The final Major of the 2021 Super Season is here! The PGA Tour will travel across the pond to England to Royal St. George’s Golf Club. This will be the fifteenth time that Royal St. George’s will host The Open Championship, with the last iteration being 2011. This is the only course on The Open rotation that is located in South East England, and will be a traditional links challenge.
Royal St. George’s is a Par 70 that measures slightly over 7,200 yards. The fairways are rolling, and undulating with many uneven lies in store for golfers. The course has practically no defense which means weather will be an aspect to monitor. Gusty conditions will be an added layer to the challenge this week. Missing the fairway will be penal. The fairway bunkers are some of the deepest golfers will ever see, and nothing compared to the sand that is seen on the PGA Tour. The rough will be very thick, which will mean golfers cannot control their spin approaching the green. With firm, fast bentgrass greens it will be imperative for golfers to stay on the short grass. In previous Open Championships on this course, we have seen extremely difficult scoring conditions. I would expect the winning score to be in the neighborhood of -5.
With limited course history to reference, I will turn my attention to general Open Championship traits. Golfers who have won this event have been older, experienced player. Seven of the last nine winners have been 32 years or older. The age stat is somewhat narrative based but it goes to show that patience, and experience is a factor. Eight straight winners of The Open Championship have been ranked inside the Official World Golf Rankings Top 40. As with every Major championship, the cream rises to the top. Eight straight winners of The Open Championship recorded a Top 6 Finish or better in one of their five PGA Tour starts leading up to this event. Seven of the last eight winners recorded multiple Top 10 Finishes in their five PGA Tour starts leading up to this event. A links golf course is certainly not the place for a struggling player to right the ship. Strong current form is a key indication of success, so I will be targeting golfers riding a hot hand.
The Open Championship Tips
Jordan Spieth 20-1
Jordan Spieth can cap off a tremendous comeback season by winning his first Major since 2017. Spieth has been riding incredible form since the start February. Over his last thirteen events, Spieth has recorded six Top 5 Finishes, eight Top 10s, and eleven Top 20s finishes. The strong form is due to resurgent iron-play. The improved Approach play has taken so much pressure off of Spieth’s entire game and has allowed him to return to the Spieth of old. The Open Championship has been kind to Spieth over the years. Over seven appearances, Spieth has never missed a cut, has five straight Top 30 Finishes, and a win in 2017.
Spieth, now the 23rd ranked player in the world, has always been a very visual player. The vision he possesses allows him to see shots Around-the-Green that no one else can see. The creativity is something that is needed on links courses to save par and effectively scramble. Over his last 36 rounds, in this field Spieth ranks: first in Total Strokes Gained, fifth in Approach, fifth in Bogey Avoidance, and eleventh in Scrambling. This a perfect course for Spieth and while he might be popular it is hard not love him this week.
Collin Morikawa 33-1
There will be a day where books stop giving these odds on the 4th ranked player in the world. Morikawa has shown himself to be a proven winner, and someone who is not afraid of the moment. In his short career, Morikawa has already won four times including a Major and a WGC. He is another player who has been living at the top of leaderboards. Over his last seven events, Morikawa has recorded four Top 10 Finishes, and six Top 20 Finishes. Morikawa has shown well at big events this season, recording two Top 10s in the three Majors and a win at the WGC Concession.
Morikawa is a world class iron player. Whenever a course demands players to have controlled second shots in order to contend, Morikawa jumps to the top of the list. His elite Approach play mitigates his struggles on and Around-the-Green. If the weather conditions are benign and players are able to throw darts at the pins, I want the #1 Approach player in the world on my betting card. Over his last 30 rounds, Morikawa is gaining 1.90 strokes per round Ball-Striking, and has been basically neutral with his short game. I love the way that Morikawa is trending and he is a player who has shown he can win at any course.
Paul Casey 45-1
Paul Casey has been one of the most consistent players this year. He has compiled a plethora of high finishes and has been in some of the best form of his career. Over his last eleven starts, Casey has recorded six Top 10 finishes. Those Top 10 Finishes have come at high level events such as the Players Championship, the PGA Championship, and the U.S. Open. Casey fits the profile of golfer that I was building earlier. He’s an older experienced player, ranked inside the Top 40, and has multiple Top 10 finishes in his recent events.
Paul Casey has been one of the best ball-strikers on Tour this season. He has contended in Majors this season while losing strokes with his putter. If he is able to continue his ball-striking, and find success with his flatstick I think he will be in the mix on Sunday. Over his last 36 rounds, Casey is gaining 1.28 strokes per round Ball-Striking, and 1.60 strokes per round Tee-to-Green. I expect Casey to avoid trouble this week with his elite ball-striking and continue to contend at a Major championship.
Cameron Smith 75-1
Cameron Smith is a player who I have been on multiple times this season because he is a grinder who can create magic Around-the-Green. Smith won earlier this season at the team event with countryman Marc Leishman. Cameron Smith is prone to one or two holes every tournament that are complete catastrophe. However, most of the time this a result of Smith going for a swim off the tee, and with no water on this course he should be safe.
Smith is one of the best sand players on Tour, and while these bunkers are much different from what is commonly seen, it is important for players to be good out of bunkers. Smith’s strongest part of his game is his touch and finesse Around-the-Green. Scrambling has shown itself to be a crucial statistic at Open Championships. While most players are going to find trouble Off-the-Tee this event can become a short game contest and over his last 35 rounds, Smith has gained .95 strokes per round with his short game. Cameron Smith is an experienced wind player, and has a style of game that is well suited for a links course.
Abraham Ancer 90-1
Surprisingly, Abraham Ancer is one of the few players who has met the majority of the trends identified at the start of this article. Ancer is the 22nd ranked player in the world, and has multiple Top 10 finishes in his last five starts. He is trending well and he has never won on the PGA Tour but he has had plenty of close calls. Ancer jumped into the picture at the PGA Championship with a final round of -7. Kiawah Island was a links style course so it is an encouraging sign to see Ancer start to adjust to that style of course.
In recent months, Ancer has been one of the most consistent golfers on Tour. At an event where scoring will be difficult, I am targeting players who can avoid trouble. Over his las 36 rounds, in this field Ancer ranks: third in Good Drives Gained, fourth in Bogey Avoidance, sixth in Total Strokes Gained, and eighth in 3-Putt Avoidance. It is definitely a big ask for Ancer to win this week, but at these odds and based on his current form I couldn’t turn a blind eye.