As work schedules go, Tiger Woods has got it good. It has been a memorable year, just not a busy one, for Woods, who is taking a lot of time off from golf. Basically, he’s just showing up to play majors.
But after a dramatic win at the Masters in April, Tiger turned in no-show performances in the next two majors, missing the cut at the PGA Championship and posing no threat at the U.S. Open.
Brooks Koepka has surpassed Woods as golf’s premier big-game player. In the past nine majors Koepka has played, he won four times. It’s the most dominant stretch for any player since Woods won six of the 12 majors staged from 2000 to 2002. Koepka has recorded a PGA win and two runner-up finishes on this year’s major tour, which concludes with the British Open at Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland.
As easy as it is to make a case for Koepka, betting the favorite in a golf tournament is a tough way to make a living, and that should hold true this week.
“There’s no question this major is the most wide open,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich said.
An unfamiliar links course brings more European players into the picture, making the field of 156 especially challenging to handicap. Although a few strange names are sure to surface on the British leaderboard, most bettors prefer familiar faces. Koepka and Rory McIlory are the 8/1 co-favorites at William Hill, and Bogdanovich said McIlroy is the ticket count and money leader by a significant margin. Koepka’s odds have drifted to 10/1 at the Westgate SuperBook.
A compelling case can be made for McIlroy, who has home-course advantage in Northern Ireland. He set the Royal Portrush course record as a teenager. McIlroy is a four-time major champion, and his recent form is strong with two wins this year, but he has not won a major since 2014.
“Rory will be talked about as the pre-tournament favorite all week and he’ll need to keep that noise out of his head,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “Will he put too much pressure on himself? That’s my only concern.”
Woods has not played in a tournament since he made no waves at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. When he took a month off before the PGA, he was a bust at Bethpage Black, where the course setup favored long and straight drivers. This week, iron play and scrambling will be most important, so Tiger’s chances to contend are improved. His 20/1 price at the Westgate is intriguing, but pass.
Koepka and McIlroy cannot be counted out — Koepka’s caddie, Ricky Elliott, is from Portrush and his knowledge will be an advantage. But it’s wise to look for longer shots this week, so watch these other 10 players and consider following a few with your money (Westgate odds):
Dustin Johnson (10/1):
At times, Johnson appears to be the most talented player in the world, which is also why he’s an enigma. He’s too talented to own only one career major win. DJ tied for second at the Masters and was second to Koepka in the PGA at Bethpage, so he’s playing well enough to win another one and his William Hill odds of 15/1 offer decent value.
Jon Rahm (16/1):
The hot-headed Spaniard fired a final-round 62 to win the Irish Open two weeks ago, causing an odds adjustment from 25/1. Sherman is touting Rahm, who also is the top pick by VSiN golf analysts Brady Kannon and Wes Reynolds. As always, shop around. Circa Sports offers Rahm at 20/1. “Rahm is a great links player and he’s had success in Ireland before,” Kannon said, “Why not again?”
Justin Rose (20/1):
All of the hype surrounding McIlroy is leaving Rose, who tied for third at the U.S. Open, under the radar this week. Recently the world’s No. 1-ranked player, he’s got the iron play and putting game to handle this links course.
Xander Schauffele (20/1):
The four-way tie for third at Pebble Beach included Rahm, Rose and Schauffele, who has been knocking on the door. He has four Top 5s in 10 major starts. He’s got far more moxie than Rickie Fowler, and the 25-year-old should be a major winner soon.
Adam Scott (30/1):
Putting is his only real problem. If he can sink some clutch putts, Scott should contend on a course that fits his game. His long and short irons have been phenomenal this year. The Australian is as talented as DJ but also is stuck on one major win. Scott is worth a shot, especially at Circa’s odds of 40/1.
Henrik Stenson (30/1):
A straight shooter who stays out of trouble with precision irons, Stenson is tuned up after tying for fourth in the Scottish Open. He won the British in 2016 at Royal Troon.
Louis Oosthuizen (35/1):
Nothing is sexy about this pick, but Oosthuizen has a knack for finding the leaderboard and claims nine career European Tour wins. He won the British in 2010 and has runner-up finishes in all four majors.
Matt Kuchar (40/1):
Here’s a cheap tip — Kuchar is a better bet in head-to-head matchups than on the futures board. He often contends but rarely closes the deal, with his runner-up British finish in 2017 serving as the prime example. His putter is hot and, like Stenson, he was in the hunt at the Scottish Open. Kuchar is an attractive 50/1 at Circa. “Kuchar has quietly had a great year,” Reynolds said.
Graeme McDowell (50/1):
Royal Portrush is McDowell’s home course and he has played it hundreds of times. That fact alone makes him a worthwhile play at long odds — 90/1 at Circa.
Matt Wallace (50/1):
Sherman said he took 60/1 odds on Wallace, who’s also being touted by several sharp bettors. The 29-year-old from England has three recent European Tour wins. He tied for third at Bethpage and tied for 12th at Pebble Beach this year.