Fairways that run for days. Rough that will hold on tight to your feet, ankles and knees, not to mention your golf balls. Deep — make that DEEP — bunkers. Mounds and hills and their ups and downs.
And wind. Lord, the wind. That gentle breeze you feel against your cheek can turn around and slap your ball down faster than you can say DeChambeau.
In other words, this isn’t the John Deere Classic.
It’s Open Championship week, with the 149th playing beginning Thursday at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England. And with it comes links-style golf, which is rarely played professionally, especially on the PGA Tour. Add to that the fact that last year’s Open was canceled due to the pandemic, and you’re left with a couple of questions:
How will the players adjust?
And, most importantly, at least in terms of this article, how can bettors adjust?
To help, me and two of my fellow GOLF.com staffers, Josh Sens and Josh Berhow, answered the following question, with the answers below it:
What other things are you looking at this week as a bettor considering players don’t play links-style courses often, and especially considering the Open Championship was canceled last year?
Nick Piastowski: A couple things. Will Zalatoris, at the Scottish Open, admitted that he has rarely played true links-style golf before — but it’s not like he had never played with wind and running fairways. “It’s kind of similar to actually how we play in the wintertime back home,” he said. “You know, Texas is very dry, and so we get a lot of wind, fog. Gets a little firm. Got to keep it on the ground, keep it underneath the wind.” With that said, I’m looking at players who aren’t afraid to mix it up a bit. And I also look at heat. Good recent play tends to play anywhere.
Josh Berhow: The easy fallback is current form. Always current form. These guys are the best in the world. So if someone like, say, John Birdiemaker, is playing out of his mind but doesn’t have a lot of reps at a certain venue or style of course, I’d still pick Mr. Birdiemaker to contend in a tournament held in a parking lot. Strong form equals big-time confidence. It’s a lethal combination.
Josh Sens: Current form is a key factor, for sure. To that, I’d add course conditions. This summer in Sandwich has been one of the wettest in recent memory, and word is that the course is playing relatively soft. If the current forecast holds, we also won’t be looking at any severe winds or weather, so traditional links experience might be less important than we’d otherwise expect. The other consideration, I think, is outside motivation. It’s a Ryder Cup year. Guys have extra reason to try to impress. I’m thinking in particular about Ian Poulter, who at this point would need a captain’s pick to make the team. He finished just off the lead at the Scottish Open last week. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t look to Poulter in a stroke-play event. But I’m tempted to put a few pounds on him this week.
To help your Open Championship betting further, members of our staff have each made a to-win bet using odds from BetMGM to help you with your own weekly picks, whether those are for a low-stakes office fantasy league, or (legal!) big-bucks bets with a sportsbook. In addition, should you bet through BetMGM, the online sportsbook is offering a “Bet $20 Win $100 on any Bet” promotion.
On to the picks:
To-win: Louis Oosthuizen, +2,800. It was a disappointing U.S. Open finish for Louis Oosthuizen, who stumbled down the stretch and lost to Jon Rahm, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s played brilliant golf this summer. In his four starts in May and June, he was 2nd twice, 8th and 18th. His only major victory came in an Open Championship. Maybe his second will be too.
To-win: Patrick Reed, +3,000. Ah, the return of the old “ground game” argument. For what it’s worth, I think that picking a player purely on his ability to navigate the conditions is typically a bad idea — particularly when Jon Rahm is playing the best golf of anybody alive. That said, it does seem like Reed’s game is a unique fit for the tournament and the moment, and a win here would surely add a sprinkle of Ryder Cup flavor.
To-win: Xander Schauffele, +1,800. He seems to have ditched the arm-lock putting experiment. He’s built for major championship pressure and for links golf. He’s going to win.
To-win: Patrick Reed, +3,000. I said during the U.S. Open that I would put Brooks Koepka in this spot for every single major until he retires, and then maybe even after that, and I still believe that’s a solid choice. But Reed’s the play this week. I want someone with touch around the greens, and no one does it better than the Cap.
To-win: Patrick Reed, +3,000. It’s been a while since Reed has made any significant noise in the golf world. A rare lull for him. His game is quietly doing the talking these days as he continues to be one of the most consistent players in the world. Guys who are able to get a little creative with their shot selection, especially around the greens, tend to perform well in the Open. Hence why I’m riding with Reed.
To-win: Brooks Koepka, +1,850. Jon Rahm is the most obvious choice. But since the most obvious thing rarely happens in an Open, I’ll take the second-most obvious.
To-win: Dustin Johnson, +2,250. While DJ hasn’t performed up to his standards in the majors so far this year (cut, cut, T19), he finished T2 the last time the Open Championship was held at Royal St. George’s, in 2011. He obviously plays the course well, and his overall game has improved immensely in the past 10 years. I’m looking for DJ to turn his 2021 around with a win at the Open this week.
To-win: Justin Thomas, +2,050. Has gone bogey-free in his past 26 holes and posted a T8 last week at the Scottish Open. Have a good feeling JT picks up his second major at Royal St. George’s.
To-win: Jon Rahm, +800. It’s the Summer of Rahm. Get on board.