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BlogBritish Open Preview and Picks

The Open Championship

July 18th – 21st, 2019

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Portrush, Northern Ireland

Par: 71 / Yardage: 7,344

Purse: $10.75 million

with $1,935,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Francesco Molinari

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 92 of the top 100 and 49 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings. The only top-50 player not in the field is Kevin Na, who withdrew last week.  Of those in the top-100 that aren’t in the field are: $54 Charles Howell III, #59 Scott Piercy, #82 Ryan Moore, #86 Martin Kaymer, #96 Kevin Tweak, #8 Max Homa and #99 Jhonattan Vegas.

The field includes 24 of the top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2019.  Those players not in the field are #22 Scott Piercy.

The field includes 14 past Open champions: Francesco Molinari (2018),Jordan Spieth (2017), Henrik Stenson (2016), Zach Johnson (2015), Rory McIlroy (2014), Phil Mickelson (2013), Ernie Els (2012 & ’02), Darren Clarke (2011),Louis Oosthuizen (2010), Stewart Cink (2009), Padraig Harrington (2007 & ’08), Tiger Woods (2000, ’05 & ’06), David Duval (2001) and Tom Lehman (1996).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the British Open field is our performance chart listed by the average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the British Open in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the British Open.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

 

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for The Open Championship

Player John Deere Scottish Open 3M Open Irish Open Rocket Mortgage Classic Travelers Champ. BMW International Open U.S. Open RBC Canadian Open Memorial Andalucia Masters Belgian Knockout Charles Schwab Challenge
Jon Rahm
(348.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(120)
DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Bernd Wiesberger
(278 pts)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP T16
(22.67)
76
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP
Joaquin Niemann
(210.33 pts)
T10
(40)
DNP T23
(27)
DNP T5
(70)
T5
(46.67)
DNP DNP T31
(12.67)
T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP T31
(6.33)
Christiaan Bezuidenhout
(198 pts)
DNP T34
(16)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP T3
(60)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(194.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
Win
(88)
DNP T3
(120)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Rafael Cabrera-Bello
(188 pts)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP T3
(60)
T65
(0)
DNP T41
(3)
DNP DNP DNP
Henrik Stenson
(177.67 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(60)
T8
(33.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Andy Sullivan
(175 pts)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP T26
(16)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP
Nate Lashley
(168.67 pts)
T26
(24)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP T28
(29.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP 69
(0)
Mike Lorenzo-Vera
(167 pts)
DNP T28
(22)
DNP T9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP
Gary Woodland
(166 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP Win
(176)
DNP T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Rory McIlroy
(160.67 pts)
DNP T34
(16)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T9
(60)
Win
(88)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Bryson DeChambeau
(159.33 pts)
DNP DNP T2
(100)
DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
DNP T35
(20)
DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Hideki Matsuyama
(150.67 pts)
DNP DNP T7
(55)
DNP T13
(37)
DNP DNP T21
(38.67)
DNP 6
(20)
DNP DNP DNP
Matt Wallace
(146.67 pts)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP T55
(0)
DNP DNP T3
(60)
T12
(50.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Andrea Pavan
(144.67 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Matthew Fitzpatrick
(143.33 pts)
DNP T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(66.67)
T12
(50.67)
DNP T68
(0)
CUT
(-10)
DNP T64
(0)
Sungjae Im
(140.67 pts)
T26
(24)
DNP T15
(35)
DNP T21
(29)
T21
(19.33)
DNP DNP 7
(36.67)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Brandt Snedeker
(138.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(70)
T43
(4.67)
DNP 77
(0)
T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP T19
(10.33)
Patrick Reed
(134.33 pts)
DNP DNP T23
(27)
DNP T5
(70)
T30
(13.33)
DNP T32
(24)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brooks Koepka
(134 pts)
DNP DNP 65
(0)
DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP 2
(133.33)
T50
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Dylan Frittelli
(133.33 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP T46
(4)
DNP T46
(4)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP 59
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Justin Rose
(132.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(120)
DNP 13
(12.33)
DNP DNP T58
(0)
Andrew Putnam
(130.33 pts)
DNP T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP T43
(9.33)
DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
Xander Schauffele
(128.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(120)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Kuchar
(125.33 pts)
DNP T20
(30)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(45.33)
T4
(53.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Adri Arnaus
(125 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(35)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T58
(0)
DNP DNP T2
(100)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP
Brian Harman
(117 pts)
T26
(24)
DNP T7
(55)
DNP CUT
(-10)
T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP T50
(0.67)
T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP T31
(6.33)
Rory Sabbatini
(117 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP DNP T43
(9.33)
DNP T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP T6
(20)
Adam Hadwin
(113.33 pts)
DNP DNP 4
(80)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP 6
(40)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Shane Lowry
(112 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(16)
DNP DNP DNP T28
(29.33)
T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Webb Simpson
(112 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(45.33)
T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Adam Scott
(106.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T7
(73.33)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Patrick Cantlay
(106 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T15
(23.33)
DNP T21
(38.67)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP
Doc Redman
(103 pts)
T37
(13)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP 2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for The Open Championship

