Associated Press

2017 Open Championship Preview

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It’s the oldest major in golf and the most recognizable trophy in the sport.  It’s a course next to the Irish Sea whose defining characteristic – the weather – can change by the hour. It’s a field that includes some of the most accomplished golfers in the world. 

The 146th Open Championship returns to NBC Sports this week with coverage from Thursday to Sunday on the Golf Channel and NBC.

WATCH: First round of The Open (Thursday at 1 a.m. ET on Golf Channel)

For those hoping to raise the Claret Jug in 2017, the Open arrives at an interesting time. Would-be favorites such as Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are mired in slumps, while the list of contenders includes breakout stars like U.S. Open-winner Brooks Koepka, and Tommy Fleetwood who is playing on his home course at Royal Birkdale.

The course could provide some of the most enduring memories for the 2017 Open, with the forecast calling for rain and wind throughout the weekend. Royal Birkdale has a reputation for extreme weather. Arnold Palmer’s Open-victory in 1961 is of course remembered for torrential rain. His unbelievable recovery shot from a thicket is still marked by a plaque on the 16th hole.  Later trips to Royal Birkdale included brush fires in 1976 and turbulent winds that challenged golfers in 1998.

Think of it as an 18-hole microcosm of what the Open Championship is all about.

Searching for glory between the raindrops will be defending champion Henrik Stenson, who held off Phil Mickelson to win at Royal Troon in 2016. They’re just a few of the veterans who could thrive at the Open, which has traditionally been the friendliest major to older players.

There should be several interesting pairings to keep an eye on during the first two days of the tournament, including Stenson and Jordan Spieth going off together on Thursday and Friday. Another star-studded trio includes world number one Dustin Johnson alongside McIlroy and Charl Schwartzel.

First round coverage of the 2017 Open Championship begins Thursday at midnight on the Golf Channel and continues over the weekend on NBC.

Five Open Favorites to Watch:

Dustin Johnson – The world number one is looking to win his second major after withdrawing from The Masters and missing the cut at the U.S. Open last month.

Rory McIlroy – Despite a run of poor form, McIlory has dominated these difficult links courses before, with an Open Championship win in 2014 and top five finish at Royal Troon in 2016.

Jordan Spieth– His Travelers Championship victory reintroduced Spieth to the casual fan, but he’s made the cut at his last four Open Championships and is a favorite again in 2017.

Sergio Garcia– The Masters winner is getting married next week, but would love to add some hardware at Royal Birkdale first. He’s looking for his 11th career top ten finish at the Open Championship.

Rickie Fowler– While Fowler has a made a career of performing well in majors without winning, he’s coming off a top-five U.S. Open finish at Erin Hills and has a real shot at the Claret Jug.

Tiger Woods behind favorites for 2018 U.S. Open

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Tiger Woods is a step back of the betting favorites for the 2018 U.S. Open at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. as the world’s top golfers get set to compete in the second major of the season this week at Shinnecock Hills.

Woods sits at +1600 on the odds to win the US Open this week, tied with Jason Day, Justin Rose, and Rickie Fowler on the board and behind the top four betting favorites on the list. The 42-year-old, however, only has two Top-10 results in his nine PGA Tour events so far on the season.

And those two finishes came back in March, at the Valspar Championship and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Since then Woods has finished 32nd at the Masters, 55th at the Wells Fargo Championship, 11th at THE PLAYERS Championship, and 23rd at the Memorial Tournament.

Woods is a three-time US Open winner, taking the tournament in each of 2000, 2002, and 2008. Since 2008 he’s only played in the event five times, finishing sixth in 2009 and fourth in 2010, but 21st in 2012 and 32nd in 2013, and missing the cut in 2015. And since the end of the 2015 season Woods has only played in one major tournament, this year’s Masters.

Still, Woods only trails those four favorites on the golf betting lines at the sportsbooks, with Dustin Johnson the tournament chalk at +900, Rory McIlroy second on the board at +1100, and Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth rounding out the quartet at odds of +1400.

Johnson, Spieth, and McIlroy are all former US Open champions, with McIlroy winning in 2011 at Congressional, Spieth winning in 2015 at Chambers Bay, and Johnson winning in 2016 at Oakmont. For betting favorite Johnson that was his first and so far only major tournament win on the PGA Tour, but he’s coming off a victory in the FedEx St. Jude Classic over the weekend.

And Johnson is also atop the updated World Golf Ranking, having jumped over Thomas for the lead on that list with his win over the weekend. Rose sits third in the current rankings, with Spieth fourth, Jon Rahm fifth, and McIlroy sixth.

Rahm is set at +2000 on the odds to win the 2018 US Open for this week, behind defending tournament champion Brooks Koepka (+1800) and ahead of Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama – who are both pegged at +2800 odds. Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed, and Sergio Garcia hold down betting lines of +3300 for this week.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Four golfers headline 2018 THE PLAYERS odds

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THE PLAYERS Championship features one of the top fields of the year on the PGA Tour, and sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com have a logjam at the top of the board for the event which gets underway on Thursday at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, and Jordan Spieth are pegged as +1400 co-favorites on the odds to win THE PLAYERS Championship at the sportsbooks, with Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler just a step back of that quartet at +1800 odds.

Of those golfers, both Day and Fowler are past champions at the event, with Day taking the tournament by four strokes in 2016 and Fowler picking up a victory in a playoff against Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner at the event in 2015.

Last year’s winner at THE PLAYERS, meanwhile, is pegged as a longshot to claim the tournament title once again this weekend. South Korea’s Si Woo Kim topped Louis Oosthuizen and Ian Poulter by three strokes at the event last year, becoming the youngest ever winner of the tournament. The 22-year-old is back with the longer shots at +7500 odds for this week.

Oosthuizen is also down the golf odds list at +7500 for this year’s edition of THE PLAYERS, with Poulter set at +6600. Rafa Cabrera Bello and Kyle Stanley tied for fourth place the tournament last year, finishing four strokes back of the leader; they’re both longshots at +10000 odds this week.

Martin Kaymer, the 2014 champion, is at +20000 odds this week, with Tiger Woods, who won this tournament for the second time in 2013, sitting in the second tier of contenders on the odds at +3300. Woods also won this event back in 2001, and hasn’t played in this tournament the past two years.

Joining Woods at +3300 on THE PLAYERS Championship odds is Phil Mickelson, who won this event in 2007. Mickelson finished well back in the pack in a tie for 41st place at this tournament last year, 13 strokes behind the leader, but is a strong third in the FedExCup standings so far on the season.

Matt Kuchar, the 2012 champion, sits at +6600 odds for this week, while 2009 winner Henrik Stenson, riding a strong three-tournament run, is listed at +2800. Jon Rahm (+2200), Justin Rose (+3000), and Paul Casey (+3300) round out the top of THE PLAYERS betting lines.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.