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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

Tiger Woods fires second-round 76, will miss Genesis Open cut

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Tiger Woods’ trip to Los Angeles is over sooner than he’d hoped. Woods fired a 5-over 76 during the second round of the Genesis Open to miss the presumed cut at Riviera by four strokes (the second round won’t be completed until Saturday morning due to darkness).

Hopes were high Woods would continue to build on a T-23 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, as the driving woes that plagued him at Torrey Pines followed him to the Riv, despite changing shafts in his TaylorMade M3.

RELATED: Tiger Woods WITB

Wayward off the tee, Woods made eight bogeys Friday, unable to grind out a decent score as he did with his opening-round 1-over 72. He was unable to rely on his putter the way did in this first round, three-putting back-to-back holes (No. 11 and 12). A stretch of three straight bogeys sunk Woods’ hopes of hanging around for the weekend.

(c/o PGATour.com)

We won’t have to wait long to see the Big Cat back in action, however, as Woods committed to next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National in Florida. Woods most recently put a peg in the ground at the course in 2014, where he ultimately withdrew due to back spasms.

The 79-time PGA Tour winner hasn’t teed it in back-to-back weeks since 2015, so while fans may not be encouraged by his play, at least he continues to be free from any issues with his surgically repaired back.

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Tiger Woods shoots an opening-round 72 (1-over) at the 2018 Genesis Open

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After hitting just 17 fairways all week at the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open, where he finished T23, Tiger Woods switched driver shafts and added 0.75 degrees of loft in his TaylorMade M3 driver ahead of the 2018 Genesis Open this week. He went from using a Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro White 70TX shaft, to a Matrix TP6HDe shaft — he used a TP7HDe shaft back in 2015.

So how did the switch work out for him at Riviera CC on Thursday?

Well, he hit driver 9 times during his round of 72 strokes; four went right — one of which got lost in a tree and he had to re-tee — one went left, and four found the fairway. He hit 8-of-14 fairways in total; no Fred Funk, but an improvement. Woods’ bigger issue on Thursday, actually, was that he hit only 7 greens in regulation, leaving himself a few tricky up-and-downs. Despite hitting only 38 percent of greens, Woods managed to make 5 birdies, and he continues displaying prowess on the greens (1.784 Strokes Gained Putting, and 82 feet worth of putts made).

He also showed some flashes of old Tiger with Arnie-esque follow through.

Of course, that means he missed the fairway way right, and he did go onto bogey the hole, but the shot made for some excitement on golf twitter, at least.

According to @RandallMellGC, Tiger described his round in a post-round interview: “I fought hard. I made a few simple, silly mistakes, bad shots here and there, missed on the wrong side, made a few birdies as well. 1-over’s not bad.”

Yea, that’s about right.

Tiger currently sits at T66, and six shots off the leader. Lots of golf to play, but he’ll likely be contending with the cutline come Friday afternoon. How do you think Tiger will finish this week at the 2018 Genesis Open?

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Tour News

Bill Haas injured in fatal car crash in Los Angeles

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Bill Haas was involved in a fatal car crash in Pacific Palisades, Calif., site of the Genesis Open, Tuesday night.

The 35-year-old was riding in the passenger seat of a Ferrari driven by a member of the family with whom Haas is staying this week. According to LA County fire officials, the Ferrari collided with a BMW driven by a 50-year-old woman. Haas and the driver of the BMW were transported to a local hospital. The 71-year-old male driver of the Ferrari was pronounced dead on the scene.

The Ferrari also reportedly “clipped” a vehicle driven by actor Luke Wilson prior to the rollover. Wilson was not injured, per a police report.

Per PGATour.com, Bill Haas’ manager, Allen Hobbs of Players Group Management, released the following statement Wednesday morning.

“Last night in Pacific Palisades, California, Bill Haas was involved in a serious car accident in which the driver—a member of the family with whom Haas and his family were staying for the Genesis Open—was killed. While Bill escaped serious injuries and has been released from the hospital, he is understandably shaken up and—more importantly—his deepest condolences go out to the host family during this tragic and difficult time.“

“Bill will withdraw from the Genesis Open and plans to head home to Greenville to recover. He appreciates the support of friends, family and the golf world as a whole, and he has asked for privacy as he processes what has happened.“

Geoff Shackelford tweeted this video of the KTLA coverage of the crash.

Bill Haas’ father, Jay, spoke with Todd Lewis on Golf Channel’s morning drive earlier in the day, saying his son was “very fortunate.” Beyond swelling in one of his legs and pain, Haas sustained no serious injuries, according to his father.

See the discussion in the forums here

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