The 151st Open Championship gets underway at Royal Liverpool this week.
If the 150th event at St. Andrews was surrounded by the fractured nature of the sport, perhaps when the world’s best get together at Hoylake there will be a little more sense of togetherness at this golf tournament.
The civil war between the PGA, LIV and European Tour’s seemingly breaking into some sort of decorum that will allow the golfers to focus fully on the 72 holes of action.
Founded in 1869, it won’t surprise you to hear that Royal Liverpool Golf Club has hosted the Open Championship on several occasions – 12 to be precise. The last took place in 2014 when Rory McIlroy claimed a wire-to-wire victory, the only time the Northern Irishman has gotten his hands on the famous Claret Jug.
The Hoylake golf course has undergone an array of changes since the 2014 event, especially down the final stretch. As well as the 18th hole now being a par 5 (although those ever-challenging bunkers lie in wait), the center of attention seems to be surrounding the new par-3 17th, otherwise known as ‘Little Eye’, thanks to the view of a small island in the Dee Estuary than can be seen in the distance beyond the green.
Only one player in the entire field (Hoylake member Matthew Jordan) will have played this hole before the practice rounds. The closing holes could help tame a links course that can be known for high winds, although wet weather forecasts in the area suggest we might not see the lightning-quick fairways that helped Tiger Woods cruise to victory in 2006 when he hit his driver just once during the week.
FRACAS Open Championship Picks
After 100,000 simulations of the tournament, Scottie Scheffler is our FRACAS model’s favorite to take the Claret Jug. The American has been the bridesmaid in all our major projections so far this year, but the world No. 1 has finally broken through in the final major of the year with a 7.4% chance of winning.
His warm-up in Scotland last week saw the Renaissance Club bite back in the final round as his even-par effort left him five shots behind McIlroy in a tie for third. However, it was enough for him to surpass $19 million in prize money – the highest in a single season in PGA Tour history and there are still plenty of chances to add to that cash pot.
Since last November, his lowest finish has been 12th, with perhaps only putting woes letting him down. If his putter runs hot at Hoylake, his tee-to-green play will surely make him one of the favorites to win.
Jon Rahm, who won the Masters this year, sits second in our rankings with a 6.0% chance of victory. There isn’t much separating the pair at the top of our predictions, but perhaps there is an underlying worry about the Spaniard’s ability to thrive on a links course. He finished in a tie for third in 2021, suggesting that he may have made a breakthrough with his stroke play. However, he fell into a tie for 34th the last time he played at St. Andrews.
For McIlroy, 2014 feels like an awfully long time ago. It seemed like the world was at his feet as he followed up his Royal Liverpool triumph with success at the PGA Championship. It wasn’t a question of whether he would emulate the greats like Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus, but rather when.
Instead, a major championship drought has ensued, with Brooks Koepka (five) surpassing him in majors won (four). Chances have gone and come since, most notably last year when he went into the final round tied for the lead with Viktor Hovland before only carding two more bridies as Cameron Smith went on to take the Claret Jug.
It does feel like the sixth, ninth and 13th holes might be where the tournament is won or lost. Those are the short par 3s that slightly favor both Scheffler, Smith and Rahm (1-2-3 in short 3s, per FRACAS rankings). But if Rory (13th in short par 3s) can get those right, there’s no reason why his nine-year wait for success on the biggest stage couldn’t come to an end.
Smith, the defending champion, is our sixth favorite (3.7%) behind both Patrick Cantlay (4.4%) and Xander Schauffele (3.9%). Although he broke some hearts by defecting to LIV after his success at St. Andrews, the Australian returns hoping to emulate the feats of Padraig Harrington, Tiger Woods, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, fellow countryman Peter Thomson and others who have been able to win back-to-back Claret Jugs.
The rest of our top favorites are Tyrrell Hatton (2.9%), Dustin Johnson (2.7%), Viktor Hovland (2.6%) and Brooks Koepka (2.5%).
FRACAS Open Championship Best Bets and Value Plays
You might note that we skipped over Cantlay in our earlier look at the favorites. That’s because we believe there is some value in backing the American to claim his first major success at the Open Championship.
Across the sportsbooks, you can find odds in the region of 28-1 for Cantlay to take the outright win at Hoylake. But with our FRACAS prediction giving him a 4.4% chance of claiming the Claret Jug, this represents a very good value bet. Our model prefers him on the short par 3s in comparison to McIlroy. He’s been referred to as ‘the best of the rest’ coming into his week and our data backs that up.
Elsewhere, it might be worth keeping our eyes on Hideki Matsuyama. It hasn’t been easy for the injury-prone Japanese star since his success at the 2021 Masters, but it might be a testament to his natural ability that he can keep challenging.
His best performance at the Open Championship came in his debut at Muirfield (sixth in 2013) with a trio of missed cuts since. FRACAS gives him a 2.4% chance of winning and with Open Championship odds around 80-1, he’s someone worth looking at.
Sungjae Im has shown signs of repairing whatever issues he was having a few months back when he followed up his success on the Korean Tour by shooting an opening round 80 at the PGA Championship. Previous success at the Honda Classic suggests he could be on his game at a seaside course. Our model gives him a 1.8% chance of success compared to his British Open odds at roughly 90-1.
Maybe it’s too much to ask for Denny McCarthy to outperform the outright sports betting odds in the region of 125-1. But in terms of a potential top-five finish, it’s worth looking at his 20-1 odds compared to our FRACAS prediction of a 10.8% chance – just as long as he doesn’t have any more disasters like the one that plagued him on the final hole and in the playoff at Memorial.
Other golf betting options to look out for include Brendon Todd (top five: 60-1/top 10: 20-1) and Ben Griffin (top five: 130-1/top 10 45-1).
If bettors are really looking for a long shot, then back Taiga Semikawa to finish in the top 10 at around 50-1. His strength from off the tee helped earn him this opportunity after winning three straight and becoming the first amateur champion of the Japan Open in 95 years. He’s since turned pro and, in case you were wondering, his given name is a homage to Tiger Woods.
Other notable golfers in the British Open with their ranking and win probability:
- Jordan Spieth, 2017 Open Champion (22nd, 1.5%)
- Collin Morikawa, 2021 Open Championship winner (19th, 1.6%)
- Matt Fitzpatrick, 2022 U.S. Open winner (25th, 1.4%)
- Justin Thomas (20th, 1.6%)
- Shane Lowry (31st, 1.0%)
- Bryson DeChambeau (26th, 1.3%)
- Tommy Fleetwood, 2019 Open Championship runner-up (15th, 1.7%)
- Tony Finau (18th, 1.7%)
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