The Open Championship Preview
July 16, 2017
By Dan Daly
Editor's Note: Be sure to follow @_DanDaly on Twitter this golf season for his off-the-cuff remarks and entertaining commentary!
The 2017 Open Championship (or British Open because I live in America) will be played for the 146th time this week, and takes place at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England. This is the 10th time that the British Open will be played at Royal Birkdale. It was played here in 1976 and won by Johnny Miller. I tell you this only so you can be prepared this weekend, as he may or may not mention it?? He’s pretty humble when it comes to these things as you know. Just to be safe, I’ll set the O/U at 279 mentions…his total from that year. TAKE THE OVER!
The last time it was played at Birkdale was in 2008 when Padraig Harrington won with a score of three over par. And get this… Royal Birkdale is a par-70 and is only 7,173 yards. That’s right…a guy won a major championship shooting over par on a course that was under 7,200 yards?!? Someone get Mike Davis and the USGA on this immediately. In other words, unlike Erin Hills, this course actually features extremely tight fairways, tough conditions around the green and puts a premium on accuracy. You know, like the US Open used to do. With that said, this year’s British Open will, and has always relied very heavily on the weather to determine the outcome.
On a different note, Brooks Koepka’s win at Erin Hills makes it seven straight first-time major winners and I think that trend continues this week as well. Finally, the first two major winners this year have had really hot girlfriends waiting for them on the 18th green. So, in conclusion, I’m looking for a consistent driver of the golf ball, a good iron player, someone that values par, has never won a major before and has a really hot girlfriend? Got it!
Now that everyone’s kids have all graduated from kindergarten, elementary school, high school and college, let’s dive into the field and see who wins the 2017 British Open.
(As always, odds are at the time this was written and will probably change throughout the week)
Dustin Johnson (12/1): DJ does have three top-10s, including a T-2 at the British and he’s still the number one player in the world but the guy has gone ice cold lately missing the cut at both the Memorial and the US Open. I don’t think that trend continues this week as he has made seven straight cuts in British, including five top-15s during that stretch, but I certainly don’t think he flips the switch back on and wins (especially on a course that basically takes away his biggest advantage).
Rory McIlroy (18/1): New clubs + new ball + new wife + injuries + zero confidence in the putter = Stay as far away from Rory as you can this week. The guy couldn’t make the cut at Erin Hills with 50 yard fairways, you really think he’s going to do much better here with them half as wide? Guys the caliber of Rory don’t drop from 10/1 to 18/1 the week before a major for no reason. His miserable 2017 continues this week at Birkdale.
Jason Day (22/1): Day still only has one major to his credit and that was when he was playing better than anyone else on the planet. That is certainly no longer the case. Like DJ, Day is coming in off back to back missed cuts at the US Open and Travelers. Throw in a below average record at the British with one top-20 in six start and I’ll pass.
Henrik Stenson (28/1): Zero percent chance the guy even sniffs his record setting performance from last year. With the win last year Stenson does have four top-5 finishes at the British Open, including a T-3 at Birkdale in 2008. However he has six missed cuts in eight PGA Tour starts this year. Granted, he's played better on the European Tour with four top-10s, but I don’t think he’s in good enough form to repeat as Champion golfer of the year. With that said, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him in match-ups this week and might even take him in a top-20 bet. Speaking of last year’s British Open…
Phil Mickelson (40/1): Father of the year AND Champion golfer of the year…in the same year? Not happening. Like Stenson, there is no chance he repeats last year’s performance. While he has certainly played better in British Opens the last 10 years or so (including a T-19 here in 2008) the guy can’t find a fairway using Waze in the United States, I don’t see that changing this week on a course with smaller fairways than he’s been missing on a regular basis. He will get in too much trouble off the tee this week to win, or even contend.
Brooks Koepka (40/1): My man! Winning a major is hard; winning back to back Majors is an entirely different kind of hard. I love me some Brooks Koepka thanks to his US Open win, but Tiger Woods he is not (or Rory circa 2014, before I get a bunch of stupid emails). The bigger issue for me is that Koepka will arrive at Royal Birkdale having not hit a shot in competition since the US Open. That’s a big stretch without playing competitive golf leading into a major.
Justin Rose (20/1): Justin Rose finished T-4 here in 1998 as an Amateur with an unforgettable hole out on the 72nd hole. I tell you this because they will show it and talk about it no less than 5000 times if he is in contention this week. The more amazing stat is that he has yet to top that performance in a British Open since and have five missed cuts to boot. For whatever reason Rose has yet to play great in a British Open since his debut at 17 years old. I don’t see that changing this week.
Jon Rahm (12/1): Rahm has never won a major and definitely has a hot girlfriend, so he checks those two boxes, but the number of people picking Rahm this week after his Irish Open performance will be staggering. I will not be one of them. I’m a big believer that you have to at least contend in a major before you win a major, which he has yet to do. Assuming he can mark the ball properly I think Rahm contends this week for the first time, but winning a regular Euro or PGA Tour event and winning a major are two very different animals. I think he will be there (top-20 at worst) this weekend, but still too early to pull the trigger on him winning.
Tommy Fleetwood (25/1): If Rahm is the most picked “favorite” this week, Fleetwood will easily be the most picked “dark horse” this week. He’s already dropped from 45/1 to 25/1 in the last month. Yes he’s having a career season, yes he finished T-4 at the US Open and yes he grew up literally minutes from this course. But he has played in three British Open’s and has yet to play the weekend, and frankly I think the hometown angle works against him this week with an enormous amount of self-induced pressure as a result. Majors are hard enough without your own added pressure. He will be around for the weekend for the first time, but that’s about it.
