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In calm before storm, Spieth leads British field

Matt Youmans
VSiN senior editor

July 20, 2017 01:22 PM
jspieth
Adjusted odds to win were posted after Thursday's first round of the British Open, and Jordan Spieth was made the 4-1 favorite.
© USA Today Sports Images

With an eye on a worsening weather forecast, Jordan Spieth predicted the second round of the British Open will be nothing like the first. If he’s lucky, he will be wrong.

In a tournament that appeared wide open and up for grabs, Spieth established himself as the favorite after Thursday’s play at Royal Birkdale in Southport, England. He’s in an all-American three-way tie for the lead with U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar, who never has won a major.

Spieth was steady in calm conditions, displaying a superb short game on the way to a 5-under 65. He did not card a bogey, and just missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.

While some stars faded — Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose failed to break par — Spieth moved into a strong position.

“Of all the big names going into the tournament, I thought Spieth lived up to that billing,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and Gaughan Gaming sports book director.

Adjusted odds to win were posted after the round, and Spieth was made the 4-1 favorite by the Westgate sports book. Koepka is at 8-1, with Kuchar at 10-1.

Spieth closed as the favorite at betting shops in England and at William Hill books in the United States. Spieth and Johnson were 12-1 co-favorites at the Westgate, and Fowler was the 6-1 favorite at the South Point. (https://www.vsin.com/and-theyre-off-at-the-british-open/)

“I have not seen a tournament like this where there were so many different prices and different players who were favored,” Magliulo said. “That increases the wagering. It’s spreading it around. That tells me there is quite a bit of shopping going on, which is good for business. It’s good for the bettors and good for the house, as well.

“From what I’ve seen so far, this will be one of the highest British Open handles we’ve had in Nevada.”

At the Westgate, Koepka went off at 30-1 odds and Kuchar was a 50-1 shot. England’s Paul Casey and South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel were one stroke back of the leaders. Casey received betting support at 30-1, and Schwartzel was a lightly-wagered long shot at 80-1.

Six players sit two shots behind, a group that includes Ian Poulter, Justin Thomas, former UNLV standout Charley Hoffman and Scottish Open champ Rafael Cabrera Bello.

The British leaderboard (http://www.espn.com/golf/leaderboard?tour=pga&tournamentId=2710) could look a lot different Friday, when rain and high winds are expected to sweep in off the Irish Sea. Harsh weather threatens to wreak havoc on the field the next two days, which means bettors should react to the first round with caution.

Writing off McIlroy, who was a mess while bogeying five of his first six holes, was premature. McIlroy rallied to post a 1-over 71.

“It was a tremendous response by Rory to recover,” Magliulo said.

Jon Rahm, a runaway winner in the Irish Open two weeks ago, had his day saved, too. After a two-stroke penalty on the 17th was rescinded, Rahm signed for a 69.

“Rahm’s very popular,” Magliulo said. “When he was in a matchup, he got bet.”

Rahm is tied with defending champ Henrik Stenson, Jason Day and Adam Scott.

Spieth, Koepka and Kuchar narrowly missed beating the proposition of 64½ for the lowest completed round shot by any golfer.

Mickelson, a minus-280 favorite to make the cut, is in danger of missing the weekend after opening with a 3-over 73. He was in a 16-way tie for 90th that included Garcia, a first-time major winner at the Masters in April.

Tommy Fleetwood and Louis Oosthuizen were the most prominent players to completely flop on the first day.

Fleetwood, a local favorite who grew up near the Royal Birkdale links course, slumped to a 76. He was a popular bet at 20-1 odds. Oosthuizen’s 78 put him near the bottom of the 156-player field.

Spieth deserves to be the favorite, but as he warned, unfavorable weather could change things in an instant.

British Open adjusted odds
(Posted at the Westgate, after first round)
Jordan Spieth 4-1
Brooks Koepka 8-1
Matt Kuchar 10-1
Paul Casey 12-1
Hideki Matsuyama 15-1
Charl Schwartzel 15-1
Jon Rahm 20-1
Justin Thomas 20-1
Others: Rafael Cabrera Bello 25-1, Jason Day 25-1, Dustin Johnson 25-1, Rory McIlroy 25-1, Henrik Stenson 25-1, Rickie Fowler 30-1, Charley Hoffman 30-1, Marc Leishman 30-1, Alex Noren 30-1, Ian Poulter 30-1, Adam Scott 30-1.

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