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2017 Open Championship: Preview, Picks, and Prop Bets

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The Open Championship has arrived as the world’s top players head to Royal Birkdale for a chance at the Claret Jug. The field is headlined by Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy, and it includes 73 of the top-75 ranked players in the world. Last year, we saw arguably the most memorable Open Championship of all-time, and although this year probably won’t live up to 2016, there are several intriguing storylines.

Dustin Johnson comes in as the favorite, but he has struggled recently, missing two cuts in his last two starts. He hasn’t played weekend golf in a major since last year’s Open. Rory McIlroy is in a similar situation; he missed the cut at both the Irish and Scottish opens and is desperately trying to find his game. The biggest storyline of the week, though, surrounds Jon Rahm’s continued emergence as one of game’s best players. After his win at the Irish Open, he is now No. 7 in the Official World Golf Rankings, and he’s looking to capture the first major of his young career.

  • Tournament Record: 264 by Henrik Stenson
  • 18-Hole Record: 63 by Mark Hayes (1977), Isao Aoki (1980), Greg Norman (1986), Paul Broadhurst (1990), Jodie Mudd (1991), Nack Faldo (1993), Payne Stewart (1993), Rory McIlroy (2010), Phil Mickelson (2016), and Henrik Stenson (2016).

The Course

Royal Birkdale plays at 7,156 yards, and the par-70 is regarded as the fairest course in the Open rota. Birkdale first played host in 1954 and has held eight Opens since. Some of golf’s greatest names have won here, including Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, and Tom Watson. As with most courses in the rota, the play will be determined by the weather. If it’s calm and steady, this could turn into a shootout. The current forecast, however, looks like rain and wind for most of the week, which will favor a penetrating ball flight and a willingness to grind it out. Birkdale is a bit unique though as the course seems to wind through the hills and dunes instead of roll over them.

Odds

Past Champs in the field:

  • Paul Lawrie +50000
  • Mark O’Meara +150000
  • Tom Lehman +75000
  • John Daly +100000
  • David Duval +150000
  • Ernie Els +25000
  • Todd Hamilton +200000
  • Padraig Harrington +5500
  • Stewart Cink +22500
  • Louis Oosthuizen +4500
  • Darren Clarke +100000
  • Phil Mickelson +4000
  • Rory McIlroy +2000
  • Zach Johnson +8000
  • Henrik Stenson +2500

Favorites

  • Dustin Johnson +1400
  • Jordan Spieth +1600
  • Rickie Fowler +1600
  • Jon Rahm +1600
  • Sergio Garcia +1800
  • Justin Rose +2000
  • Rory McIlroy +2000
  • Hideki Matsuyama +2000
  • Tommy Fleetwood +2200

Picks

My Pick: I’m going with Jon Rahm this week at +1600. I have to go with the hot hand here; Rahm won two weeks ago at the Irish Open by six (that’s right, SIX shots), and he finished with a 65. He ranks 3rd in Shots Gained: Off the Tee and Approach the Green, so I expect a lot good opportunities for birdie. Rahm’s short, compact swing will also come in handy when the wind starts to gust.

Value Pick: I’m going with Jason Day at +3300. I know he’s struggled all year — he hasn’t had a win yet and is actually giving shots back to the field with his approach shots — but at +3300 his odds are too good to pass up. He’s still ranked No. 6 in the OWGR, and he has the game to win if he can pull it together for four consecutive rounds.

Long Shot: My dark horse this week is Marc Leishman (+5000). He ranks 8th in Shots Gained: Total and 4th in Scoring Average, so we should see him hanging around the top of the leaderboard. He also has a pretty good track record in the Open; Leishman’s made four cuts in his six starts including a T2 and a T5.

Props

Phil Mickelson to Miss the Cut (+275): I generally don’t like to bet against people — it’s a lot less fun rooting for bogeys than birdies – but I think Phil is going to struggle this week. He’s been all over the place off the tee this year, which isn’t too surprising, but with the potential for strong winds, driving accuracy could be crucial this week. He’s also just getting older; it’s going to be a tough couple of days grinding it out through the wind and rain.

Will there be a wire-to-wire winner (Yes +1600) – I’m going with “Yes” on this. I think Rahm is going to jump out to an early lead and hold off the pack the rest of the way. He’s considered more of a comeback player, but he ranks 12th in Round 1 scoring average, so he’s more than capable of getting off to a hot start. If the weather picks up for the weekend like it’s supposed to, it’ll be tough for someone to make a run at him.

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Twitter @NickRitaccoGolf

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Dave

    Jul 20, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    So much for Rahm getting off to good start. My top four picks in the pool are -12 after round one.

  2. Lloyd

    Jul 19, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    Some no-name golfer will win The Open, and I hope it’s somebody from GB or EU.

  3. Tom54

    Jul 19, 2017 at 8:53 am

    All the big boys DJ Rory&Jason seem to be struggling lately but all 3 can find a way to get it done. Rahm definitely a good pick but anyone can get it together this week. There is so much talent at the top nowadays is why this Open is wide open. I have no pick but will be watching with great expectations. Ok Fowler or Matsuyama are my picks to have a great week

  4. Sam

    Jul 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    Did you even do any research…? Course is hard and fast, few drivers will be hit. Phil has two 3 irons in the bag no driver. Your analysis is pretty weak.

    • Nick Ritacco

      Jul 18, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Hey Sam – when did I mention Driver? Can you find it in there even once? Also this was posted prior to Phil announcing no driver.

  5. freeze

    Jul 18, 2017 at 11:38 am

    I think Rory will have a great week.

  6. Oi

    Jul 18, 2017 at 11:24 am

    What, no Fleetwood?
    Rahm will falter badly.
    JDay? You’re crazy.

    • Nick Ritacco

      Jul 18, 2017 at 11:36 am

      What makes you think Rahm will falter? As for Day – he’s struggled all year like I said but when’s the last time you got someone with his talent, ranked #6 at +3300? That’s VALUE.

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Tour News

5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

Related

Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

Special Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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