The 144th playing of The Open Championship begins Thursday at the Old Course at St Andrews in Scotland. The staff at theScore put on their prognosticator hats and offered up three packs of picks with an eye on favorites, longshots, and those in the middle of the pack.
Favorite: Rickie Fowler +1500
The last five Open champions played the Scottish Open the week prior to golf's oldest major. Of the players to tee off at Gullane last week, none are in better form than Fowler, who won the event, birdieing three of the last four holes to overtake Matt Kuchar. Prior to a forgettable performance at the U.S. Open, Fowler had finished top-five at four of five major tournaments, including a T2 at last year's Open Championship. In 2010, he posted a final-round 67 at the Old Course.
Middle of the pack: Brandt Snedeker +4000
Snedeker makes the trip to St Andrews having finished inside the top 10 in each of his last four starts, including a solo eighth at Chambers Bay in the U.S. Open. He's made it through to the weekend at The Open each of the last three seasons, including a T3 in 2012 after leading through 36 holes.
Longshot: Tommy Fleetwood +8000
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is played over four rounds, two at St Andrews, one at Carnoustie, and one at Kingsbarns. Tommy Fleetwood finished with results of T2 and 5 the last two years, but a closer look at his performance at the Old Course tells another story. The Englishman carded scores of 65-67 in 2013 and 62-68 in 2014, making him 26-under for his last four rounds at St Andrews. Going even further back, he's played his last eight rounds at St Andrews at 42-under par.
Favorite: Jordan Spieth +600
I hate, hate picking chalk. And worse, it feels like unlikely chalk, given the amount of things that have to go right (conditions, weather, bounces, etc.) to win one major, let alone three in a row. But a roulette ball that lands on red 14 five straight times is no less likely to land on red 14 the next spin. And, sorry, you're not gonna pick the guy with two major wins this season coming off a 20-under playoff win the week before? You can talk yourself into anyone - Dustin Johnson's skill set, in particular, matches up well this week - but I like Spieth in a week where the ability to play a wide range of shots is going to be key. Wind, rain, or, let's face it, wind, the guy has the tools to adapt. I'm trying not to overthink this one.
Middle of the pack: Phil Mickelson +3000
When you consider what St Andrews and the accompanying weather bring, you'd like someone who has the touch and creativity to handle difficult or unusual situations. Phil has that in spades. We also know that Phil, as much as anyone, gears up for majors as a top priority, particularly as he gets older. And he happens to be coming off a week at the Scottish Open where he played some fantastic golf, despite putting like Happy Gilmore before his game-changing hockey stick putter. If Phil gets his flat-stick going - and we know he can get streaky with it - it's not hard to see him threatening the top of the leaderboard.
Longshot: Kevin Kisner +8000
The easiest thing to do would be to post a screenshot of his finishes since mid-April, but that might come off lazy. So, text form: The 31-year-old (which is almost exactly the prime age of PGA members contending at majors) has been a runner-up in some legit events over the past three months. And not just "runner-up," I should note - he lost in playoffs at the RBC Heritage, the Players, and the Greenbrier. He also hasn't once finished outside the top 40, with two additional top-10s and a 12th-place finish at the US Open. Among longshots, I've got no problem picking a guy who's been knocking on the door to finally see it answered.
Favorite: Dustin Johnson +1200
On the surface, it's pretty difficult to trust Dustin Johnson in this spot. He has a history of disappointment in major championships - the most recent coming last month at the U.S. Open, when he couldn't take down Jordan Spieth - but he's a perfect fit for this golf course. The one criticism of the Old Course is that these days, it can be overpowered pretty easily if the wind is down. Based on the forecast, it looks like Johnson may have gotten the better end of the weather with the early-late combo for the first two rounds. With the expected wet conditions, his length is a huge advantage and his short game is underrated. He's in good form as well, and finished tied for 14th when the Old Course last hosted the Open Championship in 2010.
Middle of the pack: Martin Kaymer +4000
When looking at the top players in the world, few struggle with consistency quite like Kaymer, who tends to go months without contending in a tournament. From the first week of February until the last week of June, Kaymer missed six cuts, and his best finish in a stroke play event was a tie for 18th at the BMW PGA. But he finished solo fourth in his last start at the Open de France, which leads me to believe that he's coming back into form, and his history at the Old Course is impressive. He has won and finished as the runner-up in the Dunhill Links, which is played partially at the Old Course, and he finished tied for 7th in the last Open Championship held here in 2010. If he's in form, he's almost impossible to beat.
Longshot: Charl Schwartzel +8000
Of the players in this group, Schwartzel is probably the most talented. On top of that, he has a strong record in this tournament, finishing inside the top 16 in four of the last five years. He hits the ball far enough that he should be able to keep pace with the big hitters, and his iron play is usually good enough to mask the fact that his putter has let him down far too often in big tournaments. He's placed inside the top 10 in his last two worldwide starts, including the U.S. Open last month at Chambers Bay.
|Byeong Hun An||100-1|
|Miguel Angel Jimenez||150-1|
(Odds courtesy: Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)