COVID-19 prevented the British Open from happening in 2020 and allowed defending champion Shane Lowry to keep the coveted Claret Jug for two years. This week, the game’s oldest major championship returns to Royal St. George’s.
It was only a matter of time before Jon Rahm (8-1) won his first major championship, and it came last month in the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. Rahm teed it up for the first time in three weeks after his maiden major win and was in contention at the Scottish Open before settling for a seventh-place finish. However, he will not have the arduous task of winning the British Open as the No. 1 player in the world (last done by Tiger Woods in 2006 at Royal Liverpool). That pressure now moves to Dustin Johnson (18-1), who regained the OWGR No. 1 distinction despite not playing last weekend. DJ’s best finish in the British Open was a T-2 in 2011 at Royal St. George’s. He earned a win earlier this February in Saudi Arabia, but this has been a down year by his standards; however, DJ was the last OWGR No. 1 to triumph at a major (2020 Masters).
Like Rahm, World No. 3 Justin Thomas (20-1) has never earned a top-10 finish in the British Open and the reigning Players champion has had an up-and-down year but is looking to build off a T-8 finish at the Scottish. The “Bet Brooks Koepka at major championships” narrative is still prevalent, and his runner-up at the PGA Championship and T-4 at the U.S. Open already this year has done nothing to dissuade bettors from going right back to him again. He carries an 18-1 price this week.
There are only three players in this field that have three top-10-or-better finishes in the last five British Opens: Koepka, Rory McIlroy (18-1), and Jordan Spieth (18-1). Both McIlroy and Spieth have hoisted the Claret Jug. There is still some cynicism over whether McIlroy is back despite a victory in May at the Wells Fargo. Nevertheless, setting aside the missed cut in 2019 at Royal Portrush, McIlroy’s form line at the British Open reads 2-4-5-1 going back to his 2014 triumph at Royal Liverpool. Although Spieth is only ranked No. 23 in the OWGR, he is obviously considered a top player in the betting markets. Of the top players, Spieth has arguably been the most consistent in 2021 with a victory (Valero Texas Open), a runner-up (Colonial), two third-place finishes (Masters, Pebble Beach) and four other top-10s.
Since Rahm got off the major championships schneid last month, the current "best player to not win a major" moniker is firmly attached to Xander Schauffele (18-1), who has nine top-10 finishes in 17 career majors, including two in 2021: T-3 at the Masters and T-7 at the U.S. Open. Schauffele shared runner-up status at Carnoustie in the 2018 Open.
The last British Open at Royal St. George’s showed that the driver can be an advantage, but Bryson DeChambeau (28-1) has missed two of three cuts at the British Open. He figured out the U.S. Open in 2020 and eventually should figure out links golf, but it might be further down the line. Collin Morikawa and Viktor Hovland (each 30-1) are making their British Open debuts this week.
Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton (33-1), Paul Casey (35-1), Matthew Fitzpatrick (40-1) and Tommy Fleetwood (40-1) will all likely get some degree of support in the markets this week. Fleetwood was the runner-up at the last Open in 2019 to Lowry (40-1), the defending champion. Louis Oosthuizen (28-1) has finished runner-up in the last two majors, so his price has been cut nearly in half from what we would normally see.
The two Patricks -- Cantlay (33-1) and Reed (40-1) -- are both in the OWGR Top 10, but only Reed has posted a top-10 finish at the British Open (T-10 in 2019 at Royal Portrush).
This year marks the 149th British Open (established in 1860) and a return to the golf calendar in its customary spot starting before the third Friday in July. The British Open is sanctioned and governed by the R&A. It is always played on a coastal links golf course. Links golf is often described as the purest form of golf and keeps a connection with the way the game originated in Scotland in the 15th century.