Justin Thomas (45/1): If this course was filled with 288-yard drivable par 4’s I would take JT every day of the week and twice on Sunday. But unfortunately for JT, and thank god for the rest of us, Mike Davis is nowhere to be found this week. With only one British Open start under his belt (T-53 last year) I’m completely indifferent with him this week.
Rafael Cabrera Bello (110/1): Based only on his girlfriend alone he makes the list. With that said, despite winning the Scottish Open he is still 110/1 for a reason.
Louis Oosthuizen (50/1), Thomas Pieters (40/1), Alex Noren (50/1) and Branden Grace (50/1): All guys with solid golf games and decent long shot odds, but I’ll pass on all four for any type of action this week. On the other hand…
Paul Casey (45/1): I don’t think Casey wins this week but I do like Casey a lot in match-bets against guys with similar odds and I think he is a great top-20 bet this week. He is one of the best iron players in the world and finished T-7 here in 2008 for that very reason. He doesn’t have the greatest track record at the British but I think this course and his play of late warrants some action on him this week.
Patrick Reed (60/1): Still patiently waiting for that first top-10 in a major.
Hideki Matsuyama (25/1): Dude is the number two player in the world and has gone T-4, T-11, T-2 in his last three majors. Now he is on a course where his greatest strength (ball striking) is at a premium and his greatest weakness (putting) won’t be as imperative as other majors. I think he continues his brilliant run in majors with an easy top-20 and most likely a top-10 as well. At 22/1, those are pretty good odds for the number two player in the world as well. I’m just a little gun shy on pulling the trigger on him to win this week. Love him every other way though.
Adam Scott (30/1): Very similar to Matsuyama, Adam Scott is one of, if not the best ball strikers on the planet. Also very similar to Matsuyama, Adam Scott is one of, if not the worst putters on the planet. The former keeps him near the top of the leaderboard all weekend. The latter keeps him from winning…again. Throw in the fact that his record at the British is incredible, Five top-10s, including a realistic chance to win three consecutive claret jugs from 2012 to 2014, and I think Scott is a must take this week for prop bets including top-20/top-10, but at the end of the day his putter is just too much for him to overcome to hoist his first Claret Jug on Sunday.
Jordan Spieth (12/1): Spieth leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach-to-the-green and at Birkdale that will come in very handy. He seems to be over his putter issues and based on the way he finished off the Travelers I think we can all agree his bunker game is in great shape. I think Spieth has a very solid week, top-10 good, but he also struggled down the stretch at the Traveler’s before winning in a playoff and that leaves me a little concerned for his ability to pull off the outright win this week. I like Spieth against Rory and DJ in match-ups and again like him top-20/top-10 in prop bets. Just don’t love him to win at 10/1.
Sergio Garcia (22/1): Sergio was my original pick in February but I go back to what I said last month for the US Open…two majors in one year for Sergio? Hell, it’s possible but I just don’t see that happening. I still love Sergio this week in a top-20 and even top-10 bet. The guy has TEN top-10s, including two runner-ups in career British Open starts and finished no worse than T-6 the past three years. That’s insane. Take Sergio where you can get him this week, just not to win.
My Sentimental Dark Horse:
Lee Westwood (60/1): The guy has zero chance to win, nor will I bet a single penny on him to do so, I just really would love to see Westwood win one major before he’s done. I know it won’t happen but a guy can dream can’t he?
My Actual Dark Horse: Editor's Note - Brandt Snedeker withdrew from this event on Wednesday due to injury.
Brandt Snedeker (80/1): Unlike Koepka at the US Open I’m not sure Sneds can actually pull it off this week, but I always like having a small play on one horse with long odds and of all my choices Snedeker seemed to fit the bill the most. At 80/1, this is more of a weather insurance pick. The nastier the weather or the closer to par the winning score is, the more I like this pick. There might not be a better bad weather player or guy that can salvage a par on the planet than Sneds. The forecast for Birkdale as of today is calling for a relatively calm four days by British Open standards; but as everyone knows that can change in a moment’s notice. Either way I think he suits this course well since length is not a premium and I like him in match-ups bets and at a top-20 at worst with a small play on him to win just in case.
And the Winner is (May god have mercy on my soul)…
Rickie Fowler (18/1): In the words of the great Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in.” Yes, the guy I swore I would never bet on to win a major again is the guy I absolutely love this week. Consistent driver of the golf ball…yep. Good iron player…absolutely. Someone that values par…sure, why not. Has never won a major before…LOL. Has a really hot girlfriend…just google Allison Stokke in case you aren’t sure. All joking aside, I’ve always said IF, not when, but IF, Fowler ever wins his first major it would come at a British Open, and this golf course is absolutely perfect for Fowler. Tight fairways, heavily bunkered, with a premium on ball-striking and short game. He has two top-5 finishes in seven British Open starts, both at courses played in England and in 2011 on a course similar to Birkdale. He is having his best statistical season of his career; leading the tour in scoring average and sand saves, second in total strokes gained and fourth in strokes gained putting. Throw in the fact that he is coming off a T-5 at the US Open, a T-3 at the Travels and Top-10 at the Scottish Open and I absolutely love his chances this week. I can see him hanging around for three days and going out ahead of the leaders on Sunday posting a low number is bad weather and hanging on for the win. He seems to have a much better chance that way than playing with the lead. Frankly, I don’t care how he wins, as long as he wins…and of course that means we all win with more TV time for Allison Stokke.
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