2021 Open Championship Preview
By Keith Flemming and Allen Sandidge
It has been 24 months since Shane Lowery won The Open at Royal Portrush. The 2020 event was cancelled due to Coronavirus. This week The Open returns at Royal St. George in front of an expected crowd of 30,000 fans per day. This is the 15th time that The Open has been held at Royal St. George. The last in 2011 saw Darren Clarke at 42 years of age finally get his major win.
Royal St. George is a Par 70 course that stretches out to 7100 yards and change. Known for its bumpy fairways that luck can play a huge factor in whether a ball stays in the fairway or bounce into trouble. The course borders two other Open venues Royal Clinque and Prince’s Golf Club. This area is one of the most visited golf destinations in the area. In 2011 players hit less than half of the fairways for the entire week. Again, even a good drive with the bumps and hollows can throw your ball into the rough or to a blind approach shot. The course will have 2 Par 3’s this week that if not downwind most regular golfers would need to hit driver, playing around 240 yards each. Only one hole doesn’t have a bunker on it and that hold has the only tree on the course.
Due to Covid, scheduling and traveling issues we have already seen a whopping 17 withdrawals. Including big names such as Bubba, Kevin Na, Sungjae Im, and Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama. There are 30 players in the field who teed it up here in 2011. Guys like Poulter, Louis and DJ are probably the guys most likely to contend form those names. The clear favorite is Spanish sensation Jon Rahm who won his first major at the US Open, followed it up with a strong showing at the Scottish Open and this was following a heartbreaking withdrawal due before both due to a positive Covid test at The Memorial. When he had a commanding lead walking off the 18th green on Saturday. He has the talent to win back to back majors. Other names like Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth have all won events this year and have good track records at The Open. The home favorite will be Rory McIlroy going for his second Open championship. Tyrrell Hatton and Tommy Fleetwood are two other names from the area that should have big crowd support. I am looking to steady players with experience and superior ball strikers for guys to win. This Open could mirror the 2011 held here won by Clarke and the 2013 won by Mickleson. Both guys had a ton of experience at Open Championships and the ability to not let a bad bounce or number derail them from winning.
Guys with good record at The Open in last 5 starts
Rory: Top 5 in 3 of 4 starts
Koepka: Top 10 in 3 of last 4
Spieth: Last 5 T20/T9/1st/30th/T4th
Hatton: Top 5 in 2 of the last 4
Reed: Top 30 in 4 of last 5
Finau: 3rd/T9th last 2 starts
Rose: Top 22nd in 4 of his last 5 starts
Fleetwood: last 3 2nd/T-12th/T-27th
Day: Top 27 in 4 of last 5
Molinari: Last 2 starts T11th/1st
Fowler: Top 30 in 4 of his last 5 starts
Noren: last 3 starts T11th/T17th/T6th
Rooyen: only two starts T20th/T17th
Z Johnson: Top 17 in 4 of his last 5 starts
Stenson: Top 40 in 5 straight starts
Palmer: Top 30 in last 3 starts
Cink: Top 24 in 3 of his last 5 starts
Type of Players I am targeting to contend/win/daily fantasy
The players I am targeting are those that are good to great ball strikers and those that can scramble. I would not look at driving numbers like I do at most majors. Remember that the field only hit 48% of fairways at this venue in 2011 and Open’s typically play firm and fast. Meaning distance is not the advantage it normally is, especially when you consider a good drive can end up in really penalizing rough. I feel like the winner is more than likely going to be older. In the age range of the past Open winners which is 32.5 years of age. I want guys that are steady. Guys that will not be affected by a bad bounce or kick and can recover from a big number. I am not saying to stay away from Americans but I would look at Europeans who are either playing well recently or have a great track record at previous Open’s.
Below are my Picks and Allen (IB Yeezus) breakdown and picks below that. I hope you guys enjoy the information and good luck with your bets, props, Daily Fantasy Lineups.
