2021 Open Championship Odds, Picks, Predictions: 4 Golfers Worth Betting at Royal St. George’s
Oisin Keniry/Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Thomas.
The Open Championship may be the most difficult to predict of the major championships.
The event is wide open to golfers of a variety of skill sets, levels of TOUR experience, and ages. Weather and AM/PM wave advantages have also wreaked havoc on the field at The Open.
The most predictable element this week will be looking for golfers who have had a strong season and enter the event in solid form. Fourteen of the past 20 Open champions had won a tournament somewhere in the world during the season.
The average age of the Open Championship winner? 35.7 years old.
The average betting odds of the Open Championship winner? 60-1.
When evaluating the betting board this week, I looked for golfers who have been playing solid golf lately and have had success on links-style tracks.
Justin Thomas +2000 (DraftKings)
Justin Thomas is due for another major championship victory. His one and only major came at the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow, and there are signs pointing to the 2021 Open Championship becoming his inevitable second major.
While the Open Championship doesn’t feel like a natural fit for JT, recent events have shown that he is making a concerted effort to change that. After missing two straight cuts at The Open in 2017 and 2018, Thomas finished T-11 at Royal Portrush in 2019. The 28-year-old has placed an added emphasis on playing more in Europe the past few years to refine his skills on links tracks. Thomas has played in the two most recent Scottish Opens, finishing tied for ninth and tied for eighth in those two starts.
Thomas’ appearance at the Renaissance Club last week was very encouraging for his chances at Royal St. George’s this week.
He gained 4.5 strokes off the tee, which had been a cause for concern during much of the season. He seems to have gotten his driver back on track just in time to contend this week.
JT’s around-the-green game is always spectacular, but it was on full display in Scotland, where he led the field at 6.2 strokes. Getting up and down from difficult spots will be crucial this week, and there is no one I trust more to do so than Thomas.
JT has corrected his driving mistakes, made improvements with the putter, and put in the work to make sure his game is well suited for links golf.
That sounds like a perfect recipe to lift the Claret Jug at Royal St. George’s.
Viktor Hovland +3000 (DraftKings)
Keeping the ball in play off the tee while also hitting it long enough to cover some dangerous fairway bunkers will be one of the keys to success this week.
Viktor Hovland is as consistent as they come with the driver, and he’s gained strokes off the tee in 17 of his past 18 events.
While this is his first Open Championship start, the Norwegian is no stranger to European golf. The 23-year-old star won the BMW International Open in his most recent start and had a sixth-place finish at the Saudi International earlier this season.
I expect this Open Championship to be a difficult test, and difficult tests almost always favor elite ball-strikers. Hovland fits that description, ranking third in the field in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking. The wind will always be a major factor this week, and combatting the wind is another one of Vik’s strong suits. He ranks fourth in the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in windy conditions.
The concern for Hovland has been his around-the-green play, but he may have turned a corner recently. He has gained strokes around the green in three of his past four events. Hovland has also putt well on coastal tracks with slower greens throughout his career, which he will likely get this week.
Hovland is undoubtedly one of the most talented golfers in the world. Winning a major championship could be the first giant step toward what should be a hall-of-fame career.
Lee Westwood +5500 (Bet365)
At the 2019 Open Championship, we saw Shane Lowry earn an emotional victory in his home country of Ireland. This week, Lee Westwood will be looking to do the same thing in England.
The 48-year-old Englishman has had an excellent season with two second-place finishes back in March. Although he has cooled off since then, he showed last week in Scotland that he should not be a forgotten man this week at Royal St. George’s.
If there’s any event in which age is not a major factor, it’s the Open Championship. Westwood helped prove that by finishing fourth in 2019 at 46. The average age of winners is higher at The Open than any of the other three majors, and I am confident that age won’t preclude Westwood from coming out on top this week.
The putter has let Westwood down in the past, but he has been a better putter in Europe than in the United States. After gaining 4.8 strokes with the putter last week, Westy should be able to roll that momentum into the slower greens in England this week.
Without a win this week, Westwood will become the golfer who has the most major championship appearances without a victory. Golf is a game in which seemingly magical things can happen. A 48-year-old Westwood winning an Open Championship in his home country to avoid claiming that record would certainly fit that description.
Marc Leishman +6000 (Bet365)
Marc Leishman is a golfer who has what I covet most when making outright bets in golf: win equity.
Win equity is something bettors often overlook when betting golfers who may have stats that jump off the page but rarely win tournaments. Leishman is the antithesis of that. With six career PGA TOUR wins, he has gotten the most out of his talent to this point in his career.
Additionally, the Aussie should be a perfect fit for the 2021 Open Championship.
Historically, golfers who have won that season have won this event, and Leishman accomplished that at the Zurich Classic (with Cameron Smith as his partner). He also comes into the tournament with a strong finish in his most recent start, having finished third at the Travelers Championship, where he narrowly missed getting into the playoff.
The Open Championship is most definitely an event in which past success is important and may indicate future success. Nine of the past 10 Open winners have had a previous top 10 in the event. Leishman passes that test with flying colors, as he has three top-six finishes in past versions of the Open, including a playoff loss to Zach Johnson in 2015.
One of the most difficult aspects of Royal St. George’s is the pot bunkers on the course. The 37-year-old Australian has the necessary skill to manage those bunkers, as he ranks ninth in the field (past 24 rounds) in sand saves gained.
While driving the golf ball has been a concern for Leishman at times, he gained 4.5 strokes off the tee in his most recent start at the Travelers, indicating that his driver may have come around.
If Leishman gets himself in the mix on Sunday, he has the mettle to go toe-to-toe with an elite player and win the Claret Jug.