Player John Deere Scottish Open 3M Open Irish Open Rocket Mortgage Classic Travelers Champ. BMW International Open U.S. Open RBC Canadian Open Memorial Andalucia Masters Belgian Knockout Charles Schwab Challenge
Si Woo Kim
(-50.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP T41
(3)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Lucas Bjerregaard
(-40 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Luke List
(-36.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Ryan Fox
(-36.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Justin Harding
(-33.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Branden Grace
(-26.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T53
(0)
Ernie Els
(-25 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP CUT
(-13.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP DNP
Jake McLeod
(-24.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(-23.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
T54
(0)
DNP CUT
(-13.33)
T63
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Sung Kang
(-23.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-10)
DNP CUT
(-10)
T78
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

Have to say I love this week more and more.  It’s the last major of the year and everyone has enjoyed the fact that this could be the coolest in the form of temperature we have ever seen at the Majors.  Other than the Masters that got into the 80s a few days, every day at the PGA Championship, U.S. Open and the British Open has been in the high 60s, low 70s.  On top of that, the change of the PGA Championship from August to May seems to have helped them and elevated the championship higher with better TV ratings.

So we end this decade with the last major at a course that will be holding it’s firsts major in 68 years, Royal Portrush.

The biggest part of Royal Portrush is that it’s in Northern Ireland, despite it being a territory and part of Britain, many of the locals consider them Irish. So many wonder what took them so long to return to Royal Portrush?  That’s a bit of a complicated issue.  A lot of this is religious but the simple truth is that between the 1970s and mid-90s there was a lot of infighting between religious groups and thus was born the Irish Republican Army (IRA).  So for years, we saw Northern Ireland as a place of war with bombs blowing up not only in Northern Ireland but around England and London.  So the whole point was for folks not to come to Northern Ireland which was stupid because this is a country of the Friendliest people in the world.

As for golf courses, the region has two of the best in the world, Portrush and Royal County Down which could host a British Open with the exception that the town and the course couldn’t accommodate the size of holding a major golf tournament.  Other gems in Northern Ireland include Portstewart, Castlerock, Ardglass and Belvoir Park to name a few.

What made Northern Ireland open up was when in the late 80s, both sides of the problem decided to find some sort of common ground in order to bring peace and then prosperity to the region.  The process sped up in 1993 and by 1998 the Good Friday Agreement was signed and put into the process.  With this tourism opened up and golf found again both Portrush and Royal County Down.  The R&A also got involved when they persuaded the European Tour and IMG with moving the Senior British Open to Portrush in 1995 and for five years the event was successfully played there.  That and the fact that Darren Clarke who grew up and lived at Portrush was behind things and when he won the British Open in 2011 he was able to say good words about the course.  Soon after the European Tour added the course to the Irish Open and it was played at Portrush in 2012 to record crowds with all of the players raving about it.  The R&A was still reluctant because of some logistical problems, but once the club decided to build an additional two holes to replace what was the old 17 and 18 holes, the R&A decided to make Portrush the venue for the 2019 Open Championship.

Another big item was the Northern Ireland government finding around $25 million dollars to help rebuild the infrastructure of the town of Portrush.

In 1995 I was working at ABC Sports and came to Portrush to work on the Senior British Open.  As for the golf course, it was really terrific but the town and the area was, to be frank a dump.  Accommodations were so bad that we stayed at a Raddison outside of a small town call Limavady, about 45 minutes west of Portrush.   The last time I was in Portrush was in 2004 and it hadn’t changed.  How sucked was I to see the town today.  It’s a thriving tourist destination with many fine hotels and restaurants, all of it thanks to the governments $25 million dollar infrastructure program.  We could see the drastic change made especially after spending a week in Carnoustie, a town that is old and in need of a change.

The course also went through a bit of a change, to get a better finish they decided to make the old 16th hole the 18th and they added two holes to the front nine and the course is better for the change.  For the first time ever they pre-sold all of the tickets because the area has to be careful on no overloading the road system, but before the first tee shot has been hit on paper this open is a big success.

