July 12, 2021
2021 British Open Odds, Picks & Predictions
The final Major of the season happens this year, as it's back to links golf for the best players in the world. An opportunity at the Claret Jug is always going to be special for those in the field, and with the rotation landing on Royal St. George's Golf Club as the host, we could see an interesting leaderboard by week's end.
After a 30-plus year absence from hosting The Open Championship (between the 1949 Open and 1981 Open) that missed the best years of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and many others of that generation, when this venue shows up as an Open host, the winners aren't always who you may think.
The 1981 Open Championship here was won by Bill Rogers, a month after he finished T2 at the US Open at Merion. He won two more times on Tour that year in what was one of the best seasons of his career, but there weren't any other Major wins.
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Sandy Lyle won at Royal St. George's in 1985, as did Greg Norman (1993), Ben Curtis (2001), and Darren Clarke (2011) in modern years. Only Norman and Lyle managed to win any other Major in their careers, each peaking at two, although Norman's always an interesting case when bringing up potential Major wins.
But considering all the great names that have named “the champion golfer of the year” throughout the history of this event, chances are any of them that have played from the 1950's on haven't won here.
Royal St. George's can be a quirky course with the lies guys are going to get all over the golf course being up for grabs at times. Of those five recent Open Championship winners at Royal St.George's, Norman was the only guy who finished better than -5 for the week (Norman won at -13).
Expecting a single-digit winning score brings all sorts of names into play this week, and the idea of thinking about guys who may fit a similar career arc to many of the names of those past winners here did factor into the approach. There are plenty of guys out on Tour now that could fit the career resume of one Major title in an above average career like the Clarke's or Rodgers of that list, and Lyle's victory here was the first of his two Major titles. Steady guys where one, possibly two Major titles is where the resume stands at the end.
That's the profile of an Open Champion at Royal St. George's, and a year with the travelling arrangements being what they are, maybe expecting a chaotic weekend leaderboard this week is what we should expect.
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There aren't going to be too many flat lies regardless of how good a tee shot may be here, as sight lines all over the course can be a challenging task in itself. Pot bunkers are once again the usual defense that will likely see the most action, but windy English weather plays its part in seeing so many single digit scores under par for the winner.
Guys are going to get their shots blown in places where they never want to miss, and the bump and run game with the large surrounds these greens will have means you'd better be able to scramble and save some pars here to have a chance. Guys had better be able to find it early here as well, as Rogers, Lyle, and Clarke all held at least a share of the lead after the 2nd round, and Norman and Curtis were no further back than T4 at the same time. That's something to keep in mind for added action heading into the weekend.
Bunkers, wind, and some chip shots that cause quite a few headaches are going to give the players in this field all they'd prefer to deal with in this final Major to begin with.
When Royal St. George's hosted in 2003 and 2011, those were both Major seasons that saw four first time Major champions, and while Phil Mickelson's PGA Championship win earlier this year took that off the table for this year's edition of The Open at Royal St. George's, I do believe there is a lot that sets up well for another first time Major champion to be crowned this week.
Royal St. George's Golf Club is no stranger to hosting the Open Championship, doing so recently in 2003 and 2011. (AP)
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Jon Rahm (+750) isn't on that list of potential first time Major winners after his victory at the US Open last month, and even after a strong showing at the Scottish Open this past week, I don't see getting behind him at that price as an option. Not in a Major where a lot can rely on the simple bounce of the ball in this Major specifically.
With the names of past winners here already suggesting to start looking a little bit down the board, that's a steep price to pay for Rahm, even if there aren't any knocks in his game right now. He's playing tremendous golf and shows no signs of slowing down.
Past leaderboards at Royal St. George's have been more about jockeying for position than running away from the pack, and if it plays out where many names are involved on the weekend, even if Rahm's part of that list his price isn't going to be drastically different than this is already. I'm going to wait and see if he's even part of that conversation before considering getting involved.
Prices on Rory McIlroy (+1600), Brooks Koekpa (+1600), Xander Schauffele (+1800), Jordan Spieth (+1800), Justin Thomas (+1800), Dustin Johnson (+2000), Bryson DeChambeau (+2000) and Louis Oosthuizen (+2000) are the ones that follow Rahm.
Xander Schauffele is the only name on that list without a Major victory yet in his career, but he does have a runner-up finish at the 2018 Open Championship under his belt, and four of his past five starts overall have been Top 15 finishes.
Schauffele is definitely the name in that group of “favorites” that I got stuck on the most in preparing for the week, as I do think there is a lot lined up that does favor a first time Major winner happening again this week. But Schauffele's also a guy I believe that will find a way to get a few if he ever finds a way to get the first one.
And as part of a broader strategy to start further down the betting board given the history of Open winners at Royal St. George's, it was ultimately a pass on Xander as it was for the rest of those big names. It would not be surprising to see a good chunk of those bigger names to ultimately miss the cut too, so I'll wait to see which ones end up establishing themselves this week and then decide if it's worth jumping on.
It's an event known to have some wild variance in results, and being played at a venue that's brought many unexpected results in the past. Even if one of those favorites run away with it from start to finish, from a tournament/venue standpoint, playing any of the favorites is tough. With seven of the past nine Open winners also being 30-plus years of age, some of those younger favorites could already be working uphill.
So the search for the ideal player this week had ingredients like in their 30's and looking for their first Major win, good numbers around the greens, some strong finishes in past Opens or windy conditions, and someone who I can look back on in 10+ years and say to myself “you know what, they deserved to have that one (or two) Major victories on their resume” when all is said and done.
After all, that's been the type of past champions Royal St. George's has churned out in recent Open's held at this venue.
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