Picks: Keith Flemming
Brooks Koepka 14-1; I am going to take Koepka in every major unless he is the heavy favorite
Xander Schauffle 18-1; This feels like the major Xander’s game is most made for. I know many would argue it’s the US Open, but I think his overall consistency is best suited for The Open. Even if it hasn’t panned out that way thus far in his career. I would be surprised if he isn’t involved in the finish this weekend.
Louis Oostenhausen 25-1; already two runner ups in majors this year. Louis checks all the boxes for this course and he is too good of a player to not win a second major. This is a track that he should be able to contend at and if he putts well. He will be a factor on Sunday
Patrick Reed 30-1; I was high on Reed because of his toughness and amazing ability to scramble. Not to mention he seems to always play well in Europe. I think the crowd is going to be against him and that’s the kind of thing that only helps Reed. Not to mention he is paired with Rory and Cam Smith the first two rounds. Rory who he has dueled with in Ryder Cups and Smith who flat out called him a cheater. I think Reed likes to stick it to people and being paired with Rory and Cam will only give him more motivation.
Shane Lowery 40-1; I hate that the defending champs odds have continued to come down over the last few weeks, but that doesn’t prevent me from taking him. I think the long period between when he won his Open and when he tries to defend it only helps. Lowery is in good form, plays great on links style courses and could be a surprise back to back Open winner like Padraig Harrington in the mid 2000’s.
Westwood 45-1; A Westwood win would be very similar to Clarke’s win here in 2011. Westwood has his wife on the bag, seems happy and relaxed for maybe the first time in his career. Not to mention a course that takes experience, ball striking and not necessarily a great putting week. Are all things that could lead to Westwood finally getting that first major win.
Scheffler 50-1; Texas players typically do well overseas on link style courses. I love the value of getting Scheffler at 50-1. This is as much of a hunch as anything, but he has yet in his young career to not play well at a big event when he is playing well.
Alex Noren 80-1; Noren is a guy that checks almost all of the boxes when taking into account what I am looking for in a winner. At 80-1, he is one of my longshots
Stewart Cink 130-1; He has won an Open before, played well in his last 5 appearances and is having a resurgence year overall. I would love for Cink to win an Open where everyone is not rooting against him. Which was the case in 2009 when he beat Tom Watson.
Francesco Molinari 130-1; Another guy that checks all the boxes in what I am looking for in a player to win. He is playing better as of late and has back to back top 11’s including a win at this event. His total strokes gained on the field is a whopping 28.65 in the last 5 years.
Brandon Todd 200-1; Todd has only one start in an Open Championship and he finished 12th. This is a course that should suit his game well. One of the best tee to green players on tour and he will not have to worry about the course playing too long for him.
Top 5 Picks
Dustin Johnson 4-1; DJ finished runner up here in 2011. I just can’t see him going an entire major season without being in contention at a major.
Louis Oosthiuzen 5-1; already two top 5s in majors this season and this is the major he has the most success for his career.
Francesco Molinari 20-1; Molinari has back to back top 11s at this event and if the course plays as tough as most expect. That will only help someone with Molinari’s game.
Top 10 Picks
Patrick Reed 4-1; See what I said about Reed above. I expect him to contend and love his value here
Lee Westwood 5-1; Westwood is someone I would love to see win this event. Deep down I am not sure if he can get it done, but I do expect him to contend.
Guido Miglizzi 12-1; someone who has been playing well. Everything about him but his experience fits the type of players that should do well here. I think at 12-1, this is a great value play.
Top 20 Picks
Ian Poulter +350; do we really think Poulter will not show up for an Open in England? I expect him to be a pretty safe top 20 play here
Russell Henley 4-1; Henley has been playing great golf as of late and has the game/temperament to contend here. He has two top 37 finishes including a top 20 in his last 4 Open Championships.
Ryan Palmer +450; Palmer has a good track record at this event, has played well in both events in Europe in the last two weeks and at almost 5-1. I think he makes the cut and has a great chance to top 20.
Haotang Li 18-1; He has made the cut in 2 of his 3 starts at The Open. Including a T-39th and 3rd place finish. Those who follow my picks know I have been killing it with longshot Top 20 plays. I wanted to go with Bernard Langer but he withdrew. I still feel really good with Li at 18-1.
