Boy what I would give for a ticket to this year’s British Open Championship at St. Andrews. The story lines are compelling, especially Jordan Spieth’s attempt to win the third leg of the Grand Slam. Early odds have him as an overwhelming favorite now that his main competition, Rory McIlroy is injured. The board (sans McIlroy) looks eerily similar to the pre-tournament betting at the U.S. Open. Spieth is the heavy favorite, and way ahead of Dustin Johnson, who’s at 12:1. Again, these are not the actual win probabilities, but how the public has elected to wager their money. Let’s sift through the data and get a smart pick for those who failed to cash in on Spieth at Chambers Bay.
Think Jordan Spieth needs more seasoning to win The Open? This guy handles pressure better than anyone on the planet. He putts better than anyone on the planet, and has more guts than anyone on the planet. I’m pulling very hard for him this week but don’t think he closes the deal. Why? The Open, more than any other major, is susceptible to the come out of nowhere winners like Darren Clarke, Tod Hamilton, and Ben Curtis. Also, some ageless contender like Tom Watson or Greg Norman (in their 50s) seems to make a serious run. It’s clear, the slower greens are the equalizer and don’t require as much nerve to putt, which negates Spieth’s advantage. I also don’t like that he’s playing John Deere in-lieu of the Scottish Open. He should have made the trip early to get acclimated. Make no mistake, he deserves the short odds and is playing the best in the world right now. I’m hopeful he gets it done but just don’t see it.
Rory McIlroy; very unfortunate timing on the ankle injury and will not play. Last time out at St. Andrews, Rory finished 3rd in The Open, eight shots behind in the route perpetuated by Louis Oosthuizen. Oosthuizen has a beautiful swing but only seems to be in contention in every third or fourth tournament. Not this week.
Excellent value play is Adam Scott. Scott has gone back to the long putter, had a solid U.S. Open, shooting 64 in the final round, and seems to have shaken off his early season doldrums by resigning Stevie Williams on the bag. Williams was with Tiger Woods for both his Open Championship victories at St. Andrews which is a significant intangible. The stars are aligned, and at 20:1 odds the smart money is backing the Aussie.
What to do with Dustin Johnson. If anyone can forget the debacle at Chambers Bay it’s D.J. Nothing seems to phase him, but that three-putt was a bad choke; worse than the grounded club debacle at Whistling Straits in the PGA. Can he overcome? He’ll either contend or totally collapse. I think he contends and puts up a good fight. If D.J. is going to win a major, it will be The Open on the slower greens. I’m not feeling the closing power this week, though.
Sneaky long shot is Retief Goosen. You can get him at 250:1 to win and I don’t see a victory in his future but would not rule out a top 10. Goose is the perfect horse for this course despite his inconsistent play of late.
Interesting side note: I’m watching Phil and Tiger head-to-head this week. They’re both in the 25-30:1 range but trending in opposite directions, Phil is at the age where majors rarely are won. He still has game but doesn’t seem to put four consecutive rounds together any more. Tiger had a decent showing at Greenbriar in some very soft conditions. Links golf with it’s precision ball placement off the tee doesn’t suit Tiger’s rebuild project. If the wind gets up, it could get ugly. I’m thinking Lefty takes him down.
So here we go, call your bookmaker.
Claret Jug winner: Adam Scott
Runner Up: Jordan Spieth
Third: Dustin Johnson
Who are your picks at St. Andrews?