The Open Championship Round 2 Best Bets: Buy Xander Schauffele and Justin Thomas to Make Moves
Oisin Keniry/Getty Images. Pictured: Xander Schauffele
The 149th Open Championship at Royal St. George’s started out much easier than anticipated on Thursday morning as soft conditions made the course scoreable for the morning tee times. Several players would jump out to low rounds on the Par 70 as the early wave played the course to just 0.23 shots over par, while it played nearly a stroke and a half tougher for the afternoon tee times.
Louis Oosthuizen took the most advantage of his early start time as he shot a bogey-free 64 to take a one-shot lead through 18 holes. The South African is seeking his second career major win this week, but certainly has company after the first round as Jordan Spieth and Brian Harman posted matching 5-under rounds to start their Open Championship. A group of five players will start Friday’s second round two shots back of the leaders, including Webb Simpson, who shot the best round in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, we don’t have strokes gained data this week as there is no shotlink for this tournament, so I’ll try to use more traditional data in a best bets format after each round. The weather will continue to be a key the rest of the week, but the decision on if they water the course may be just as important. The fairways and greens were soft by Open standards in the opening round, and seemed to firm up in the afternoon. If the course is allowed to dry out, conditions will get tougher, but that should still favor the morning tee times on Friday.
3 Best Bets
Xander Schauffele +550 Top 5 (BetMGM)
One of the most reliable players in major championships for the last few years has been Xander Schauffele. He hasn’t been able to close any with a win — in majors or any other event for that matter — but he seems to always be right in the mix. Schauffele got off to a bit of a slow start on Thursday at Royal St. George’s and the way it happened was the biggest surprise.
Schauffele hit only 10 greens in regulation in his opening round, which is a surprising number for one of the best iron players in the world. It really kept him from being able to get anything going in his round, and kept him around level par for most of the day. He was able to sneak under par with a birdie on the 17th hole, to position him just five shots back of the leader going into Friday. I expect he will bounce back on approach in the second round, and get himself in the mix heading into the weekend. I’m not one who is going to jump in for him to get the win, though the +3000 available on BetMGM is much more reasonable than his pre-tournament price. I’ll instead take a stab at him climbing into his cozy Top 5 slot by Sunday afternoon.
Justin Thomas Top 20 +250 (DraftKings)
If there is one player who fits our buy mold from traditional statistics going into the second round, it is definitely Justin Thomas. He was one of the leaders across the field in hitting greens in regulation on Thursday and hit better than 64% of his fairways, but was one of the worst putters on the day. Thomas averaged 1.94 putts per green, which was more than a quarter-stroke worse than field average. This has been an issue that has plagued JT this season, but he traditionally putts well on slower greens and had a good week last week at the Scottish Open. He will be pressed to move up the leaderboard on Friday if he wants to play the weekend and he is a player who can go low at any time.
I’ll be buying JT to bounce back with a low round on Friday morning, and he will be a core play for me in DFS Showdown. My favorite tournament play is a Top 20 at +250 available on DraftKings, and if you are really feeling it, +700 for a Top 10 certainly isn’t out of the realm of realistic possibilities with 54 holes still to play.
Paul Casey -106 over Ian Poulter (DraftKings)
Now that we have a couple of morning guys looking to move up the leaderboard, let’s get an afternoon matchup to exploit. Paul Casey is just a slight favorite over Ian Poulter in the second round, and this is one I will look to attack. Poulter was simply awful with his irons on Thursday as he hit only one-third of his greens in regulation, despite hitting the fairway on more than 85% of his drives. While we know that things were pretty good in Scotland last week for Poults, he has been inconsistent all year on approach and went into last week off of back-to-back tournaments losing more than a stroke to the field with his irons. He won’t be able to get away with that play this week, especially as things firm up in the afternoon.
Casey, on the other hand, has been one of the best drivers of the ball all year, but was a bit slow out of the gates in the opening round. He hit just eight fairways to start his Open week, but was able to still convert that into an 83% greens in regulation rate. I have more faith that he bounces back off the tee and continues his hot ball striking than I do that Poulter makes a turnaround.