Sandwich, UK – Royal St. George’s Golf Club plays host this week to the 149th Open Championship, and here I have my Open Championship Betting preview for you. The club itself is steeped in history having hosted 14 previous Open Championships. It was founded in 1887 and hosted its first Open in 1894, won by John Henry Taylor. One of Royal St. George’s most famous members was Ian Fleming, and the author of the James Bond series even used the course as a setting for a match between Bond and the main villian in his novel, “Goldfinger.”
Royal St. Geroge’s Golf Club
Past Open winners here include some big names. Harry Vardon (1899, 1911) and Walter Hagen (1922, 1928) both won twice at this venue, but more recently, Greg Norman won The Open here in ’93 with Darren Clarke winning when Royal St. George’s last hosted The Open in 2011. Norman’s four-day total of 267 strokes (-13) in ’93 was the lowest in the history of this event at this location. Taylor shot a 326 when he won the first Open here in 1894. Taylor also earned a whopping 30 English Pounds (approx. $41 USD today) for his victory. This week’s winner will pocket just over $2,000,000 USD. Betting The Open Championship may not be as lucrative as winning it, but hopefully, we can all make a few bucks this weekend.
Royal St. George’s this year will be playing at 7,189 yards to a par of 70. There have been a dozen withdrawals leading up to this week’s event, including Major Champions Zach Johnson (COVID), Bubba Watson (contact tracing), and Hideki Matsuyama (fatigue), but most of the other big names will be there. This includes PGA Champion Phil Mickelson, who tied for 2nd here in 2011, and U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm.
It has not always been the most well-liked stop for the players, however. The undulating fairways and unpredictable wind can make it very frustrating at times with good shots turning into bad shots due to the elements. Four-time Major winner, Brooks Koepka, said of Royal St. George’s, “…quite a few blind tee shots, kind of hitting to nothing…it’s not my favorite of the rotation…” Three-time Champion Golfer of the Year, Gary Player, called Royal St. George’s one of the “easiest” courses in the Open rotation, however. Tell that to Jack Nicklaus, who shot an opening-round 83 here in the 1981 Open. The fairways are wide, which will help when the winds pick up, but many of the bunkers are unforgiving and could create some big scores. As opposed to the U.S. Open where they were actually aiming for bunkers, I think the basic strategy is to stay clear of them, and you may have a chance to go low.
Betting the 2021 Open Championship – The Open tends to bring out the longshots and the veterans and is probably the most difficult to predict of the Major championships. The average age of the Open winner is 35.7 years old, compared to 27.8 for U.S. Open champions, and the average pre-tournament odds of the winners have been 60-1. To boot, 14 of the last 20 Claret Jug winners have won previously during that season. Shane Lowry won the 2019 Open at 80-1 odds, and he was 33 years old at the time. Lowry is currently 40-1 to repeat. The elements are the great equalizer here, and it often comes down to mental fortitude and one’s ability to avoid major trouble down the stretch. And oftentimes with wide-open fields like this one tends to be, Top-10 or Top-20 bets are often more profitable than trying to catch lightning in a bottle with a 60-1 longshot. Even my premium Golf picks are on head-to-head match-ups. Clarke was the 111th-ranked player in the world when he won here in 2011, and Ben Curtis won here in 2003 as the 396th-ranked player in the world.
Who are the betting favorites? Rahm (7-1) is rightfully the betting favorite for the second straight Major. His performance down the stretch at Torrey Pines has to have him feeling good about his chances. And hey, the big Spaniard is stroking the ball as well as anybody has this year.
Brooks Koepka (16-1) is looking to add the Claret Jug to his cache of hardware, and if you’ve watched any Major golf over the past several years, you were likely to see Brooks in the hunt on Sunday. He seems to be past his knee issues and is as likely as anyone to be there again on Sunday afternoon. Koepka is a big-game hunter (half of his wins on Tour are Majors), and you know he dearly wants this one. Just because he doesn’t like the course, it doesn’t mean he can’t play it. Koepka has three career Top-10s at The Open, including a T4 at the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush.
Jordan Spieth (14-1) has been getting a lot of love from bettors this week. The 2017 Champion Golfer of the Year (Royal Birkdale) has been in fine form for most of the season, and with the way he can roll the ball on and around the greens, Spieth has been installed as one of the betting favorites this week. Spieth has two other Top-10 finishes in his seven Open appearances.
Dustin Johnson (18-1) tied for 2nd, with Mickelson, here in 2011, so his confidence should be high this week. DJ has three Top-10s at the Open, but none since a T9 in 2016. By a quirk in the ranking system, he is the current #1-ranked golfer in the world. Most casual fans, I think, would even tell you that Rahm is atop the Golf World right now, but the fact that a week or two off places DJ back on top tells you how close he was, to begin with.
Rory McIlroy (18-1) is again one of the top betting favorites. Despite not having any recent big wins, Rory did finish inside the Top-10 in two of the three Majors played in 2020. He missed the cut at the Masters this year, but McIlroy did show strong last month with a T7 finish at the U.S. Open, and he has five Top-10s at The Open in his 11 appearances, including a win in 2014 at Royal Liverpool.
Justin Thomas (20-1) has never finished in the Top-10 at the Open, but a strong showing at the Scottish Open last weekend has him thinking big things here. In all fairness to JT, he did get himself a T11 at the 2019 Open, and he has been playing a lot more overseas events in an effort to produce stronger showings at this event. Thomas’ ability to scramble around the greens keeps him in rounds, and he seems to have found his driver again.
Any longshots? As stated above, The Open is usually a longshot’s delight. Longshot + elder statesman = Phil Mickelson…right? Phil (80-1) only has four Top-10 finishes in this event in 26 tries. He did lift the Jug at Muirfield in 2013 and is in a good place mentally at this point in his career. A few other competitors to keep on your list of longshots to consider are Harris English (60-1), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (80-1), and Sergio Garcia (70-1). English is quietly having a great year with two wins and a 3rd-place finish at the U.S. Open. He’s also made four of five Open cuts and is a tremendous value at +6000. Bezuidenhout is one of the purest ball-strikers on Tour, and if he’s rolling the ball with any consistency at Royal St. George’s, it will be no surprise to see the South African playing with the leaders over the weekend. He faltered down the stretch of the U.S. Open, but he was in the hunt on Sunday morning. Meanwhile, Sergio’s record at the Open is outstanding. Though he has yet to win the Claret Jug, Garcia has 10 Top-10s in 22 Open starts, including at the ’03 and ’11 Opens here at Royal St. George’s, and a pair of runner-up finishes. Garcia is a proven links player and is surely looking forward to this week.
The first tee times are set for approximately 11:30pm ET on Wednesday night, so make sure you are stocked up on coffee and donuts…or is it tea and crumpets? And be sure to get your Open Championship betting in by then.