It’s been two long years since Shane Lowry gleefully won the famous Claret Jug in front of an adoring Irish crowd, but at last, the long wait is over, with the world’s finest golfers set to commence battle at the 149th Open.
This year’s amphitheater is Royal St George’s, located on England’s Kent coastline, this is the first time The Open has returned to Royal St George’s since 2011. The tournament from ten years ago is well remembered, as it saw popular Irishman Darren Clarke, a 150-1 outsider winning an emotional first major.
Many will be hoping for similar drama this time around.
Royal St George’s was The Open’s first English-based course and in total there have been 13 iterations of the tournament held at the iconic venue. Past winners include Sandy Lyle, Greg Norman, and Ben Curtis. Interestingly out of the last five champions at Royal St George’s, only one (Greg Norman) has recorded a winning total lower than five under par, it all points towards another closely contested tournament.
The Open perhaps more than any other major has the ability to throw up a surprise winner, if you take a look at some of the past winners, names like Molinari, Lowry, Cink, Curtis, Hamilton, and Lawrie all stand out.
There are a couple of key reasons behind this. Firstly, links golf is so far removed from what players experience on the regular PGA Tour.
Expect harsh rough, pot bunkers, unpredictable British weather, multi-tiered greens and old school course designs all make The Open the unique challenge it is.
Secondly, there is the draw. With the weather being able to turn on a dime. There have been numerous examples of players setting off early in calm, benign conditions whereas those going out in the afternoon can experience gale-force winds! Some players will have the opportunity to benefit from good scoring conditions whereas others just a few hours later will be grinding to save par.
With all this in mind, we are casting our net wide to see which of the lesser fancied lights could make an unexpected run at this year’s tournament. Below are four long shot picks, all odds courtesy of Draft Kings Sportbook and correct at time of publishing.
Rickie Fowler +8500
We start our picks with a man who tends to play his best major golf at The Open, Rickie Fowler. Sadly Fowler is experiencing a downward spiral on a once much-hyped golfing career, but it’s The Open where Fowler has enjoyed his most consistent major success. Having played in ten Open’s, Fowler has been able to record three top 10 finishes, including a T6 at the last Open held back in 2019.
Fowler was playing in his second Open when the event was last held at Royal St George’s and had a great week finishing in T5. Despite now being ranked 100 in the world, Fowler does enter this week with some positive form lines. A T8 finish at the U.S. PGA was quickly followed by a T11 at The Memorial and T32 at The Rocket Mortgage.
Returning to a golfing setup that he clearly likes, Fowler has the game to compete this week, the challenge being whether he can string four good rounds together. Priced at +8500 for victory, +1200 for a top 5 and +650 for a top 10, I am hoping that Fowler’s putter can get hot. There are expected to be 32,000 fans in attendance for each round of the tournament and there will be no popular winner than if the charismatic American can break his major duck with a victory this week.
Robert MacIntyre +9000
MacIntyre has had a breakout 18 months across the European and PGA Tours. The young Scot currently finds himself just outside the world’s top 50.
In 2019 MacIntyre was the European Tour rookie of the year, thanks in part to a T6 finish at his first major, the 2019 Open. MacIntyre would go onto win his first European Tour title at the Aphrodite Hills Cyprus Showdown in 2020, before putting in some solid performances at the 2021 Masters (T12), U.S. PGA (T49), and U.S. Open T35th.
Growing up in Scotland, the weather and course will hold no fear, nor will MacIntyre’s mindset. 2021 has been a year where MacIntyre has been able to compete against the very best on regular occasions. Reflecting on a halved match against Dustin Johnson in the 2021 WGC Matchplay, MacIntyre stated;
“I’m a little disappointed not to win. But once we walk away from here and get in the car and drive back to the house, it’s going to be, you know what, I can compete with the best guys on the planet.”
Hoping that MacIntyre can build on his encouraging debut Open performance and his newly found self-belief, I think odds of +9000 for victory, +1200 for a top 5 finish, and +650 for a top 10 are generous and I think MacIntyre has a great chance of outperforming his odds.
Phil Mickelson + 11000
When conducting my research for this article, one name I didn’t expect to see so far down the betting list was Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, the Champion Golfer back in 2013 is teeing it up for his 27th Open and returns to a venue where he previously finished second. The challenge of The Open is made for a golfer like Mickelson, it allows him to put his full artistry to good effect and fully utilise his skill set to it’s maximum. Speaking of The Open it is clear to see that despite being the other side of 50, Mickelson still believes he has the game to compete and win;
“I think in The Open Championship, because it’s much more of a precision game and it’s impossible to overpower links golf, I feel like as you get older in your career you have more and more chances.”
A bet on Mickelson always comes with risks attached, particularly if the American is struggling off the tee and you would be hard pushed to believe that Mickelson will be able to win a second major in 2021. I still think his U.S. PGA victory might have taken a fair bit out of him, but the stats, past course form, and price are simply too big to ignore.
Mickelson will be hungry for more golfing glory and it’s rare you will find a multiple-majors winner at such a big price. Priced at +11000 for victory, +1600 for a top 5, and +800 for a top ten, Mickelson could be one of the bets of the week.
Victor Perez +20000
Similar to my earlier pick Robert MacIntyre, Victor Perez is a man who has enjoyed a stellar 18 months. Coming from relative obscurity to now being firmly ranked inside the world’s top 50, Perez is a man who could sneak under the radar this week.
Since enjoying a 4th place finish at 2021 WGC Matchplay, Perez’ form has stuttered a little with some solid if not spectacular performances at each of the seasons first three majors. This week’s Open will be the Frenchman’s first.
Perez clearly enjoys the links as he is a former Alfred Dunhill Links Champion, a tournament that sees the victor able to handle and conquer some of Scotland’s finest links courses. What’s even more interesting is that Perez in recent times has upped sticks and now calls Scotland home, regularly playing at Open venues such as Carnoustie when he isn’t in tournament action.
Of course there are risks attached by siding with Perez, his recent form is patchy at best and it will take something special for an Open rookie to claim victory at the first time of asking.
However, Perez’s links to form and ability to play whatever the conditions make me think that he is worth chancing with a small play. Priced at +20000 for victory, +3300 for a top 5, and +1400 for a top 10 finish, I think a placed finish could be the right way to go.
Passionate writer about golf and the PGA Tour, you won’t find me on the fairway but instead hacking my way round the course. Terrible driver of the ball, even worse putter.
Love all sports but have decided to make my sporting life as miserable as possible by supporting Tottenham Hotspur and the Dallas Cowboys, who between them have gone almost a century without a major league title.