Championship information:

The British Open traces its roots back to October 17, 1860, at the Links at Prestwick.  Hard to believe that the British Open was played 6 months before Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office on March 4th, 1861.

Eight professionals vied at the inaugural Open Championship, making three trips around the 12-hole golf course at Prestwick. Willie Park Sr.’s 174 gave him a two-shot win over Old Tom Morris. The original prize was the Challenge Belt. It’s interesting to note that a month later on November 6th, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States.

In 1873, Tom Kidd’s victory at St. Andrews was monumental. It was the first-Open Championship held at St. Andrews, and with Kidd’s win, he took home the first-ever Claret Jug. The jug was manufactured at the cost of 30 pounds by Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh. Now to put that in perspective, 30 pounds today would be worth about 50 dollars. Not much money in today’s world but here is a better view of it. In searching the value of the British pound in 1860, it had the purchasing power of about 63.10 today. So if you multiply 63.10, 30 times you get 1,893 pounds which mean in today’s money they paid about $3,000 for makeup the original Claret Jug.

By 1892, The Open Championship had moved to a 72-hole format, 36-holes over two days. With the changes to Open Championship format, play began to increase. As play increased, a cut was instituted, starting in 1898, to limit the number of competitors over the final 36 holes. The increase in competition led to a decrease in scoring. Jack White’s 296 in the 1904 Open Championship marked the first time a competitor shot an aggregate score under 300. His final round 68 also set a record for the lowest round by a golfer. The Open Championship went on a six-year hiatus beginning in 1914 due to the outbreak of World War I. When the tournament resurfaced in 1920, it did so under new ownership. The R&A was entrusted with the task of managing the event. To this day, the R&A still administers the championship.

The R&A quickly installed changes to The Open Championship. The event spanned three days, 18 holes on each of the first two days and 36 on the final day. Also, The R&A began charging admission to see the event. A year later, The R&A started to produce a replica Claret Jug that is awarded to each year’s champion. The original jug resides in the clubhouse of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club. The suspension of the Open from 1939 to 1946 due to World War II represents the longest gap between Open Championships. Sam Snead won the 1946 U.S. Open at St. Andrews, defeating Bobby Locke.

The 1955 Open marked a new era for the event. BBC broadcasted the tournament on television for the first time. By 1966, the Open Championship was being played over four days, 18 holes each day. ABC, for the first time, broadcasted a live feed of the event in America in 1982. In 1977, Regional Qualifying around England and Scotland was introduced on a permanent basis, to help organize qualifying in which there were two levels, first local qualifying and then moving on the week of the championship. It had been an experiment at 1926 Open but abandoned after just one year. In 1980, the Open Championship was moved to its current format, 18 holes over four days, with the tournament concluding on Sunday. A decade later, in 1990, the event set an attendance record with over 208,000 spectators showing up to watch the tournament at St. Andrews. One more significant change in 2005 saw international qualifying, with different sites set up in Australia, South Africa, Asia, America and for the European players to try and qualify in their country instead of having to fly off to England. Today things are a bit different; there are two ways you can get in. One is either winning a significant event, being high up the world rankings, being a top winner on either the PGA Tour, European Tour, South African Tour, Japan and Asian Tour. Or you can get through in qualifying tournaments in which there are nine events in which the top players for that week can get into the Open and four qualifying sites, around England that finished just two weeks ago.

The 2019 Open Championship will be the 148th installment of the tournament. It will be held at Royal Portrush for the 2nd time. The first time Portrush was used was in 1951 when Englishman Max Faulker won the title.

Course information:
  • Royal Portrush Golf Club
  • Portrush, Northern Ireland
  • 7,344 yards     Par 36-35–71

The Royal Portrush Golf Club was founded 131 years ago in 1888 as The County Club when the Railway Company brought people from various cities to the fisherman village of Portrush and the invigorating fresh air coming straight off the Atlantic Ocean. It became The Royal County Club in 1892 under the patronage of the Duke of York and assumed its present name in 1895 under the patronage of the Prince of Wales.  They had golf at Portrush at the turn of the century, it was the first links outside of England to house the British Ladies Championship.

In 1929 the club commissioned Harry Colt to design what is today the Dunluce Links, the course that will hold the British Open.  Other than the addition of the new holes to replace the 17th and 18 holes, the course hasn’t seen any major changes, other than yardage added on.  For the 1951 British Open, it played at 6,802 so in the 68 years since 542 yards have been added or about 8 yards a year.

