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British is wide open, so look for long shots

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

July 18, 2017 09:59 PM
Jon Rahm, who blew up emotionally while missing the U.S. Open cut in June, settled down and crushed the field by firing a 24-under-par score in the Irish Open two weeks ago. Rahm is posted at 15-1 odds in the British Open.
© USA Today Sports Images

Is it finally Rickie Fowler’s time to win a major? A trend might be working in his favor as the world’s top golfers get together this week in Southport, England.

The past seven majors have been claimed by first-time winners. The days of one dominant player are long gone, and this British Open appears to be another wide-open chase for the Claret Jug.

It’s tough enough to pick a favorite, so targeting who will win seems to be a needle-in-a-haystack hunt. But gamblers do not shy away from a challenge, especially when the payoff promises double- or triple-digit odds.

It’s time for bagpipe music, pot bunkers and wet winds whipping off the Irish Sea. The British setting is Royal Birkdale, a links course that snakes through sand dunes and is expected to see deteriorating weather conditions by the weekend.

“It’s a very tricky golf tournament to handicap,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “I look for long shots because of all the unknown variables.”

Fowler, a 28-year-old who has finished in the top five in all four majors without a win, is not a long shot. In fact, he’s the favorite at 6-1 odds — after opening 20-1 — at the South Point sports book. Fowler likes links courses, and he’s a good bad-weather player.

At the Westgate, Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth are 12-1 co-favorites. Fowler is at 15-1 along with a duo from Spain, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm. Garcia’s first major win came at the Masters in April, when he stunned Justin Rose in a playoff. Rahm, who blew up emotionally while missing the U.S. Open cut in June, settled down and crushed the field by firing a 24-under-par score in the Irish Open two weeks ago.

Fowler, Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama (20-1) all carry positive current form as they aim for a first major accomplishment. And all three players are getting heavy betting support.

Henrik Stenson outdueled Phil Mickelson to claim last year’s British Open, but Stenson has struggled this year, and four-time major winner Rory McIlroy is in worse form. Rory has been a horror story in 2017, failing to make the cut in three of his past four tournaments. McIlroy’s odds have soared to 20-1 in a tournament in which he’s usually a favorite.

Mickelson is in a group at 30-1 odds with U.S. Open winner Brooks Koepka, former UNLV standout Adam Scott and England’s Paul Casey, who has the look of a contender this week.

Bogdanovich said his search for long shots starts with five players — Francesco Molinari (80-1), Kevin Kisner (100-1), Brian Harman (125-1), Peter Uihlein (125-1) and Tony Finau (150-1).

When the Open was last staged at Royal Birkdale in 2008, Padraig Harrington was the winner at 3 over par. The conditions in that tournament featured high winds and rain in the second and third rounds. Harrington has been bet from 125-1 to 60-1 this week.

Tommy Fleetwood will have a hometown-course advantage in Southport, and his current form is strong. Fleetwood finished fourth in the U.S. Open, and he won the French Open in early July by beating Uihlein by one stroke. Fleetwood has been bet from 40-1 to 20-1 this week, though, so he’s no secret. Rose, recovering from his Masters disappointment, is another threat at 20-1 odds.

Look for more than one of these players — Louis Oosthuizen (40-1), Marc Leishman (50-1), Scottish Open champion Rafael Cabrera Bello (60-1), Daniel Berger (60-1), Matt Kuchar (60-1), Shane Lowry (60-1), Patrick Reed (60-1), Lee Westwood (60-1), Andy Sullivan (80-1) and Ross Fisher (100-1) — to surge into contention on the weekend.

The British leaderboard is always dotted with surprises and some unknown European names. Two years ago, Zach Johnson took this tournament at 80-1, and Darren Clarke won at triple-digit odds in 2011.

The weather will be tricky, and picking the winner is never easy.

Best bets: Fowler (15-1), Rahm (15-1), Rose (20-1), Sullivan (80-1), Fisher (100-1).

British Open propositions

(Posted at Westgate sports book)

Winning 72-hole score: 275.5 (over/under -110)

Lowest completed round shot by any golfer: 64.5 (over -150)

Will there be a hole in one? Yes -120; No plus-100

Will there be a playoff? No -360; Yes plus-300

Will Dustin Johnson win the tournament? No -3,000; Yes plus-1,200

Will Phil Mickelson make the cut? Yes -280; No plus-240

Player matchups

Dustin Johnson -105

Jordan Spieth -115


Dustin Johnson plus-105

Rickie Fowler -125


Dustin Johnson -120

Jon Rahm plus-100


Jordan Spieth plus-100

Rickie Fowler -120


Jordan Spieth -125

Jon Rahm plus-105

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