Some betting and fantasy advice for the year's final major: the Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
Golf’s final major of the year takes center stage this week as the 148th British Open converges on Northern Ireland and Royal Portrush Golf Club.
The return to Portrush will mark the first time the Open Championship has been contested in Northern Ireland since 1951 when Englishman Max Faulkner won the Open at…Royal Portrush.
The Seaside links course hosted the Irish Open back in 2012 and has since undergone numerous changes, including a major renovation, in preparation for the Open Championship.
Francesco Molinari returns to the Open as the defending Champion Golfer of the Year after hoisting the Claret Jug a year ago at Carnoustie.
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy returns to Portrush as the Vegas favorite to win this year’s Open. He set the course record of 61 when he was just 16 years old back in 2005 at the North of Ireland Championship.
Three-time British Open winner Tiger Woods will also tee it up, marking just his fourth competitive event since his Masters win back in April. Woods has not played since a T21 finish at the U.S. Open and hasn’t won the Open Championship since 2006 at Royal Liverpool.
Nuts and bolts
Course: Royal Portrush Golf Club (7,317 yards, par 71)
Defending champion: Francesco Molinari
Weather forecast: Temperatures in the low 60’s with a chance of rain Thursday-Sunday.
Brooks Koepka (11/1, $12,200)
Brooks Koepka…in a major…that he’s not favored to win? I’ll take him until further notice. Though Koepka’s recent play has been concerning—T50, T57, 65 in his last three starts—those were all non-majors. Brooks has made no secret that he simply gets up for, and prepares for, majors in a way he can’t replicate on the regular Tour schedule. Statistically, He ranks 11th in strokes gained tee to green, sixth in greens in regulation and of course has the length to set up very manageable approach shots at Portrush. But there’s only one statistic that matters with Brooks: no worse than second in this year’s three majors, and five finishes of second or better in his last six major starts.
Justin Rose (23/1, $11,600)
After entering 2019 as one of the hottest golfers in the world, Rose won at Torrey Pines in January and then quickly cooled. His disappointing missed cut at the Masters was backed up with a T29 at the PGA Championship. But something happened in between May and June…Rose found his putter. The flat stick was electric at the U.S. Open, helping him finish T3 despite not being sharp with his ball striking.
I’m willing to bet that his swing gets straightened out this week at Portrush. Rose ranks fourth in strokes gained putting and first in putts per round, and he has two top 10s over his last four Open Championship’s including an easily forgotten T2 behind Francesco Molinari a year ago.
Xander Schauffele (30/1, $11,000)
While Brooks Koepka gets all of the headlines by winning recent majors, Schauffele is the often forgotten name that has consistently been in contention. Xander has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six major championships, including a T2 at last year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.
Along with performing well at the 2018 British, Schauffelle has run through 2019’majors with T2, T16 and T3 finishes at the Masters, PGA and U.S. Open, respectively. His game and mindset are perfect for the Open…patient yet explosive.
He ranks seventh in strokes gained total, 29th in strokes gained putting and 31st in greens in regulation. As we saw last year, Steady Eddie (or Frankie) often wins the race at the British. Xander fills that role perfectly this year at Portrush.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (55/1, $9,300)
The Spaniard is one of a few golfers in the field that has had previous success in a Tour event at Royal Portrush. Rafa finished T2 at 2012 Irish Open, four strokes behind winner Jamie Donaldson. He’s made the cut in six of seven career British Opens, including a T4 finish in 2017, and heads to this year’s Open playing some of the best golf of his career. Along with a T3 at the BMW International Open and a T4 at the Irish Open, Cabrera-Bello finished T9 at last week’s Scottish Open. He also brings a ball striking skillset perfect for the Open Championship, hitting nearly 70% of his greens in regulation throughout his career.
Andrew Putnam (135/1, $8,000)
Putnam has just one win under his PGA Tour belt, the 2018 Barracuda Championship, but has shown the game, and mainly the putting prowess, to suggest at can contend at the highest level.
Putnam currently ranks third in strokes gained putting, second in putting average and 20th in putts per round. He finished fourth at last week’s Scottish Open and has contended this season at both the Sony Open (second) and the Charles Schwab Challenge (T3).
Rory McIlroy (9/1, $12,000)
Hard to shy away from Northern Ireland’s native son, at a place where he set the course record at 16, but Rory has shown that when the external pressure is ramped up, he does not respond. Rory, the favorite, in his home country, is expected to win. He’s answered questions about it for months. It reminds me of his quest for the career Grand Slam at the Masters: massive expectations that have led to uninspiring results. I certainly could be wrong here, but to me it seems like there are too many distractions this week to jump on Rory at 9 to 1.