Bookmakers have been scooping the pot against Rory McIlroy’s betting supporters for eight straight years in major tournaments, but now it might finally be payback time.
McIlroy and Viktor Hovland share the lead at 16 under par heading into Sunday morning’s final round of the British Open. McIlroy is shooting for his first major win since 2014, and Hovland is seeking his first career major win.
“Rory has to be the favorite,” DraftKings sportsbook director John Avello said. “Rory’s got the crowd behind him, and that’s almost like a home-court advantage, so that helps him a lot.”
The adjusted odds at DraftKings show McIlroy as the -125 favorite, with Hovland next at + 165. Cameron Smith (11-1), Scottie Scheffler (20-1) and Cameron Young (22-1) are the next three choices.
The winner is likely to come from the final pairing after Smith and Young each took steps back Saturday. Smith, the leader after two rounds, shot a 1-over 73 in the third round and is tied with Young, four strokes behind the co-leaders.
“I would still give Cam Smith a shot,” Avello said. “He had one bad hole, and that could happen to the top two guys (Sunday).”
Smith was red hot with the putter in the second round but made no long ones Saturday.
Hovland ranks low in the PGA Tour scrambling stats, but he’s among the top players in scrambling this week. McIlroy’s biggest advantage is length off the tee due to his ability to drive almost every green. Young’s disadvantage is his inexperience on links-style courses.
After Friday’s second round, Smith was the + 200 favorite ahead of McIlroy (+ 400), Young (+ 900) and Hovland (11-1). The odds flipped Saturday after McIlroy and Hovland each fired a 6-under 66.
The weather conditions at St. Andrews have been nearly ideal this week, allowing for much lower scores than anticipated. Unless the wind picks up and there’s rain Sunday, the chances are slim of any player making a big comeback. Scottie Scheffler, Dustin Johnson (55-1) and Si Woo Kim (55-1) are the only other long shots within striking distance.
Avello said DraftKings would do fine if either McIlroy or Hovland win. McIlroy was the pre-tournament favorite at around 10-1 odds. Most of the book’s futures liability, Avello said, was on Tiger Woods, Max Homa and Will Zalatoris; of that threesome, only Zalatoris made the cut.
Woods, a 15-time major champion and three-time British Open winner, did not reach the weekend after starting poorly and never rallying. His 36-hole score of 9 over par was nine strokes off the cutline. He did make the cut at the Masters and PGA Championship this year.
“Tiger’s probably not relevant anymore,” Avello said. “I said before that I don’t think he’ll ever win another tournament, and I’m holding to that. I like him in the field because he draws money, but I just don’t think he’s relevant anymore.”
I have live pre-tournament tickets on Smith (28-1) and Young (120-1), though Young was my smallest bet and he seems to be fading from contention. For those who did not play Smith yet, he might be worth a shot at 14-1 at Circa Sports. If his putter heats up again, Smith could get back in it Sunday as quickly as he fell out of the lead Saturday.
This appears to be a two-horse race between McIlroy and Hovland, so take your pick. I’ll make a small play at -105 (at Circa) on McIlroy, who should have advantages with the crowd support and especially his driving distance. In a head-to-head matchup posted at the Westgate SuperBook, McIlroy is a -160 favorite over Hovland, so betting McIlroy to win at -105 is the preferred play.
I’ll hope the No. 3 horse, Smith, makes a big charge from behind, which often happens when the leaders get conservative in the final round of major tournaments.
Scottie Scheffler (-130) over Dustin Johnson
Jon Rahm (-110) over Xander Schauffele