2021 Open Championship
The Masters will always be the Major which excites me most, but there are certain aspects of the Open Championship which makes it understandable why it would be the favourite of others. Not least the television coverage, which is pretty much wall to wall from dawn till dusk.
The Open can often have a distinct draw advantage which on occasion can rule out nearly half the field from having a realistic or fair shot at glory. The 2010 edition at St. Andrews very much springs to mind in that regard. There is also the luck element which can see good shots take a very unfortunate hop into trouble, and bad shots somehow end up in plum position. It won’t always even out over the 4 days, and that is much of the reason that patience and experience have been key to many victories in this Championship over the years. It is also a reason I am not keen on backing players at single figure prices in it.
Host course this year is Royal St. George’s Golf Club, a course which ranks highly on the difficulty scale of The Open rota. Maybe not as tough as a windy Carnoustie, but more likely to play ‘less easy’ than anywhere else due to the exposed nature of the location. With next to no protection from the elements, even a slight breeze will keep players relatively honest here, and I will be disappointed if Greg Norman’s superb winning score of -13 in 1993 is matched or bettered this week.
A Par 70 at 7200 yards, Royal St. George’s is a classical links layout, with undulations aplenty. As with any links there will be more than one way to golf your ball, but full control of it will be required. High towering shots that we see week in, week out on the PGA Tour, are unlikely to be the order of the day. A lot of ‘ground work’ and imagination on and around the greens will be required here.
Accurate iron play, and in particular avoiding the hazardous green side bunkers will be paramount this week. There won’t be many making par from those. I would expect the best scores of the week to come on the opening day. The course will be slightly softer than ideal, but that will hopefully dry out in what promises to be a warm week. Winds of 15-20mph will feel stronger on this exposed terrain, and dealing with that will also be something the winner must do well. The forecast now suggests they be even stronger than that. Things can change quickly by the coast though!
Open Championship experience, and essentially some of the positive variety, has been on the CV of most of the winners this past 20 years, and I would expect much the same here.
It will be a long 4 days for players and punters alike. Strap yourselves in and enjoy the ride! Head of the Market:
The logical starting place is of course with tournament favourite, Jon Rahm. The Spaniard captured his first Major title at the US Open just 4 weeks ago, and showed he hadn’t lost that vein of form at the Scottish last week. Many will have been disappointed he didn’t career away with that title at the Renaissance Club after a searing front 9 on Friday, but golf just ain’t that easy! We constantly hear talk of players dominating the game, when one of the worlds elite really hit from with a vengeance. However, the era of Tiger Woods simply won’t be replicated, and the merry-go round of world number one’s is likely to continue for some time yet.
Strange as it may sound for one of his standing, but it is becoming a slight worry that Rahm continues to come up shy when trying to close an event out from the front from an early stage. That would highly likely have been rectified at The Memorial he had to abort 6 weeks ago, but we don’t know that for sure. Happier hunting rather than being the hunted perhaps. Though he has some excellent links form, much of that has come when conditions have been benign and very scorable. He himself suggested after his second round last week that inexperience cost him on the tougher holes, that he didn’t quite know where to be missing it. This week won’t be a birdie fest, there will be misses, and he will have to control them. His Open record so far is another worry, and all told I really can’t have him as short as the 7/1 on offer. The most likely winner, yes. Value at the price he is? Not for me.
Rory McIlroy has been outright second favorite for most of the last few days, and still is in a good few places. I for one am not sure how. He arrives off the back of a very poor effort in Ireland, and a missed cut in Scotland. Hardly the preparation of a budding Open winner, and he just seems to be frittering too many needless shots away at the moment. His recent Open record is superb, his missed cut effort at Portrush both excusable and commendable, and really can’t be crabbed. He did arrive at Birkdale in 2017 in a similar vein of form to now, and finished 4th, but I just don’t see him eliminating the errors well enough to truly contend this week. He has now drifted a bit since yesterday, but that is justifiable.
Dustin Johnson could well have won here in 2011, but on the whole his Open record is pretty shabby. And it’s been getting worse rather than better. In his last 3 efforts, a total of 10 rounds, on only 3 occasions has he broken par. The same amount of times as he has failed to break 75. Worrying. As is his current form. Not for me.