The new 7th and 8th holes were on land that the Valley Club is on and the holes added were a 592-yard par 5 and a 434-yard par 4 for the 8th hole.

Some special thoughts on the course:

Every hole gives the player a strategic option because of the rolling terrain.  On the whole, most links courses are completely flat but Portrush has more elevation changes that any other links course.  If the surface to the moon would be green instead of a sandy white color, that’s how you would relate the fairways and greens of Portrush, like the surface of the moon.  The course has a lot of rolling terrain so players will have to anticipate and figure out not only the proper places to drive the ball, but just like they would do at Augusta National it’s driving it in the proper place to have a better shot at the green and pin.  Now the course is very green and not baked-out like Carnoustie was last year.  Still the fairways seem soft but they are fast if that makes sense in which the ball rolls a long way.  In a way that’s the way the fairways at Augusta National are.

Before we talk about shots to the green, have to talk about the rough, the first cut is ok and you can get the ball on the green, but if you wander too far offline, you have to punch back out to the fairway.  In gathering information from the players, they say between 4 and 8 holes it’s best not to use the driver on, mostly to set up a perfect shot to the green.

The real surprise for the players and one that makes this a thinking man’s course is the greens.  They are firm and as Tiger Woods said “springy” in which a ball will bounce hard when it lands.  Another thing the player has to put out of his mind is the fact that the course isn’t a links course in which you punch a low type of shot to the green that will land 20 to 30 yards short of the green and bounce on.  As Tiger said, what makes the greens hard to judge is that a lot of the greens are raised with a false front so you can’t bounce a ball on as it will stop short and role back into the fairway.  So in a way, this will be double jeopardy for the players, land it short and it won’t make the green, fly it onto the green and it could role off the back of the green.  So the third thing a player better do is scramble and be able to negotiate chips and pitches from off the green.  The last element players will have to get used to is the slowness of the greens, they will probably be the slowest greens they putt all year so for some this may present a problem.  Now for the modern-day pro, this will be part of going to the office for that day as they are good at being able to adapt to all of this.

But for most the elements of weather will be a factor.  As I arrived on Friday it’s been sunny and warm, as I finish this up on Tuesday morning clouds have rolled in and it’s a bit nippy.  Tuesday afternoon will bring light rain with it increasing on Wednesday and through Thursday.  Over the weekend there were no winds, but starting today the winds will be from the west-northwest at about 10 mph.  West by northwest winds is what brings in the tough conditions off the Atlantic and that is supposed to change for Friday.  So the rain will linger through Sunday, but won’t be as cold.  Winds for the four days of the championship from Thursday through Sunday will be between 10 and 20 miles per hour which will make the week challenging.

DraftKings tips

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Rory McIlroy – $11,600
  • Brooks Koepka – $11,400
  • Dustin Johnson – $10,900
  • Jon Rahm – $10,600
  • Tiger Woods – $10,200
  • Justin Rose – $9,900
  • Tommy Fleetwood – $9,700
  • Xander Schauffele – $9,500
  • Francesco Molinari – $9,400
  • Rickie Fowler – $9,300
  • Bryson DeChambeau – $9,200
  • Justin Thomas – $9,100
  • Patrick Cantlay – 9,000

In the list above I like Rory McIlroy at $11,600, Brooks Koepka at $11,400, Dustin Johnson at $10,900, Xander Schauffele at $9,500, Rickie Fowler at $9,300, Bryson DeChambeau at $9,200 and Patrick Cantlay at 9,000.

