Golf moves back into the spotlight this week with the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale. The sport has seen a rash of new champions recently with Sergio Garcia getting his illusive first major at the Masters, and Brooks Koepka becoming the sixth straight first time major champ when he prospered at the U.S. Open. Birkdale requires golfers hit it straight off the tee and be very careful on approach shots while navigating high winds.
So whose style does the course suit best? Eight of the last nine Opens were won by players who’ve won multiple majors. Saying that, the last time the tournament was held at Birkdale, Padraig Harrington was victorious in 2008. That was his first major title, and he followed it up with a victory at the PGA Championship later that year.
Let’s look at who could contend for the Claret Jug this year.
2017 Open Championship: Who’s the best betting value?
Dustin Johnson: 12/1
In each of the last two years, Johnson finished among the Top 10 in three of the four majors, including his win in the 2016 U.S. Open. This year he was the favorite at the Masters, but suffered an injury days before the event which forced him to withdraw. He missed the cut at this year’s U.S. Open, the last event he participated in. Last year he finished ninth at the Open Championship. Johnson is the longest driver on the PGA Tour, but 157th in accuracy off the tee. He ranks 14th in ball striking.
Jordan Spieth: 12/1
After winning the Masters and U.S. Open in 2015, Spieth finished fourth at the Open Championship. He continued his strong play as the runner up at the PGA Championship, and finished second at the 2016 Masters. However, since then he’s failed to hit the Top 10 of a major. He was 30th at the Open Championship last year, and comes off a 35th place performance at the U.S. Open. He won his most recent tournament, the Travelers, in a playoff. Spieth is only 65th this season in ball striking, and ranks 121st in driving accuracy.
Jon Rahm: 12/1
The 22-year-old Spaniard is seventh in the world, though his best finish in his four major championships played is 23rd. He got cut at the U.S. Open, and was 59th at last year’s Open Championship. He placed 10th three weeks ago at the HNA Open in France, and won in Dubai two weeks back. Rahm ranks 18th in ball striking, and 129th in driving accuracy.
Rickie Fowler: 18/1
In 2014, Fowler was among the Top 5 in all four majors. Over his next seven major starts he was cut three times and failed to hit the Top 10. He finished fifth at the U.S. Open last month, and third at the Quicken Loans National in early July. Fowler is number ten on tour in ball striking, and 35th most accurate off the tee.
Rory McIlroy: 18/1
A four time major winner, McIlroy has been in the hunt, but failed to win a top tournament since back-to-back wins at The Open and PGA Championship in 2014. He was fifth at the Open last year, finished seventh at this year’s Masters, but didn’t make the cut at this year’s U.S. Open. McIlroy also missed the cut at his last two tournaments, in Dubai and Scotland. If he had played enough PGA Tour events to be in the rankings, McIlroy would rank 147th in driving accuracy.
Sergio Garcia: 22/1
At the age of 37, Garcia won his first major at the Masters. He followed it up with a 21st place performance at the U.S. Open. Garcia was the runner up at the BMW International on the European Tour in his only effort since Erin Hills. He has finished in the Top 6 at the Open Championship three years running, and has ten Top 10’s in his career. Sergio is second in ball striking this year, and 30th in driving accuracy.
Hideki Matsuyama: 25/1
Ranked second in the world, Matsuyama is closing in on his first major title after finishing second at the U.S. Open. Aside from a sixth place finish at the 2013 Open Championship, he has not been a contender in this event. He placed 14th in Dubai, his only competitive effort since the U.S. Open. Matsuyama ranks fifth in ball striking, and 81st most accurate off the tee.
Phil Mickelson: 40/1
After skipping the U.S. Open to attend his daughters graduation, Mickelson seeks his sixth major title this week, and first since winning this event in 2013. He has twice been the runner up at the Open Championship, including last year. He was 20th two weeks ago at the Greenbrier Classic. Mickelson ranks 159th in ball striking, and 181st in driving accuracy.
Zach Johnson: 85/1
The Open Championship is meant for a player like Johnson, who hits it short and straight, and deals well with changing conditions. After winning the tournament two years ago, he finished 12th last season. In four of the last five years, Johnson has finished in the top dozen at the tournament. After placing 27th at this year’s U.S. Open, Johnson missed the cut at the Travelers, but bounced back to finish fifth at the John Deere Classic. He ranks 11th in driving accuracy, and 81st in ball striking.
The Best Bet
Among the top choices Fowler fits the profile best. He is playing well and could do what it takes to win at Birkdale. Matsuyama is going to win a major soon, and this very well could be the week. And watch out for Zach Johnson, who also presents value at a big price.