)
|Jon Rahm +750||Brooks Koepka +1600|
|Xander Schauffele +1800||Justin Thomas +1800|
|Jordan Spieth +1800||Rory McIlroy +2200|
|Dustin Johnson +2500||Louis Oosthuizen +3000|
|Viktor Hovland +3000||Patrick Reed +3300|
|Patrick Cantlay +3300||Tyrrell Hatton +3300|
|Shane Lowry +3500||Collin Morikawa +3500|
|Tommy Fleetwood +3500||Bryson DeChambeau +3500|
— Rahm is looking to make it two majors in a row after winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He’s in fine form, too, coming off a seventh-place finish at the Scottish Open last week.
— Lowry, the defending champion from 2019, has four top-10 finishes in his last eight starts dating back to the Players.
— Oosthuizen is on a heater right now. The 2010 Open champion has finished third or better in three of his last four major appearances, including second-place finishes at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open this year.
Rory McIlroy to win (+2200): He’s been fighting it a little bit lately, and he did miss the cut in Scotland last week. The silver lining to that, though, is he had a couple of extra days to see St. George’s and he obviously loves it. He also sounded encouraged about the progress of his game and he’s at his best when he’s confident. McIlroy was sneaky-good at the U.S. Open before blowing up a little on Sunday. If he can avoid the monstrous numbers, he can contend, and getting him at 22-1 is tough to pass up.
Harris English to win (+7000): The Georgia product is on a tear right now. He outlasted Kramer Hickock for a win at the Travelers, and he also finished third at the U.S. Open. He’s hitting everything pure right now, and his around-the-green game is in top form, too. Would also look at him for a top-10 at 5-1.
Branden Grace, top 10 (+950): Grace checks a lot of boxes, as someone who comes in with great form, including a seventh-place finish at the U.S. Open and a fourth-place finish at the Memorial. He also has a top-10 Open finish under his belt. He’s trending in the right direction.
Charley Hoffman, top 20 (+700): Hoffman is a cut-making machine, playing into the weekend in his last 14 starts. His strokes gained numbers when the wind is whipping are also among the best in the field. He’s just steady and dependable, which could have him lingering near the top of the leaderboard if it all goes to hell for the rest of the field.