Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dustin Johnson.
- Dustin Johnson has the shortest British Open betting odds (+1200), but there's not a ton of value in that number.
- Tommy Fleetwood will be a very trendy pick at +2000, but at those odds, he's the worst value bet on the board.
- Henrik Stenson is a very intriguing play at +2500. He has the accuracy and length off the tee to make some major noise at Carnoustie.
As we enter the third major of the year, it’s a good time to take a look at how we’ve fared in the 2017-18 golf season. So far in this campaign, I’ve picked nine outright winners in my articles for The Action Network. We’ll try to keep it rolling with this week’s British Open at Carnoustie.
Favorites have reigned supreme of late at The Open Championship. The winner teed off on Thursday at +2800 or less in four of the past five Opens.
Last year, Jordan Spieth won as the co-favorite at +1400. Rory McIlroy also went off at +1400 in 2014 when he took down the title. Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson were also a part of that recent trend when they won at +2000 and +2800, respectively.
Those results run counter to a narrative that surrounds The Open Championship. We’ll see talk about how luck will be a factor with tee draws and weather splits because of how volatile the elements can be in this part of the world. But even with the potential for high winds and heavy rain, the stars have found a way to pull through.
Fading Guys at the Top
Heading into this week, we’re getting Dustin Johnson at the top of the betting odds at +1200. He’s followed by a group at +1600 that includes Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler.
I won’t be betting anyone in this initial group at the top. Johnson would be the best play in my mind if you’re dying to pick someone here. He’s an elite driver, and if he’s on with that club, he can keep the ball out of the deep rough and have a lot of short irons to attack this course.
Meanwhile, Spieth and McIlroy haven’t been in the best form. Neither has a top-10 finish in the last month. Fowler is always overvalued because of the sheer volume of bets he gets from casual golf fans at majors. Public bettors gravitate to Rickie, so just like with the popular teams in other sports, you’ll have to pay a bit of tax to back Team Rickie this week.
With Rose, I’ve got nothing but good things to say. He’s been in the top 10 in four straight events, including a win at Colonial. So what’s the problem? Just going back through the history of The Open, Nick Faldo is the only English golfer to win the Claret Jug since 1970. The added pressure that comes with Englishmen trying to win their home major appears to be real.
Maybe Rose is just at a level that can rise above it, but when only one person in nearly 50 years has won, it’s something worth considering, particularly when you have to pay such a steep price at the top of the board.
The Worst Value on the Board
Nine other players check in with odds in the 20s. Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood are all at +2000, and I’m not really liking any of them. Rahm would be the best play of this little group, but he’s still got work to do with the irons if he’s going to win a major.
Thomas hasn’t figured out the Open yet. In two starts, he hasn’t been inside the top 50 yet, so it’s tough to expect a victory out of him. And Fleetwood is probably the worst value on the board this week. I mentioned paying a tax to play Fowler, and you’d have to do that and then some to back Fleetwood.
A lot of European golfers get their odds cut at The Open because it’s closer to home. Couple that with Fleetwood owning the course record at Carnoustie and playing so well at the previous major, and you’ll see the public load up on him this week.
Like Rose, Fleetwood will also face that added pressure of trying to win his home major. He will probably receive more media requests this week than in all his PGA Tour starts put together. His true value is probably around 33-1 or 40-1.
An Automatic Top-20 Bet
Brooks Koepka is right behind them at +2200 and he’ll be an automatic top-20 bet for me around even money. Koepka’s game travels everywhere, and he’s the ultimate big game hunter on tour.
He has only three PGA wins, but two are U.S Open titles and he’s finished top-20 in 11 of his past 13 majors, including seven straight.
The Most Interesting To-Win Values
In the +2500 and +2800 group, we finally start getting into the group that interests me from a value standpoint. Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods are both at +2500, and I’ve really got my eye on Stenson. He’s so accurate with the 3-wood off the tee that he should be able to avoid most of the trouble at Carnoustie.
He’s already won an Open and has been on his game at the majors this year with finishes of fifth and sixth place. I’m going to be patient and wait until I find +3000 somewhere. Stenson just isn’t as popular as many of the names I’ve already mentioned here, so his number could drift.
Tiger isn’t really on my radar much this week. His good finishes have come in relatively weak fields, and he hasn’t put much together in the majors so far this year.
Jason Day, Sergio Garcia and Francesco Molinari close out this group at +2800. Two of them, Garcia and Molinari, are on my card already at bigger numbers from over the last month at +4000 and +5700.
Garcia lost in a playoff last time the Open was here in 2007, so he’ll be a popular play. The driver will play a large part in his ability to compete. If he’s hitting it long and straight, he’s as good of pick as anyone to win this week.
When it comes to Molinari, I don’t think anyone is playing better. He’s got two wins and two seconds in his past five tournaments. His ability to hit basically every fairway and green should be perfect here. If there was any concern, it might be with the distance off the tee. But this course is going to be dry, so the ball will run out forever. It will be far more important to keep drives in play than trying to bomb and gouge out of this rough.
Finally, Day is an interesting play. I don’t think he’ll be on many cards this week and could see his odds sliding into the 30s. I wish Day was hitting hit irons better. The approach game has been abysmal this year. But one of the big keys at The Open is the ability to scramble, and Day ranks first on tour in both strokes gained around the green and putting.
We remember a few years ago when Spieth seemed to hole every putt he looked at to win a couple majors, but what Day is doing this year with the short game trumps anything Spieth ever did during his hot streak. Day has already ridden that short game to a couple wins this season.
The only thing that will keep me away is his Open history. Day has 14 top-10s at the majors in his career, but just one of those came at The Open Championship.
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