Of course, Rory is the favorite at $11,600, he is the number one favorite because he has played a ton at Portrush, a matter of fact he has the course record of 61 shot at the North of Ireland Championship when he was 16.  We know that he has been looking forward to this week since the course was announced as the venue over six years ago.  McIlroy has the game to play the course, can bring out the power when needed and can throttle it back on the holes that require a deft touch.  He comes into this week without the hassle he had at the U.S. Open winning the week before.  The number one key for Rory will be putting, that has always been the thing that has held him back from being a mega-superstar in the Nicklaus and Tiger realm. I think the slow speeds of Portrush and lack of big break will play to Rory’s advantage and be a key for success.  Sorry but think Rory will be hard to beat this week.  At first, wasn’t keen on Brooks Koepka at $11,400.  I fear he could be tired from his campaign of being runner-up at the Masters and U.S. Open, along with a win at the PGA Championship.  You can’t continue on the pace he has in which he has been either first or second in six of his last nine starts.  In listening to Koepka and some of the locals at Portrush I have seriously upgraded Koepka’s chances.  The biggest reason is that as the Portrush locals tell me, Koepka has a secret weapon and that’s his caddie, Ricky Elliott.  In some background checking, Elliott grew up playing Portrush over a 1,000 times and played junior golf alongside Graeme McDowell. So it seems like an almost unfair advantage for a man who has won four of the last nine majors he’s competed in and finished in the top six at three others.  So a combination of that is the reason to upgrade Koepka because he knows that he won’t do anything bad with the knowledge that Elliott has on Portrush.  Next is Dustin Johnson at $10,900.  I like him a lot this week even despite his struggles at the British Open in the past.  He comes into Portrush and done a lot of homework and realized how the course plays and what that means to tailor his game to the characteristics of Portrush, so he will have to drive it long and straight, which he does now, he will have to fly shots into the greens and over the false fronts, but with the proper amount of spin so the ball doesn’t go over the green.  But most importantly Johnson needs to putt better than he did at Pebble.  Just like I said about Rory and putting, the slowness of the greens will help Dustin and he should be high up your list of players for the week.  One other thing on Johnson’s side, he played with Graeme McDowell who grew up and has played Portrush over a thousand times, so have to think that Johnson got a quick lesson on Portrush.  I have mixed-emotions on Jon Rahm at $10,200.  Yes, he won at Lahinch, another links course along with finishing T-3rd at the U.S. Open.  Still, of the four majors the British Open is the only event he not only hasn’t finished in the top-30 but for the Masters, U.S. Open and the PGA Championship he has been in the top-four in all but the British Open.  So I’m not going to take Rahm this week.  He isn’t the only one I don’t like, Tiger Woods at $10,200 is not high on my list.  I was shocked that he took two weeks completely off of golf to bring his family to Thailand to show his children the roots of his mother Kuitida’s life.  Yes since coming back on July 2nd he has worked hard, even to the point of getting accustomed to the time change by waking up at midnight and starting his daily routine of exercise and just sticking to Irish time.  But the biggest problem with Tiger is what he told us at Pebble Beach that his back was sore in “sweater weather.”  So since he missed the cut at Bethpage in cold weather, wasn’t the best at Pebble have to think with cold, possibly wet and windy conditions it’s not going to be good for Tiger.  So yes I will take a big pass on Tiger this week.  I am not very keen on Justin Rose at $9,900 and Tommy Fleetwood at $9,700.  Both are great players but for some reason, I just don’t like their chances this week.  I know that Rose was runner-up last year at Carnoustie and was in the running at Pebble but I just don’t think Portrush soothes his game.  As for Fleetwood, he has never played well in five tries so maybe this isn’t his type of golf.  I do like Xander Schauffele at $9,500.  He is here with his dad Stefan, who taught Xander how to swing a club and is his guide.  In talking with Stefan, he said how Xander didn’t touch a club for a couple of weeks after Pebble Beach and started practicing a couple of weeks ago and is peaking right now.  So we have to believe that he is fresh and ready to go, so with that and the fact that he ranks 14th in strokes gained Tee-to-Green, 33rd in strokes gained approach the green and is 16th in putting from 4 to 8 feet.  He played great last year at the British and with a year of experience think he will be hard to beat.  Now Francesco Molinari at $9,400 is another story, I would pass on him big time, his game is not very sharp right now.  At this time last year, he was the hottest player in the game and went to Carnoustie with a lot of momentum.  This year it’s the complete opposite and I can see him struggle at Portrush.  Now I like Rickie Fowler at $9,300.  In seeing him play with Tiger and Dustin on Monday I got the feeling that maybe he has learned how to play Portrush and will have a great week.  He has completely fallen off of many people’s radar screen and I can see him doing well.  He was T-2nd in 2014 when we least expected it and will do the same this week.  I also like Bryson DeChambeau at $9,200.  I think of him as a “Golf Nerd” and that is what will take to win at Portrush. I can’t think of any more of a Golf Nerd than DeChambeau.  He is able to pick up things about a golf course nobody else can and I think he will know every bit of Portrush and have a great week.  Justin Thomas at $9,100 is also ok pick.  He played well last week at the Scottish Open, he gave the wrist lot’s of working with punch shots that didn’t seem to bother him, he finished T-9th so I think he will be ready to go this week.  Lastly, we have Patrick Cantlay at 9,000.  He hasn’t played since the Travelers and has to think that he took some time off and is ready to go.  Do like some of his stats in a terrific year.  He ranks 4th in Strokes gained Tee-to-Green, is 12th in strokes gained approach the green and 1st in scrambling for the year which will be important this week.  So look for a good week out of Patrick.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,900 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