Xander Schauffele. Certainly talented enough to win any of the 4 Majors, he has built up an enviable record of consistent high end finishes in the games most important events. But as is the case on the regular Tour, he is struggling to convert that good play into a W. A case could certainly be easily made for backing him each way with good place terms here, but I prefer a couple of others at around the same price.
Collin Morikawa would be one I would be looking to field against in match markets. I feel his putting will be found out around here, and his lack of experience will be a big drawback all told here for me.
Justin Thomas just doesn’t appear confident enough in his game at the moment to be capturing a Claret Jug, and he made little appeal.
Those Further Down:
I’m captain of the Viktor Hovland fan club, and loved the way he got the job done in Germany 2 weeks ago. But he too has no Open experience to draw upon, and though his short game has improved no end this past 12 months, I do wonder if he will struggle with the amount of ‘ground work’ he has to do around here.
It’s been awhile since we saw 33/1 on Brsyon DeChambeau, and he will have his supporters at that. He has been pretty flummoxed by this event on his 3 outings to date, and it seems he hasn’t yet perfected the non science of links golf.
I haven’t found room for Marc Leishman in the outright staking plan, but do like his chances this week. I will get him on side elsewhere. Similar comments apply to Tommy Fleetwood and Bernd Wiesberger.
Justin Rose was of some interest given how he has raised his game of late for the big ones, but compatriot Lee Westwood seems to have had the life squeezed out of his price and offers little appeal now.
Rickie Fowler could go very well, and if I was having one more outright bet, it would be him at 80/1. I thought he was superb here in 2011 when he played in the teeth of the worst conditions on Saturday afternoon, and was against the draw bias all week. He has really found some form of late, and his Top 10 at the US PGA is a formline that deserves much respect around here.
Longshots Worth a Look:
For those that want to add a few speculative wagers to their portfolio this week, Stewart Cink at 125/1 and Erik Van Rooyen at 200/1 would make most appeal. I have however decided to play both in submarkets instead. One at a massive price who may outperform those odds is Joel Dahmen.
Though Ben Curtis and Darren Clarke were both big priced winners here in 2003 and 2011 respectively, the places were filled with a lot of the game’s big names. I expect the cream to rise to the top here, and don’t like the idea of throwing stake money at a host of big priced players, who it would be very hard to make a legitimate case for.
I am very keen on 2 players towards the head of the market, two men who more than know how to get the job done in a Major Championship, and who I feel have the tools to tame this week’s test.
First of those is BROOKS KOEPKA. In relation to the recent Scottish Open, I feel Jon Rahm may very well have won had it been a Major. Not because he would have done anything different, but because he wouldn’t have. Others would have fluffed their lines to a greater degree, and that is the basis for why Brooks feels Majors are easier won than regulation events. Having been in contention in both the US PGA and US Open, and failing to get the job done, he will be extra keen to right those wrongs here this week.
Koepka suggests lack of motivation and concentration is the reason he doesn’t perform as well in those week to week tournaments, and I believe there is quite a bit of truth to his claim. He relishes a tough test, where Par is your friend, and where the mind has to be exercised to achieve it. RSG is very much that test, and with the added spur of not converting these recent chances, I believe we will see peak Brooks here this week. He has that all important positive Open experience, he was 4th in Portrush in 2019, 6th in Birkdale in 2017 and 10th at the Home of Golf 2 years prior to that. Injury kept him out of the 2016 edition, so he now has 3 top 10 finishes in his last 4 appearances in this Championship. He is certainly trending in the right direction,and everything looks in place for a very strong showing this time around. His approach play has been pretty much back to it’s best this season, and there is an aura about him again now which had been missing as he battled injury. Those woes seem to be behind him at the moment, or at least controlled, and on a layout which will demand length from the tee, accurate iron play, imagination around the greens, a strong putter and balls of steel, I really like the chances of him claiming his 5th Major. His record in these really can’t be overstated. Being 63 shots better than his closest rival in the past 5 years of Majors is a phenomenal feat, especially considering a few of those have been played carrying pretty serious injuries.
The 18/1 on offer to extended places is a very good bet in my eyes, and should be snapped up. Backing a fully fit, in form Koepka at those sort of prices in Majors will serve you very well indeed.
