Being the favorite is a millstone more often than not at the British Open, which should give one pause when looking at Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth at the top of the futures board for the third major tournament of the season.
Johnson and Spieth are 1A and 1B to win the year’s third major at Royal Birkdale this weekend, with each listed at +1400 on the odds to win the British Open at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
However, no pre-tournament favorite has won the British Open – or the Open championship as Britons call it – since 2001. With its tight fairways, Birkdale puts a premium on driving accuracy more than distance and also rewards good putting.
The latter has been Johnson’s bugaboo this season, plus he hasn’t finished higher than ninth at the British Open since 2011. Spieth has struggled with accuracy off the tee – where he’s ranked 121st on the PGA Tour – and that bodes poorly for winning at Birkdale.
Rickie Fowler (+1600), with six career top-fives in majors, seems ready for a breakthrough and, of course, is very straight off the tee. Fowler is probably the best player to never win a major now that Sergio Garcia (+1800), who has traditionally played well at this event, has a green jacket from the Masters. As always, what will make or break Garcia is his putting.
Usual suspects such as Jon Rahm (+1600), Rory McIlroy (+2000), Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Rose (+2000) are also high up on the board at online betting sites.
It might be a little much to expect the 22-year-old Rahm to stay even-keel across four rounds on a very challenging course. Within that price range, Matsuyama might be the best play – the consensus is that winning a major is just a matter of when for the Japanese star, and Birkdale could be bountiful for a player in the top 10 of the PGA in greens in regulation, holes per eagle and birdies average.
Tommy Fleetwood (+2200), who grew up two miles from Birkdale, has had a meteoric rise to 14th in the world rankings, but being the hometown rooting interest often means a more intense spotlight that can unravel a golfer mentally.
Defending champion Henrik Stenson (+2500) is being offered at an enticing price because he’s missed the cuts in four of his last five PGA events. However, Stenson’s Swedish countryman, Alexander Noren (+4000), is a bona fide darkhorse who has six wins on the European Tour over the last two years. Noren is the better play of the two Swedes.
Brooks Koepka (+3300) will be playing his first tournament since winning the U.S. Open a month ago, so it’s hard to know how sharp he’ll be technically. Observers across the pond see similarities in game between Koepka and Peter Uihlein (+12500), who’s among the darkhouses.
One small trend of note is that the last three players to win the British Open at Birkdale finished seventh or higher in the Masters that year and made the cut at the U.S. Open. Garcia, Paul Casey (+3300), Matt Kuchar (+5000) and Kevin Chappell (+15000) are the only ones teeing it up this week who meet that criteria. With his four top-12 finishes since March and some sharp work with the irons all season, Casey could surprise.