Sprawling, vast, beautiful, wide-open... and dangerously unpredictable. Those are just a few terms used to describe the 143-year-old Royal St. George Golf Club.
Located in Sandwich, Kent, England, it was the first course outside of Scotland to host The Open Championship in 1894. Royal St. George has hosted golf's oldest tournament 13 more times since that first one, and for the first time in ten years, The Open returns to Southern England in 2021.
A 7,189-yard par 70 course, Royal St. George is best known for the unrelenting hills and humps that pepper its landscape. It has the potential to create nightmare scenarios for golfers attempting to navigate it. On this course, even the most accurately placed shots can take errant and unexpected bounces into hazards.
The bottom line is, it's a difficult course. Four of the last six Open Championships played here were won with scores of five-under or less. Sandy Lyle won here in 1985 with a two-over-par.
The unpredictability of the setting makes the 2021 Open Championship a daunting task for golf bettors, but we're not shying away from it. Let's take a look at my favorites, value picks, and long shots for the 2021 Open Championship.
Favorites to Win Outright
Jon Rahm (+750)
The last time we saw Jon Rahm, he was raising the U.S. Open trophy. A month before that, he finished eighth at the PGA Championship, and a month before that, fifth at The Masters. Throw in a seventh place finish in the rescheduled 2020 Masters, and Rahm has finished top-ten in four straight Major tournaments. This week Rahm will attempt to become the first golfer since Bryson DeChambeau in 2018 to win two Majors in a season, and the first since Jordan Speith in 2015 to do it in back-to-back tournaments.
Rahm is currently a heavy favorite, and for good reason. On this unpredictable course bettors simply need to wager on the best all-around golfers, and Rahm is unequivocally the best right now. He leads the PGA in top-ten finishes with 11 on the season and is first on tour in total strokes-gained. Rahm is second-best off the tee, seventh-best on approach, and fifth-best in percent of greens in regulation. No other golfer is as well-rounded and adaptable as Rahm. That's something that is a must at Royal St. George.
Betting on a golfer to go back-to-back always makes me nervous, but sometimes you just need to keep it simple. Rahm is the best golfer in this field and it would be foolish to leave him off the bet slip this week.
Jordan Spieth (+1800)
If you'd have asked me a few months ago, I would've told you that Jordan Spieth didn't have the tee game to win this tournament. On the season, he's 114th on Tour off-the-tee and his driving accuracy is just 53.59%. But Spieth has been working on this part of his game relentlessly and steadily improving. So much so that he's jumped to 27th on tour in the last three months.
What I like about Spieth is his ability to recover from mistakes and mishaps. His .428 strokes-gained around the green is eighth-best on Tour, and he's top-ten in scrambling within 30 yards. As mentioned in the intro, ball-lies will be unpredictable at Royal St. George and the ability to recover from errant bounces is going to be critical.
With three Major wins under his belt, Spieth is no stranger to the pressure and is in a good position to win his fourth.
Value Picks (Win/Top 5)
Viktor Hovland (+2200/+450)
At just 23 years old, Norwegian Viktor Hovland will be making his Open Championship debut this week. After an eye injury forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open, you can bet he'll be coming into this tournament hungry.
Although top-ten in strokes-gained tee-to-green, Hovland has at times struggled around and on the green, especially early in the season. However, he's improved this part of his game immensely, especially on the green where he has jumped 28 spots in the rankings over the past nine months.
Hovland's improved short-game will give him the boost he needs to make a serious run at his first Major. If nothing else, a +450 top-five bet would be a nice addition to any bet slip.
Louis Oosthuizen (+2500/+500)
The 38-year-old South African is the best putter on Tour by a pretty significant margin, and he has a top-ten chipping game to go with it. No one scrambles better than Oosthuizen from within 30 yards, converting at a 70.4% clip. He is also fifth-best on tour playing out of the rough. While no golfer plans to be in that position, it's an inevitable part of the game. That is especially true at Royal St. George.
Oosthuizen is the first golfer on this list who has played a tournament on this course before. Admittedly it was a 54th-place finish in the 2011 Open, but regardless, just having experience here will bode well for any golfer. He came close to an Open Championship in 2015 when he finished second. I think 2021 could be the year he takes that next step.
A 5-1 wager for a top-five finish is very enticing as well.
Patrick Cantlay (+2800/+500)
With a skill set similar to Oosthuizen's, I really like Cantlay's odds this week. He's nearly as good as Oosthuizen around the green and is second on Tour in overall scrambling. He also plays well out of the rough, converting 65% of his opportunities.
Cantlay, however, has a much better game off-the-tee to supplement his short game. Over the past six months, the 29-year-old has been gaining 0.70 strokes per round off the tee, good for eighth on tour.
Cantlay already has two wins under his belt this season and has a decent shot at a third this week in what would be his first Major victory.
Again, a top-five wager at +500 would be a great hedge bet.
Long Shots (Win/Top 5/Top 10)
Scottie Scheffler (+4000/+700/+350)
I find a lot of long-shot value in this field, starting with the 25-year-old Texan, Scottie Scheffler.
Currently 19th in the Official World Golf Rankings, Scheffler has turned in three top-ten finishes in his last five tournaments. That includes eighth-place and seventh-place finishes in the PGA Championship and U.S. Open respectively, proving that the three-year pro is not scared of the big moments.
Scheffler is well-rounded off the tee, driving the ball over 304 yards on average and hitting more than 65% of his fairways. No single part of his game is on top of the Tour, he simply does a little bit of everything.
His top-ten odds are a little lower than I like with a "long-shot" and Scheffler could certainly be considered more of a value pick, but I love the 7-1 odds he's getting for a top-five finish.
Harris English (+5500/+1100/+500)
English has quietly climbed the ranks this season and currently sits in second place in FedEx Cup rankings. He is another golfer who will not blow you away with any particular part of his game, but he simply does everything well. He gains strokes in every aspect of his game and doesn't shoot himself in the foot.
Ranking eighth in total driving and ninth in overall scrambling has propelled English to an unadjusted scoring average of 69.9 and ten top-ten finishes. He is coming off a win at the Travelers and a third-place finish in the U.S. Open and seems primed for the upset this week.
A top-five or top-ten wager is a must for English, but I will also be sprinkling some cash on the +5500 to win.
Lucas Herbert (+9000/+1400/+700)
My deep-cut long shot this week is the 25-year-old Australian, Lucas Herbert.
With back-to-back top-20 finishes at the Memorial Tournament and Travelers Championship, Herbert has seriously picked his game up of late and is quietly playing really good golf.
In just the last three months, Herbert has gone from losing strokes on approach and around the green to gaining strokes in every measurable area. His putting has always been great, but these recent improvements have propelled him to 17th in this field in total strokes-gained.
Herbert is a long shot for a reason and could just as easily revert to his old ways, but I'm betting on the Aussie to carry his recent success and confidence into the Open and make a splash.
I love the 7-1 top-ten odds, but wouldn't hesitate to add a top-five or even an outright win to my bet slip.
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