The Open Championship represents the final major of the season and offers us a chance to see the top players compete overseas in links golf. The event is played over a rotation of courses, and this year it will take place in Sandwich, England (off the coast of the North Sea) at Royal St. George’s Golf Club. This venue was last seen in 2011 when Darren Clark won his first and only major title.
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The venue for the 2021 Open is Royal St. George’s, which will play as a par 70 at just over 7,200 yards. Like many Open venues, St. George’s has some treacherous bunkers and thick fescue that will heavily penalize even the slightest of off-center shots. This event can be hard to figure but it is worth pointing out that winners here tend to have lots of experience playing in this event, with seven of the last nine winners being of 32 years of age or older.
Experience certainly matters, but good form does too. Seven of the last eight winners of the Open had already recorded a Top-20 finish in one of the year’s prior majors. Good iron players and around the green specialists should excel at St. George’s, which has treated us to surprise winners (Darren Clark-2011, Ben Curtis-2003) the last two times it was seen.
Regardless of how you’re approaching things, I’ve written up my thoughts on this week’s DraftKings Sportsbook $50,000 pool and have tried to give you decisive picks and strategies to employ at each level. Hope you enjoy.
1. Which of the listed golfers will have the best finishing position?
- Jon Rahm
- Dustin Johnson
- Rory McIlroy
- Brooks Koepka
- Jordan Spieth
- Xander Schauffele
Jordan Spieth enters this event ranked 8th in SG: Approach stats and 5th in SG: Around the Green stats over the last 50 rounds. In short, he’s got great irons and is one of the best around the green players in the game. His game sets up perfectly for the finicky winds and bounces that links golf brings to the table. In seven Open appearances he’s never missed a cut and even finished T20 at the Open in 2019 when he was going through his massive slump. Having finished inside the top-20 in five of his last six starts, this isn’t a player I’d want to fade at this particular major.
Choice: Jordan Spieth
2. Which of the listed golfers will have the best finishing position?
- Bryson DeChambeau
- Justin Thomas
- Viktor Hovland
- Collin Morikawa
- Louis Oosthuizen
- Patrick Cantlay
Justin Thomas has really focused on improving his chances at this event over the last few years. In 2019 he came over early to Europe and played in the Scottish Open the week prior and finished T9 in Scotland and T11 at the Open. This year he’s followed the same plan and is coming off a T8 in Scotland last week. His around the green game has been very sharp all season and he ranks seventh in SG: Approach stats over the last 50 rounds as well. After slumping a bit mid-season it seems like he’s gained some confidence back with his putter as well. While taking the Major championship specialist Louis Oosthuizen here is tempting, Thomas is a top-5 player in the world and should be respected in this group, especially with his improving links game.
Choice: Justin Thomas
3. Which of the listed golfers will have the best finishing position?
- Tyrrell Hatton
- Paul Casey
- Tony Finau
All three of these men are solid golfers, making this a tough choice, even despite having fewer choices. Tony Finau has been hard to figure this year and is coming off two missed cuts, making him the first casualty for me. Both Casey and Hatton have been consistent in 2021, with Casey racking up a win and seven other top-10 finishes already on the year. Still, I’ll ever so slightly side with Hatton here who did make the cut in two of the year’s first three majors and is coming off a solid Scottish Open where he finished T18. This venue typically plays as one of the toughest on the Open rota and if tough conditions prevail again here it should favor Hatton.
Choice: Tyrrell Hatton
4. Who will have a better finishing position?
- Brooks Koepka
- Bryson DeChambeau
Bryson DeChambeau picked up a nice win in the exhibition match vs. Phil Mickelson and Tom Brady last week, but it’s been pretty clear that Brooks Koepka has held a form edge over him of late. Koepka comes in having finished T5 or better in three of his last four starts on the PGA TOUR and has gained +7.5 strokes or more ball-striking in each of his last two starts. Koepka’s Open Championship record is also far superior, as he’s finished inside the top-10 at this event two of the last three times it’s been played. For his part, Bryson’s best finish on the links is a T51 from 2018. While the rivalry will surely continue past this week, the edge on this true links test lands with Koepka, who figures to be in the mix here for the win.
Choice: Brooks Koepka
5. Bryson DeChambeau Finishing Position
- 51+ or does not make the cut
As mentioned above, Bryson isn’t exactly coming into this event with scorching hot form. The American hasn’t recorded a top-10 on the PGA TOUR since a T9 at the Wells Fargo in May and had a bad meltdown late Sunday at the last major. His last start on the PGA TOUR was also a missed cut (Rocket Mortgage) on a week where he split from his long-time caddie. Despite struggling of late though, he has finished between T18 and T26 in three of his last four starts and that’s generally where I’ve pegged him here. Bryson can bomb it off the tee but he’s also one of the most elite putters in the game, and that could save him on this treacherous course where greens in regulation will be hard to come by. A T25 for Bryson sounds about right this week to me.
6. Jon Rahm Finishing Position
- 51+ or does not make the cut
I pegged Rahm for a top-10 finish here simply because that’s pretty much all he ever does. Over his last 14 starts he’s now finished inside the top-10 on 10 occasions, an insane hit-rate that speaks to his insane talent and form. He has never experienced a ton of success at this major but did finish T11 in 2019. The confidence he gained from grabbing his first major win in June at the US Open should help him break through at golf’s most finicky major event.
7. How many hole in ones will there be?
- 2 or more
This will be one of the hardest props to dissect but I’ll make a go of it. If we listen to the stats on Royal St. George’s, hitting the greens here sounds like it will be chore. According to statistician Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf), the last two times the Open was played at Royal St. George’s the Greens in Regulation percentages were below 56% for the field for the week of the event. Those were the only two times since 2003 that the GIR%’s fell below 56%. In short, to make a hole in one you have to hit the green. The greens this week are some of the hardest to hit on the Open rota. Hence, going with the no fun answer of zero feels like the right call.
8. What will be the best single-round score of the tournament?
- 65 or better
- 66 or worse
The scoring this week looks like it will be tough, but the weather on the first two days could also give way to a decent round or two. Winds will stay around 15 mph for the most part and may even be calmer than that on Friday. Additionally, early week rain could make the course soft. Since RSG’s only plays as a par 70, we’re only in need of a 5-under-par round here to hit the low side of this prop. I think we’ll see at least one such round on the first two days before things toughen up on the weekend.
Choice: 65 or better
9. What will the winning margin be?
- 5 or more
With so much variance involved in links golf you’d expect to see tighter finishes be common. However, over the last five seasons only one event has ended with a winning margin of less than 2-strokes (2015-playoff). The last four winners here have won by two strokes or more and Shane Lowry won by a whopping six strokes in 2019. One golfer always tends to separate here eventually and I’d keep playing that trend by going with a multiple strokes answer here as well. Since Darren Clark won here by three strokes in 2011, I made that my choice as well just for symmetry purposes.
10. Score of the Cut Line
- +3 or better
- +4 or worse
The cut line at Royal St. George’s in 2011 was +4 and I’d expect that this year we’ll see the cut fall on a very similar line. I lean to the slightly lower scoring option though (of +3 or better) for a couple of reasons. First, with the influx of young stars in the game, you adjust for a slightly better field and even just slightly better scoring could push us a stroke better. Second, the weather on the first two days doesn’t look too bad (that could change though) and a lack of gale force winds and some wet greens could mean more birdie chances for the field early on. This one is awfully close for me and if the weather changed (for the worse) at all I’d probably lean to the +4 option.
Choice: +3 or better
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