Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:03 AM
British Open Preview
Editor's Note: Be sure to follow @_DanDaly on Twitter this golf season for his off-the-cuff remarks and entertaining commentary!
Jean Van de Velde: I just gave away the British Open.
JVDV Wife: It doesn't matter.
JVDV: One time in my life I know the safe play to hit and I still...Shit, I still can't make myself do it.
JVDV Wife: It doesn't matter.
JVDV: My whole career, my whole life on the line...I just made a Triple Bogey on the last hole of the Open!
JVDV Wife: You sure did Jean, and it was the greatest 7 of all time. No one's going to remember the Open 10 years from now, who won...but they'll remember your 7! My, God, Jean, it was...Well, it's immortal! I am so proud of you!
Ok, so maybe the conversation between Jean Van de Velde and his wife after the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie wasn’t exactly the same one Roy McAvoy and Molly had at the end of Tin Cup but it certainly would have been applicable…and accurate. It was definitely immortal. And as long as the British Open is played at Carnoustie what JVDV did on the 72nd hole will forever be remembered. Hell, as long as they play golf in general what he did will always be remembered. No one will ever remember (or care) that Paul Lawrie won the 1999 British Open, but they will never forget Jean Van De Velde.
In light of how that tournament ended in regulation, what is often forgotten about that week is just how hard Carnoustie played before the greatest train wreck in golf history…with 6-over getting into a playoff. When it returned eight years later they certainly got the memo from the players in 1999, with Padraig Harrington winning at 7-under.
My point being, the R&A can make Carnoustie play as hard as they want it to. The weather of course being the wildcard of the week. Carnoustie's current forecast is pretty mild though with 65 degree days, no rain and minimal wind. However based on the current conditions of the course I don’t think it will play nearly as hard as it did in ’99 due to the heat wave that the U.K. has had this summer. Carnoustie's fairways are basically burnt and thus playing firm and REALLY fast. The greens are also drying out though and that will lead to fast, firm greens as well on an already difficult course. So the question of course becomes…who does that favor this week? As always, odds are at the time this was written and will probably change throughout the week.
Bubba Watson 65/1 – If there is a golf course in the world that gives Bubba Watson a slimmer chance to win a Major Championship than Carnoustie, I haven’t found it. Short him every single way possible this week.
Rory McIlroy 12/1 – The guy has gone Win, T-5, T-4 in his last three British Open starts and Rory could win any tournament he ever tees off in and it wouldn’t surprise me at all. However it’s really hard for me to take a guy (much less at 12/1) who just said, “The Masters has now become the biggest golf tournament in the world and I’m comfortable saying that…I don’t care about the US Open or The Open.” While he isn’t wrong, and I really respect his honesty in a time where being PC is the safe move, I just can’t get behind a guy who either pretends he doesn’t care or actually doesn’t care. That and he still really sucks a putting anyway.
Jordan Spieth 14/1 – I desperately wanted to find a reason to take Spieth this week, if not to win at least a top-5 or even top-10 bet, but I just can’t. While he is the defending champion (albeit at a different course) his last few months have been absolutely horrendous by his standards. You can blame the putter or getting engaged or whatever you want but the numbers don’t lie. Since his final round 64 at Augusta his best finish was a T-21 at the Byron Nelson on his literal home course. Throw in back-to-back missed cuts at the Memorial and US Open recently and I just don’t see any scenario where he is able to flip the switch that quickly…especially at a course as a hard as Carnoustie.
Dustin Johnson 9/1 – Greg Norman was arguably one of the most talented golfers that has ever walked the face of the earth and he won exactly two Major Championships. The same number as John Daly, Fuzzy Zoeller, Lee Janzen, Brooks Koepka and 47 other players. I think Dustin Johnson is Greg Norman 2.0, just with a much hotter wife and half as many brain cells. No one will ever doubt his talent, and he is a legitimate favorite every time he tees it up, but other than Oakmont, the guy simply can’t close the door on Majors. Like Norman, DJ has been in position to win time and time again but something always got in his way and most of the time it was…himself. He will probably win another major along the way but after watching him give away the US Open last month when it was absolutely his to win makes me incredibly weary to ever pull the trigger on DJ again. This week in particular I don’t think Carnoustie is suited for his game which is why I’m avoiding him in any bet scenario altogether.