Very similar comments apply to JORDAN SPIETH. A 3 time Major winner, he has had troubles of his own. His displays this season have been a joy to watch and he has now racked up 13 Top 30 finishes in his last 14 starts. Given his waywardness and inconsistencies of the two years prior, that is a remarkable turnaround. He also gained that all important next win during that spell, as the well had run dry since he magicked up that amazing victory in this event at Birkdale in 2017. It has appeared to be a benefit to play the week prior to The Open, though Spieth himself didn’t 4 years ago, and if I had faith in any player in the world to be ready for a target, this is the man I would pick.
I love this weeks venue when it comes to Jordan’s chances. Imagination from 40 yards in will be paramount, and the execution of those shots will make or break a players card. This is where I expect Spieth to shine, and with experience and patience that belies his still tender years, he won’t let any bad bounces get the better of him. Not only winner of this event in 2017, but he also threatened victory in 2015 at St Andrews, and posted a 9th place finish at Carnoustie 3 years ago. He has that perfect blend of positive Open results, temperament and imagination in spades, the cajones to get the job done, and his recent results show he brings plenty of current form to the table. His last 7 outings have seen him win the Texas Open, finish 3rd at Augusta, 9th at the Byron Nelson and runner up in the Charles Schwab. The ‘disappointing’ weeks have seen him post Top 20s at the US Open and Memorial and a Top 30 at the PGA on a course which doesn’t suit his game. I will be surprised if he doesn’t contend once again this week, and as others make bogeys from tricky positions when the pressure comes on, expect Jordan to keep conjuring up those crucial pars with his magical short game.
It’s Major winners only in my outright portfolio this week, and the third man in is defending champion SHANE LOWRY. His best finish yet at Augusta has really kickstarted the season of the Portrush conqueror, and he too is trending in the right direction. 9th at the RBC Heritage, 4th at the PGA and 6th at the Memorial, it’s a run of form which will send the Irishman here in a very confident mood indeed. In what can only be described as an example of how unpredictable the game can be, Lowry had missed 4 consecutive cuts in this event prior to that win two years ago. His links pedigree is there for all to see, between that memorable win at Baltray and many a good performance in the Alfred Dunhill, and he has now added the proof that he can handle the pressure this Championship throws at the competitors.
Lowry is also a bit like Brooks in that he can go missing in ‘lesser’ events, but even though he hasn’t won in the two years since the last Open, he has posted his best finishes in the best events. A nice run out at Mount Juliet will have set him up very nicely for this and I can envisage a very stern defence of his title. At 40/1, I am keen to have him on the team sheet.
Last outright selection for me this week is a regular on my pages, and a player who has more than repaid that faith over the last couple of years, PATRICK REED. The man they love to hate, will himself love the test he will be faced with this week. 14th in strokes gained around the green this term, and 9th in putting, Reed like Spieth will salvage far more lost causes than most this week. He will relish the canvas this week, which will allow him to use whatever method he wants (bar cheating, maybe) to get the job done. 12th in 2016, and 10th behind Lowry on his latest attempt, he now has 4 top 30s in his last 5 Opens, and he has firmly got the hang of the gig. He has been playing well these past couple of months at the Tours toughest layouts. 8th at Augusta, 6th at Quail Hollow, 5th at Muirfield and 17th at Kiawah Island, he cranks it up a gear when the occasion demands. Ian Poulter played very well last week in Scotland, and with the Ryder Cup looming I expect Reed to have a productive spell over the next month or so. Another who knows how to get the job done on the biggest stage, barring a poor draw weatherwise he may very well have another opportunity to showcase that here. With 7 consecutive top 20s in the last 7 Majors, he is very much knocking on the door. Given that consistency, the 40/1 on offer to 8 places looks too big.
That is all for me in the outright market.
I am going to start with what is my strongest of these sub market bets. I feel ROBERT MCINTYRE could have this done and dusted by Friday evening such is the lack of credible opposition. The lack of that opposition has much to do with the nature of this week’s test. An Open is very much a horses for courses event, and though I am often in the Brian Harman camp, he simply doesn’t thrive on links terrain. He has missed his last 4 cuts in this Championship and on only occasion in those 4 years has he broken par. Last week he teed up at the John Deere which should have suited his game down to the ground. A missed cut there adds further worry. He can be passed over here.
