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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  1. 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

    • 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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