I like Adam Scott a lot at $8,800.  This year he was at Portrush a full week before and on top of the week, played Portrush with Darren Clarke for three days.  Clarke grew up and today lives in Portrush so there is nobody that knows more about Portrush than Clarke.  As Scott said Clarke went out of his way to help him and for the three days gave Scott the lay of the land and showed him some of the local knowledge that it will take to play well at Portrush.  Just like with Rory and Dustin, the slow green speeds of Portrush will help Adam and frankly, he may be a better choice than we think.  Also, like Matt Kuchar at $8,700.  We don’t realize what a great year he is having and winning this week would top off his career which is mostly complete except it needs a major victory.  Jason Day at $8,600 is also a dangerous guy, he will have Stevie Williams on the bag and it’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together.  The only thing that could be a problem, if it gets cold it could affect his back.  Henrik Stenson at $8,400 is a great pick.  Learned that Stenson came to Portrush over a week ago and spent two days just walking the course, he didn’t take a single swing but learned a lot about Portrush.  With his tour, he learned that the greens will be hard to hit with the false fronts and if the wind is blowing they will be tough to hit.  Stenson also feels that with the right weather conditions which it looks like we will have, Portrush will be a more stringent test than any other British Open course.  Stenson also feels that the player who scores the lowest on the three par 5s will be the champion.  So I think that Stenson, who won the British Open in 2016 in an epic battle with Phil Mickelson could do it again this week.  Now I don’t know what direction to go with Gary Woodland at $8,200.  The fact that the U.S. Open champion is so low makes you wonder what the real gambler thinks of him.  Also, he is supposed to have twins in the coming weeks and his mind has to be back home with his wife.  After that, there are two ways of looking at it, first, his win at Pebble was an out of body achievement that he will never be able to accomplish again, or if you remember after Koepka won the U.S. Open at Erin Hills nobody gave him much credit after that and look how great Brooks is.  Tony Finau is at $7,800 and I still am a big fan of his.  Can he win, probably not.  But he could finish in the top-ten and get a lot of points with all of the birdies he makes.  I like Rafael Cabrera-Bello at $7,500, he is an off the wall pick. I strongly feel that he not only will contend at Portrush, (he finished 2nd in 2012 in the Irish Open held at Portrush) but he can win. He has won the Scottish Open on a links course and was 4th at Birkdale in 2017.  As of today still, think that Rafael will have a great week.

Some of the “bargains” this week at the Royal Portrush

Frankly, I don’t see many people under $7,500 worth picking.  Of course one of these will break out of the pack, last year Kevin Chappell went off $7,100 and finished T-6th.  So anything is possible.  First off is Kevin Kisner at $7,300, he was runner-up last year and been ok for this year.  I also like Bernd Wiesberger at $7,100 he has won twice this summer including last week at the Scottish Open.  Jim Furyk at $7,100 could also surprise us and get a top-20 finish.  Erik Van Rooyen at $7,100 is also a pick not many would consider, he was T-17th last year at Carnoustie.  Sungjae Im is $7,000 and been very consistent this year, he could get you points.  Also if you want a true longshot to go no further than Joaquin Niemann at $6,900, he has played great the last four weeks and could carry over this year.  Last but not least how about Andrew Johnston at $6,800.  Better known as “Beef” he was tinkling pink to get a spot last week in Scotland and you never know, he could produce “the beef” by finishing very high up and making the pick worthwhile.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the British Open:

  • In the past 27 years its been won by grinders like Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari, Zach Johnson, Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Lehman, Darren Clarke and Stewart Cink who may not look pretty but knows how to place shots in the right spots. There have also been superstars like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth, who were expected to win. And then you had your superstar that wasn’t supposed to win in Phil Mickelson, do the job. Its been won by great tour players like Ernie Els, David Duval and Justin Leonard who capped off their PGA Tour careers with their first win in a major. But unfortunately, the British Open has been won by guys that fell out of the limelight right after their victories. Ian Baker-Finch, Mark O’Meara, Paul Lawrie, David Duval, Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis all come to mind, since there win they have fallen from grace and have struggled with their games.
  • The field has the best golf has to offer, 91 of the top-100 in the world rankings.  Just about every significant player in the world will be at Portrush this week, so there are a lot of players who could win it.
The key stat for the winner:
  • The length and brute strength will play a significant role this week.  But at the same time, nobody will hit 14 drivers a round so the player that places the drives further now in perfect spots, sets himself for a better shot to the pin.  The rough is tough if you go too far left or right, so you have to keep it on the short grass.
  • Putting is going to be a premium this week.  Everybody is making a big deal that an Englishman or Scot hasn’t won maybe that’s because the best putters in the world come outside of the United Kingdom.
  • Be able to play in all conditions.  For the practice rounds, the course has been playing very easy under summer-time conditions with no wind, so the start of play will be interesting when the weather does a complete 180, which it sometimes does at Portrush.  Know the wind will pop up for the first time starting on Thursday and nobody will be able to practice for it.
  • If the wind blows, it will be survival of the fitness, a bit like a couple of years at Birkdale, Troon and St. Andrews.   Look for a marquee player to step up this week.
  • Scrambler. Greens are a bit small, and a player must have the skills to get it up and down from off the green or from greenside bunkers.
  • A player that doesn’t hit it into bunkers.  One of the vital stats for Tiger Woods win in 2000, and Justin Leonard’s victory at Troon in 1997 is that they didn’t hit it in a bunker during the 72 holes.  If that gets repeated this week, that person will win the Claret Jug.
  • Now, what does all of this mean?  Look for a Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson or Brooks Koepka to shine.  My first choice is Rory McIlroy if he bombs it straight and long and putts halfway decent he will be tough to beat
Some other keys to playing well this week:
  • Good bunker play – yes you want to avoid them, but for those that can escape and get it up and down it will help.
  • Some will say that length, and brute strength will play a significant role this week.  That’s not how Todd Hamilton did it 13 years ago, or Justin Leonard did it 21 years ago.  The longer you drive it, the more of an advantage you will have.  But with heavy rough that will be thicker when wet, look for more irons off the tee.
  • Putting is going to be a premium this week.  The greens are flat and slow under the standards of the top professionals so look for lots of 7, 8, 9 and 10 footers to be made.
  • Last but not least, don’t listen to any of the experts that make picks, that includes me.  Golf has become close to impossible to gauge and to pick a winner is almost impossible.  The game has gotten so refined with swing gurus, mind coaches, fitness coaches and dietary experts that golfers can change from playing terribly to winning in a matter of a week. Yes, golf has gotten very complicated these days.

Who to watch for at The Open Championship

Best Bets:

Rory McIlroy

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T2 T4 T5 Win CUT T60 T25 T3 T47 T42

Comes down to his putting, if he putts well he will win. The rest of his game is that sharp.

Dustin Johnson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT T54 T9 T49 T12 T32 T9 T2 T14 CUT

He comes into Portrush and done a lot of homework and realized how the course plays and what that means to tailor his game to the characteristics of Portrush. So he will have to drive it long and straight, which he does now, he will have to fly shots into the greens and over the false fronts, but with the proper amount of spin so the ball doesn’t go over the green. But most importantly Johnson needs to putt better than he did at Pebble.

Brooks Koepka

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T39 T6 T10 T67 CUT

He has one big well kept secret advantage over everyone, his caddie Ricky Elliott. Elliott grew up playing Portrush over a 1,000 times and played junior golf alongside Graeme McDowell. So it seems like an almost unfair advantage for a man who has won four of the last nine majors he’s competed in and finished in the top six at three others

Best of the rest:

Adam Scott

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T17 T22 T43 T10 T5 T3 2 T25 T27 CUT T16 T27

He was at Portrush a full week before and on top of the week, played Portrush with Darren Clarke for three days. Clarke grew up and today lives in Portrush so there is nobody that knows more about Portrush than Clarke. As Scott said Clarke went out of his way to help him and for the three days gave Scott the lay of the land and showed him some of the local knowledge that it will take to play well at Portrush. Just like with Rory and Dustin, the slow green speeds of Portrush will help Adam and frankly, he may be a better choice than we think.

Xander Schauffele

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T2 T20

He is here with his dad Stefan, who taught Xander how to swing a club and is his guide. In talking with Stefan, he said how Xander didn’t touch a club for a couple of weeks after Pebble Beach and started practicing a couple of weeks ago and is peaking right now.

Rickie Fowler

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T28 T22 T46 T30 T2 CUT T31 T5 T14

In seeing him play with Tiger and Dustin on Monday I got the feeling that maybe he has learned how to play Portrush and will have a great week. He has completely fallen off of many people’s radar screen and I can see him doing well.