Sergio Garcia 25/1 – The guy is a machine when it comes to the British Open, plain and simple. In 21 starts he has 10 top-10s, five top-5s with two of those runner-ups including a playoff loss at Carnoustie in 2007. Simply put, the fact that Sergio hasn’t won a British Open is quite astounding actually. With that overall record and his runner-up finish here in 2007 Sergio seems like a lock this week to at the very least contend. The problem is the guy is playing some of the worst golf of his career. He has 5 missed cuts in his last 6 PGA Tour starts with a 70th place finish at Sawgrass…a course he loves. He does have a T-8 at the Open de France (thanks to one out of his mind round of 64) and a T-12 at the BMW Open both in the last month, but like Spieth, I just don’t see any scenario where he is able to flip the switch that quickly.
Phil Mickelson 40/1 – Coming off a missed cut at the Scottish Open and only one top-10 since his win at the WGC back in March I just don’t see any scenario where Phil wins, much less contends this week. Throw in a missed cut at last year’s British Open and two missed cuts at Carnoustie in 1999 and 2007 and I think Phil will be back home in California by the time the first tee shot is hit Saturday morning.
Jason Day 25/1 – Being the best putter on Tour certainly helps. Unfortunately the amount of strokes it will take him to get to that point this week all but eliminates him at Carnoustie. The guy simply isn’t suited for a golf course that needs to be played on the ground. His very average record at the British Open exists for a reason.
Hideki Matsuyama 30/1 – Other than a T-6 in 2013, Matsuyama’s record in the British Open is pretty forgettable. There are certain courses that I think will give Hideki a good chance to win a Major, this isn’t one of them.
Ian Poulter 50/1 – Simply put, he won’t win this week but his recent play does lead me to believe he will hang around at Carnoustie long enough to sneak in a top-20.
Jon Rahm 20/1 – Since nothing has changed about Rahm since the US Open last month I will basically just repeat myself… As far as talent goes, Rahm certainly isn’t lacking in that department. He has two PGA Tour wins and three more on the European Tour. Throw in a fourth-place finish at the Masters and quite frankly at 20/1 he seems like he is due to win a major at any moment. The problem is the guy still has the maturity level of a 3-year-old and since Carnoustie brings out the worst in even the most level headed guys he is going to absolutely lose his mind on this course and cost himself any chance at winning. Until Rahm grows up I’ll continue to pass on him winning a major…especially at a course like Carnoustie.
Branden Grace 40/1 – Dude isn’t shooting 62 at Carnoustie. Or 63 or 64 or 65 or…you get the point. Outside of his once in a lifetime round last year to close out the British Open he hasn’t sniffed the top 10 of a British Open before. That trend will continue in 2018.
Justin Thomas 18/1 – JT has played in two British Opens and neither has gone particular well with T-53 in 2016 and a missed cut last year. Some players have a game that instantly works well with links golf, some players eventually figure it out, and some never have a chance to play well. I think JT falls in the middle category. I think as he gets older he will slowly start to contend across the pond, I just think he is still several years away from that.
Rickie Fowler 18/1 – The guy is simply allergic to pressure in a Major. Every time he even gets near the lead he throws up on himself faster than a sorority girl on Bourbon Street. He threw an 84 at them Saturday of the US Open after playing himself into contention the first couple days. Of course once he was out of it, he backed up his 84 with a tournament low (at the time) 65 on Sunday that meant absolutely nothing. Ironically enough if Rickie does ever win a major it would have to be in Paul Lawrie style, shooting a round 10 shots below the field average on a tough Sunday when the leaders tee off two-plus hours later and hope the leader makes a 7 on the 72nd hole to get him into a playoff. With all of that said a top-10 this week wouldn’t surprise me at all from Rickie with his short game and coming off a good showing at the Scottish Open.
Brooks Koepka 16/1 – The guy has three PGA Tour wins, and two of them are Majors. He clearly steps it up when the lights are the brightest. Throw in two top 10s in his last two British Open starts and a smoking hot girlfriend (sorry that has to count for something) and you certainly can’t ever count out Koepka. If he putts at Carnoustie like he did at Shinnecock he may win back to back Majors…I just don’t see that happening. While I think a top 10 this week is well within his reach I just don’t see him repeating the putting performance that won him the US Open last month.
Tommy Fleetwood 18/1 – As the great Roy McAvoy said (yes that is my theme for this week apparently), “You ride her ‘til she bucks you, or don’t ride her at all.” We came up one stroke shy of nailing Fleetwood as the dark horse winner of the US Open last month, unfortunately that also made his odds plummet faster than Papa John’s stock price. While we all know about his record setting 63 in the final round of the US Open; what most people probably don’t know is that he also shot a 63 last October at the Dunhill Links to set the course record at Carnoustie. So yeah, I get a guy that was second at the US Open last month, holds the course record (within the last 10 months) at Carnoustie and ranks 10th in the world. My only concern is sometimes when everything points in one direction you should run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. Point being, I don’t think he will win this week and might not crack the top-5 either but I certainly want to have a piece of him in top-10 action just in case I’m wrong.