DraftKings Plays Tiers
Tier 1 $11,300-$9,000
Koepka $10,700; if you have the money always go with Koepka. The safest play in majors. It doesn’t even concern me that he said he doesn’t like the track
Louis $9,300; Louis hasn’t finished worse than 41st in his last 10 events. He has finishes 23rd,2nd,2nd in the majors thus far this season and there is 8 guys who cost more than him.
Hatton $9,000; I like guys like Xander, Spieth and Rahm more, but they are more expensive. Hatton in his last 4 European events has finished 18th,6th,22nd,1st. In those events he is averaging almost 96 points per event. I would prefer to save the money by taking Hatton over the other guys I mentioned who cost more and spend that on players in the $8,900-$7,000 range.
Tier 2 $8,900-$8,000
Reed $8,800; I am not going to repeat all the reasons I love Reed again but getting a guy I think could win at $8,800 and is likely to miss the cut than many of the guys above him because of this venue matching his game well.
Casey $8,600; Another guy that would fit the description of the winner at this event. He has 7 top 7 finishes in his last 12 starts. His last 3 starts on the European tour include a 12th,6th and a win.
Scottie Scheffler $8,200; Scheffler’s worst finish in a major this season is 12th. He played in the Scottish Open last week and finished 12th there. Where after a first round 72, he finished with rounds of 63,67, and 69. Guys from Texas have along history of playing well at The Open.
Tier 3 $7,900-$7,000
Fitzpatrick $7,900; Fitzpatrick finished 2nd at the Scottish Open and what was most impressive was he shot a pair of 67’s and 66’s. He has finished in the Top 10 in 6 of his last 12 events.
Molinari $7,400; yep I am going with a guy who hasn’t been in great form despite there being a lot of other good options at this level. Mostly because you need guys who will be low owned. I think he will and Molinari last 5 starts at The Open include a MC, but the last two years he finished T-11th/1st and also has a T-36 and T-40th in that time.
Ian Poulter $7,100; Poulter is coming off a 4th place finish at the Scottish Open including a 63 on Sunday. He has made the cut at all 3 majors and finished 40th or better in 6 straight events.
Tier 4 $6,900-under
Ryan Palmer $6,900; Palmer finished 4th this last week at the Scottish Open and has finished Top 30 in 2 of his last 3 Open starts.
Stewart Cink $6,900; Cink has a win in The Open previously and finished Top 24 in 3 of his last 4 starts in this event. Cink is someone I expect to contend this week.
Haoting Li $6,500; someone who has played well here in two of his three career starts including a 3rd place finish in 2017.
Allen Sandidge (IB Yeezus) Picks and Analysis
I have not won a/n (British) Open outright since 2016 with Henrik Stenson. That was ironically the very first time I won a golf bet so this tournament is always special to me as a gambler. This year the event goes to Royal St. George’s Golf Course. Looking at the course it is not a lot of distance to it at a Par 70 and 7204 yards. The course is links style so it’s coastal (wind , lots of wind) and wide open….except for the 101 bunkers. The water hazard is the umm North Sea …so let’s avoid that altogether shall we.
On most weeks there is no difference in how I cap an event and how I would approach it from a DFS standpoint , HOWEVER, this is a unique situation as this event will not use a split tee. That means it might take upwards to 10 hours between the first group and the final group. How does this come into play? Well if you’re concerned about the wind you may want to take a deeper dive when building lineups. Especially for showdown formats there may be some advantages in there. I’m going to try to not overthink this thing but I am big on people staying informed. Please use that link as that is one of the best weather websites for golf out here now.