Garrick Higgo is an exciting young talent, but one who appears to have gone slightly off the boil in the last few weeks, missing 3 cuts from his last 4. He’s been busy too, playing each of the last 5 weeks, and all told he just hasn’t had the ideal Open prep. That he makes his tournament debut here is another big drawback, and unlike the selection he wasn’t brought up playing links golf. He did play the Amateur Open here in 2017 (as did McIntyre), but it wouldbe hard to draw any positives from his first round 3&2 defeat to the unknown Matius Honkala. He will have his time, but I don’t think this week will be it. Phil Mickelson sprung a curve ball at the US PGA, a bolt from the blue. His other displays recently have been pretty woeful, and unless a return to Sandwich reignites him, it’s hard to see him contending here. Either side of that Kiawah win, his results have been MC/69/MC/62/61/74. He has beaten a grand total of 32 players home over the weekend at those 6 events. He will need to do a sight better to land odds of just 3/1 here. His links record is excellent, but I’m very sceptical about him producing his best here.
McIntyre will be right at home on this undulating layout. A superb 6th on Open debut in 2019, he is likely to have a successful career in this Championship. I feel he may be slightly over hyped by the British media at this stage, but his claims this week are very obvious indeed. He’s clearly not afraid of the big stage either, in his 6 major championship appearances to date, he is yet to miss a cut. That could very well be good enough to land this section. A very credible 18th last week at the Scottish, all looks set fair for another good week here. 2/1 is a decent wager that it beats the rest of the lefties.
A very competitive section yet again, where cases could be made for quite a few of the contenders. I have two selections here, and both are very much price driven.
Without dismissing the chances of the likes of Fitzpatrick, Westwood, Rose and to a lesser extent Casey, I do feel TOMMY FLEETWOOD should be the shortest price of the English contingent to land this week’s title, and in turn feel he should be favourite for this week’s section. He isn’t, and at as high as 13/2, he warrants backing.
Surprisingly given how well suited his game is to links golf, and his performances at the Alfred Dunhill and Gleneagles in the past, Tommy missed his first 3 cuts at this event. He has very much grasped the nettle since 2017 though, with an ever improving set of results reading 27/12/2. He was the only player to pose any threat to Shane Lowry last time at Portrush, and that display will have him full of confidence arriving here. His scrambling is up there with the likes of the defending champ, and Pat Reed, and I do like his chances here this week. He didn’t quite make the outright team, but I am more than happy to get him on side here.
My second selection here is more speculative, but at 50/1 I couldn’t resist a few pounds each way on MARCUS ARMITAGE. The likeable Englishman has missed both his cuts at Major Championships to date, but his showing at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago was better than that weekend off suggested. His iron play was very good indeed, and that will stand him in good stead here. A winner as recently as last month at the Porsche European Open, he has warmed up for this with two solid outings in Ireland and Scotland. He won’t have the pressure and expectation on his shoulders that some of his more illustrious compatriots have here, and I can see him freewheeling into the weekend, and certainly not disgracing himself. Aside from the obvious win in Germany, one of his best results on the Euro Tour was his display at the 2017 Irish Open at Portstewart, and that bodes well for his chance here. At 50/1 I am prepared to take my chances.
Top Continental Euro:
Admittedly Jon Rahm is a bit of a cock block here, but in the belief that he has been put in too short this week and his Open record is not all that yet, I feel he is also a bit tight in this market. With Viktor Hovland having the worry about lack of experience and potentially too much to do around the greens, it gives a nice shape to this section.
As was the case in the English market, I have gone with two selections here.
First up is a man with a stellar Open record, SERGIO GARCIA. Very much in keeping with my outright selections, he not only has that positive record in this event, but also has a Major title to his name. 9th here in 2011, and 10th in 2003, he has a total of 10 top 10 finishes in 20 Opens. Quite impressive indeed. I am also somewhat prepared to forget his last 3 also, as all his Major results from winning the 2017 Masters had been very poor prior to his recent display at Torrey where a final round 68 may represent a turning of the corner for the Spaniard. It was his best result at a Major Championship since that Augusta win, and I feel that will put him in a much better place coming to this event, one which still must be his best chance of another. He will have absolutely no problem dealing with the forecast wind, and if he brings a behaving putter to town this week, he could well ruffle a few feathers.