Tyrrell Hatton 50/1 - Call this more of a gut feeling than anything. He has one made cut (T-5 in 2016) in six British Open starts and only has two European wins to his name (both involved Carnoustie), but I think he is trending in the right direction. He finished T-6 at the US Open last month, T-16 at the Open de France earlier this month and is coming off a top-10 at the Scottish Open. The two wins I mentioned were back-to-back Dunhill Links Championships in 2016 and 2017 which included a 65 at Carnoustie last October. He is 50/1 for a reason but I think Hatton is a good top-10 play this week and has a decent shot at a top-5 finish as well.
Justin Rose 14/1 – Rose will be a very popular pick this week, just like he was at the US Open for all the same reasons. He’s been playing very well as of late, he has a great short game and he is the third ranked player in the world for a reason. I think for all of those reasons Rose is a very solid play this week for a top-10 and will probably contend to the end as well finishing in the top-5. However contending and winning aren’t the same thing. He has one major championship and that was five years ago. While he only has one top top-10 and five missed cuts at the British Open since his T-4 debut as an Amateur in 1998 he did have a T-12 at the 2007 British Open at Carnoustie. I think Rose does exactly what he did last month at the US Open (only slightly better), which is play steady enough golf to hang around all weekend but not quite well enough to win.
Patrick Reed 30/1 – When Reed birdied five of his first seven holes Sunday at the US Open I genuinely thought he was about to win back-to-back Majors to start 2018…and I almost vomited all over my TV. Luckily for all of us Reed went ahead and vomited all over the back nine instead and saved us all from having to hear about a potential “Reed-Slam” all week leading up to Carnoustie. However, the fact of the matter is that Reed has beaten all but four golfers in the past three majors played, which is pretty incredible when you think about it. Not to mention the fact that he actually leads the European Tour in the race to Dubai at this point in the year. He putts it decent and is 3rd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained around the green which will be huge this week. Coming off a very respectable showing at the Scottish Open, (unfortunately) I think Reed plays well again this week and locks up his fourth consecutive Top 5 in a Major.
Alex Noren 45/1 – My dark horse pick for the week. His record in the British Open is average at best with four made cuts in seven starts. However two of those are top-10s, including a T-6 last year. He set the then course record at Carnoustie in 2016 with a 64 at the Dunhill Links and has won 7 times around the world since 2015 including the Open de France at the begging of this month and the BMW Championship back in May. Throw in the fact that he is second on the European Tour in the Race to Dubai and I think Noren has a very realistic chance to win this week (with a top-10 and top-5 bet as well). But just in case he finishes second like my US Open dark horse…
Tiger Woods 20/1 – Yep I just went there. And yeah, I know the saying…fool me once, blah, blah, blah. But I haven’t actually picked Tiger to win a major in over five years (the 2013 masters where he finished 4th and should have won except for the stupid drop controversy). When I slotted Tiger in my Top 5 at the US Open last month that was more of wishful thinking than anything, but not this week. I’m not just wishing this week, I think Tiger has a very legitimate chance to win for a number of reasons. He has played both recent British Opens at Carnoustie well with a 12th and 7th place finish. This course forces him to play safe and smart off the tee with a two-iron (or less) on most holes, especially with firm fast fairways like they currently have, and any course where driver isn’t an advantage or even necessary I automatically like his chances better (think Royal Liverpool win 2006).
With greens being so difficult to hit (for everyone) his short game around the greens is still one of the best on the planet. He made a mile worth of putts in his last start so he is clearly comfortable with the new putter from outside of 10 feet. With that said, the one obvious concern is his putting inside of 10 feet where he was last in the field at the Quicken Loans National. I think with three weeks since then to get more comfortable with the new putter that will improve as well. But on a golf course where iron play and approach around the green will be key I’m willing to take a chance on a 14-time major champion, and three time British Open Champion, and a guy that ranks in the top 6 on tour in strokes gained approach to the green, around the green, tee to green and total strokes gained.
Everyone says that if Tiger wins another Major his best shot will be at Augusta where he is most comfortable, but I disagree, I think Tiger 4.0 (or whatever he is these days) is best suited for a British Open style golf course and especially one that is firm and fast and puts a premium on iron play and scrambling. Come Sunday afternoon don’t be surprised to see Tiger Woods hoisting his 15th Major Championship trophy.