Tier 1 (Schauffle)
Links, short course , wind no matter how you spin it …..if you’ve listened to me talk about golf and my approach to most tourneys with wind you will have heard me mention : Ball Striking. You could argue I probably over use this stat but there’s just something about guys making solid contact that builds confidence in their ability to be accurate. The greens on this course are not hard to hit but you literally HAVE to hit them to give yourself a chance to score here. Keep in mind this place grades almost 3-4 strokes harder than the tour average so just making par in some cases is a win. PGATour.com has a statistic that grades ball striking. When I use stats I try to expand in the top 25-30 range for selections. Anything after top 30 for a key stat will need a special circumstance for me. The Open is favorable to guys who play in Europe a lot or are from Europe. At the top of this list is basically the top golfer in the world : Jon Rahm. The risk-reward for Rahm as an outright winner is just too juicy for me. I won’t put him in a formal pick but if I can get him at decent odds for a top 5 or live bet him to place top 5 you will probably find your value there. A line up with him in for DFS might be a solid idea because this is a tournament where little guys find success more frequently than people want to give them credit. Searching through my top 10 ball strikers the oldie but goodie Xander Schauffele is sitting at 9th. Xander is my guy but he hasn’t been winning but he’s just too damn good to not give consideration here. He’s 3rd on the tour strokes gained, 12th in strokes gained tee to green and 11th putting. He’s sitting at 18:1 and with his track record of placing but not finishing a top 5 look at 4:1 is in play. You also have to consider this…..Royal St. George is a hard course, Xander has a lofty strokes gained advantage over the field in majors win or lose…when talking DFS you want to check the ownership but a top 5, 10 prop on him could be profitable. We have other big names out there and I believe Keith likes DJ. I’m not going to call any pick crazy this week so if you want to fade Xander I understand . Brooks is trending up and loves hard courses but I just wonder about his putter.
Tier 2 (Hatton, Cantlay , Oosthuizen)
I say it every tourney. “If you like Rahm you should consider Tyrrell Hatton.” Tyrrell Hatton was my very first European Tour winner and I only bet him because his last name was like Ricky Hatton the boxer. Lucky for me Tyrrell is a better golfer than Ricky is a boxer. I have seen my guy Hatton take on a tough field and the elements to win and I’m willing to give him a play at 33:1. He is a mercurial player so it comes with a risk. Honestly that used to be the knock on Rahm as well and he figured it out. This course should make him feel right at home …literally.
Taking another look at guys on this list you’ve got people that you’re not accustomed to seeing at 30:1 or higher anymore. Bryson Dechambeau , Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay to name a few. I’m going to take a move here on my guy Cantlay. He is a solid coastal golfer, has always been that throughout his career. The fairways here are unpredictable and difficult at times but many people have commented on how they remind them of Augusta. If that’s correct then Cantlay will have success as he’s always been solid when playing that course. He’s coming in with a return to form so I really like these odds. Another guy worth a look at DFS and for a top 10 prop. I’ve never been a fan of Bryson and these odds won’t make me either. I do not have a lot of faith in Patrick Reed at 35:1 but these are the times where he somehow finds a way. I will lean on Louis Oosthuizen at 33:1. He’s a solid golfer in the wind and is not afraid of this kind of course set. Of course we will have to hold our breath and hope he doesn’t withdraw. My advice is to stay disciplined. You can pick an American but do not get too carried away with them because the advantage is with Europeans. I’m going to double my Euros here and sprinkle Cantlay in as the American for this section.
Tier 3 (Westwood, Rose)
Everyone is in play here. No, I kid but man you have to consider Justin Rose, Marc Leishman, Lee West wood, Paul Casey and the defending champion Shane Lowry. I think Lowry odds are half of what they were at this event last year. It’s just a lot going on at this range so I’m going to look at two guys here with the same odds .
Lee Westwood 55:1, Justin Rose 55:1. Lee Westwood has been solid as they come this year and it would be a great story for him to win this. He this great calm to his game right now and I have really enjoyed watching him play this year. I think he’s a live (and popular) pick for outright winners and DFS. Justin Rose always checks all the boxes, there’s no course where he doesn’t fit. If he is converting putts, specifically the long putts, then he’s going to be in the mix.
Longshots ( no explanation needed they are long shots)
80:1 Christiaan Bezuidenhout
160:1 Keegan Bradley
200:1 Erik Van Rooyen
Tyrell Hatton +650
Lee Westwood +450
Keegan Bradley 4:1
Erik Van Rooyen 6:1