Day 2 of “Operation No Sleep” went pretty well. I have an outright ticket on Dustin Johnson, so I was wanting to see him complete his second round (which began just after midnight Pacific Time). The last shot I remember was his approach on 17, The Road Hole, around 4:45 a.m. Next thing I know, a crew we hired to do some work around the house, knocked on my front door at 8:00 a.m. I remember thinking before I dozed off, "how is it possible that Mitch & Pauly have already been on-air for nearly an hour?"
DJ ended up shooting a 67 on Friday to get to 9-under par for the championship. He is four shots off the lead and alone in fifth place, halfway through the 150th edition of the British Open.
I noted in this column on Thursday that I thought Cameron Smith had a great chance to win his first-ever major championship after a first-round 67. He took another step toward accomplishing that feat with a round of 64 on Friday to take sole possession of the lead after 36 holes at 13-under par.
Rory McIlroy continues to dazzle, making birdie on The Road Hole at St. Andrews for the first time in his career, and firing a 4-under par 68. He's tied for third, three shots behind Smith.
Coming into the week, much was said about how The Old Course is the easiest of all tests on the British Open rotation. Tiger won here with a score of 19-under in 2000. He won at -14 in 2005. Louis Oosthuizen got his hands on the Claret Jug in 2010 with a score of 16-under par at The Old Course and Zach Johnson was the champion golfer of the year at St. Andrews in 2015 with a winning score of -15.
Here we are, halfway through the 2022 major and Cam Smith is already at -13. Would I like to see the wind kick up and this get more difficult? Probably, but look at the leaderboard we have. No matter what, the cream is rising to the top and we are seeing the best in the world do what they do. The score is a bit irrelevant in this sense when we have seven of the top 13 players on the leaderboard, all ranked inside the Top 20 in the world. I have bets on players that are in contention, but aside from that it looks like we are in for one heck of weekend's worth of theater.
Of course, the score is not irrelevant for sports bettors. The under/over winning score prop at Westgate SuperBook opened up at 271.5 and closed at 270.5. This translates into a winning score of somewhere between 16 and 18 under par. Looking at the weather, I think it will be hard to keep the winner from getting to 20-under or better. One of the best golf oddsmakers in the world, Jeff Sherman from the Westgate, said he would make the adjusted number 268.5, which adds up to 19.5 under par.
Updated numbers on the outrights I'm holding:
Scottie Scheffler (+ 1450) is now 12-1 (8-under)
Jordan Spieth (25-1) is now 100-1 (4-under)
Shane Lowry (25-1) is now 150-1 (4-under)
Dustin Johnson (36-1) is now 10-1 (9-under)
Hideki Matsuyama (47-1) is now 250-1 (2-under)
Adam Scott (125-1) is now 60-1 (7-under)
Danny Willett (200-1) is now 250-1 (2-under)
If you are going to dabble in the outright market at the halfway point, I think you must go with experience over youth -- youth being Cameron Smith and Cameron Young. Smith is trying to win his first major, and Young is trying to win for the first time ever on Tour. By experience, I would be looking at Rory McIlroy (+ 400), Dustin Johnson (10-1), and Scottie Scheffler (12-1). There hasn’t been a first-time major winner at St. Andrews since Tony Lema did it in 1964 and it has been done only four times total in the 29 times the championship has been held here.
Courtesy of our friend Justin Ray, a few notes about The Open via Twitter.
Fourteen of the last 15 British Open winners have been at or within three shots of the lead after 36 holes.
Each of the last seven Open winners have been tied for fourth place or better after two rounds.
Best combined score to par in majors, Rounds 3 and 4, since the beginning of 2020.
Scottie Scheffler -17
Collin Morikawa -16
Rory McIlroy -11
Dustin Johnson -10
I have expressed many times on a number of different platforms that I very rarely play individual round head-to-head matchups. My head-to-head matchup plays are for the full tournament 99% of the time. I did see one that caught my eye however, for Round 3 at The Open on Saturday: Shane Lowry (-105) vs Xander Schauffele (-115).
I would take Lowry here at any price that is pick 'em or better. The Irishman is one of the best links golf players in the world and of course, he won the Claret Jug back in 2019. Lowry shot even par in Round 1 and if not for a double-bogey on the 16th hole on Friday, he'd have shot 66 in Round 2. Following the double at 16, Lowry closed birdie-birdie.
Schauffele has been trending in the other direction. He shot 69 on Thursday with a bogey on his very first hole and not another until the very difficult 17th hole. On Friday, Schauffele made three bogies over his last 10 holes played. He's played quite of bit of golf in the last four weeks, and won three different tournaments over that stretch. I think the boil may be finally coming off and Schauffele is returning back to Earth. I went against him in a full tournament matchup with Rory McIlroy and I think this looks like another opportunity to fade the American.