Henrik Stenson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T35 T11 Win T40 T39 2 68 T3 T13 T3 CUT

Learned that Stenson came to Portrush over a week ago and spent two days just walking the course, he didn’t take a single swing but learned a lot about Portrush. With his walk of the course, he learned that the greens will be hard to hit with the false fronts and if the wind is blowing they will be tough to hit. Stenson also feels that with the right weather conditions which it looks like we will have, Portrush will be a lot more stringent test than any other British Open course. So I think that Stenson, who won the British Open in 2016 in an epic battle with Phil Mickelson could do it again this week.

Jason Day

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T17 T27 T22 T4 T58 T32 T30 T60

he will have Stevie Williams on the bag and it’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together. The only thing that could be a problem, if it gets cold it could affect his back.

Gary Woodland

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T67 T70 T12 T58 T39 T34 T30

The fact that the U.S. Open champion is so low makes you wonder what the real gambler thinks of him. His mind may be at home with his wife due to have twins in the coming weeks.

Solid contenders

Bryson DeChambeau

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T51 CUT

I can’t think of any more of a Golf Nerd than DeChambeau. He is able to pick up things about a golf course nobody else can and I think he will know every bit of Portrush and have a great week.

Justin Thomas

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT CUT T53

He played well last week at the Scottish Open, he gave the wrist lot’s of working with punch shots that didn’t seem to bother him, he finished T-9th so I think he will be ready to go this week.

Patrick Cantlay

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T12

He hasn’t played since the Travelers and has to think that he took some time off and is ready to go. Do like some of his stats in a terrific year. He ranks 4th in Strokes gained Tee-to-Green, is 12th in strokes gained approach the green and 1st in scrambling for the year which will be important this week. So look for a good week out of Patrick.

Matt Kuchar

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T9 2 T46 T58 T54 T15 T9 CUT T27 CUT CUT CUT

We don’t realize what a great year he is having and winning this week would top off his career which is mostly complete except it needs a major victory.

Long shots that could come through:

Rafael Cabrera-Bello

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
74 T4 T39 T40 CUT T21 T81

I strongly feel that he not only will contend at Portrush, (he finished 2nd in 2012 in the Irish Open held at Portrush) but he can win. He has won the Scottish Open on a links course and was 4th at Birkdale in 2017.

Joaquin Niemann

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

He has played great the last four weeks and could carry over to this week.

Andrew Johnston

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T27 8 CUT

Better known as “Beef” he was tinkle pink to get a British Openb spot last week in Scotland and you never know, he could produce “the beef” by finishing very high up and making the pick worthwhile.

Bernd Wiesberger

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T74 CUT T68 CUT T64

He has won twice this summer including last week at the Scottish Open.

Just don’t see it happening for these players

Tiger Woods

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T6 CUT 69 T6 T3 T23 CUT T12

Think the poor weather with cold rain will be hard on his back and he won’t be able to play the way he can.

Justin Rose

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T2 T54 T22 T6 T23 CUT CUT T44 CUT T13 T70 T12

I know that Rose was runner-up last year at Carnoustie and was in the running at Pebble but I just don’t think Portrush soothes his game.

Phil Mickelson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T24 CUT 2 T20 T23 Win CUT T2 T48 T19 CUT

Sorry but I can’t see losing 15 pounds will help him play well this week.

Francesco Molinari

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
Win CUT T36 T40 T15 T9 T39 CUT CUT T13 CUT

At this time last year, he was the hottest player in the game and went to Carnoustie with a lot of momentum. This year it’s the complete opposite and I can see him struggle at Portrush.

Comments

  1. Randy W says:

    Sal, you said Erik van Rooyen is not in The Open, but on the The Open website he has a 12:20 tee time. Has he withdrawn?

  2. Great preview of this wonderful championship; I have Rory and Rose in my pool this week; you have me second guessing my choice of World #4. I still have Xander and Stenson available. I know that if I swap Rose out for someone else he’ll end up winning it!

  3. patrickmcahill@gmail.com says:

    van rooyen in the field

  4. Randy, have taken him off the list of top-100 in the world ranking, that was my mistake. Other than that he is part of my draftKings picks so I didn’t forget him.

  5. Chad, I would take Xander or Stenson in a heartbeat over Rose, but again I could be wrong, It’s just my thoughts. It’s piss-pouring rain here now so it will be a wild week and anyone could come to the top in sloppy, windy conditions as we may have.

  6. Jeff Aaron says:

    Not only is Erik Van Rooyen in the field…his odds have dropped to 120-1….was 500-1 at one point …someone thinks he will do well?

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