BERND WIESBERGER is a multiple winner on the European Tour who has a better record in Majors and WGCs than the market suggests. He hasn’t missed many cuts in those elite events in recent years, and his price is a bit dismissive this week. Yes he may be slightly more comfortable on easier layouts, when attacking the pins is the only way forward, but he was 32nd at Portrush and if he can once again improve on that he may not be far away in this section. He was a well backed 30/1 shot in Scotland last week, and though never really contending he didn’t have a bad week. In relation to his position in the market 7 days ago, I find his odds have been inflated too much ahead of this week. At 18/1 with 4 places available, I am prepared to play him in a section which I don’t feel has too much strength in depth to it.
Top 20 Finish:
STEWART CINK has been enjoying a real renaissance of late, and the 2009 winner will fancy his chances of notching a 3rd win of the season. Maybe that might be a stretch for the 48 year old, but I could certainly see him garnering his 6th top 20 in his last 21 appearances. In very few of those years has he arrived in the type of form he is showing this term, and odds of 4/1 underestimate his chances in my opinion.
With quite a bit of wind in the forecast, Cink’s bank of Open experience alongside wins in such conditions at Hilton Head are a massive plus. He has seen it all before and won’t be throwing the toys out of the pram if things go slightly awry at times. 12th at Augusta, he also made the cut at the US Open and PGA and his game is in a good place at the minute. At a course that demands patience aplenty, Cink will simply hang around whilst others fall away.
Top South African:
Louis Oosthuizen is a former Open champ, but that win in 2010 at St Andrews and his playoff defeat at the same venue in 2015 are his only two top 15 finishes in this Championship. A case of that venue rather than links golf in general suiting the South African maybe. He has had a wonderful time in the majors this season, but that is more than reflected in his odds for me, and he can be taken on at just 2/1 here.
Garrick Higgo once again takes up a chunk of this market, and again I am keen to field against him here. Branden Grace will have his supporters and is definitely more of a danger for me, but at the prices ERIK VAN ROOYEN is the man I want to be with.
EVR has played in two Open Championships, and performed with serious credit in both, finishing 17th at Carnoustie in 2018 and 20th at Portrush a year later. His recent 10th at Congaree suggests his best isn’t far from the surface, and returning to links golf which he clearly relishes, may see him produce just that this week. Outside the top 6 in this market is very weak indeed, and playing Van Rooyen each way with 3 places at 12/1 seems like the way forward.
Marc Leishman was certainly in contention for outright selection, and as of yet I haven’t played him anywhere. It is here that he appeals most, and the 15/4 on offer with 365/WH is just about acceptable. I had been hoping for 9/2 to play him though, and will try to attain that on Betfair. Anyone backing, don’t look for under that as it will only push the price in unnecessarily on others. Those markets on the exchange should firm up by tomorrow afternoon, when hopefully decent money will be available at 5.5.
2pts ew Brooks Koepka 18/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH) **recommended Monday *16/1+ to 8+ places acceptable and generally available
2pts ew Jordan Spieth 20/1 (⅕ odds 9 places, WH) *18/1+ to 8+ places acceptable
1pt ew Shane Lowry 35/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365) **The 40/1 has dried up with 365, but 45/1 is available with a few internet firms to less places. I wouldn’t take less than 35/1. Currently 55 on Betfair win market, and 5.5 for a Top 10 there is another option.
1pt ew Patrick Reed 40/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, 365/MansionBet) *35/1 10 places with Betfred also acceptable. May also be attainable on Betfair EW 10 place market on the exchange.
7pts Robert McIntyre 2/1 (365/888/WH/Boyles) *Currently 9/4 with Skybet for those that can avail of that Top English:
3pts Tommy Fleetwood 13/2 (Coral/Lads/MansionBet/SportNation) *General 6/1 acceptable .4pt ew Marcus Armitage 50/1 (⅕ odds 4 places, PP/BFSB/Skybet/888/WH) *40/1+ acceptable Top Continental European:
2pts ew Sergio Garcia 10/1 (⅕ odds 4 places, Skybet/888/Coral/Lads) *8/1+ acceptable 1pt ew Bernd Wiesberger 18/1 (⅕ odds 4 places, 365/Boyles/Coral/Lads)
Top 20 Finish:
4pts Stewart Cink 4/1 (365/BV/Boyles/Coral/Lads) *Currently 5.7 on Betfair Exchange Top South African:
1.6pts ew Erik Van Rooyen 12/1 (¼ odds 3 places, Skybet/888/BFSB/PP/Betway/Boyles)
2021 Running Totals:
Best of luck all, I will be back with the 3M Open next Tuesday. I will again send the full preview out at 5.30pm.