The world's oldest golf tournament, and arguably the most difficult of them all to win, returns home to Scotland as the 147th Open Championship gets underway this week. A field of 156 players will be taking on the challenge of Carnoustie as they look to get their hands on the iconic claret jug, and in the process become the champion golfer of the year.
The top 70 and ties will make the cut this week and as usual at The Open Championship players will be keeping one eye on the weather forecast, as any change in conditions can alter the way in which Carnoustie can play dramatically. As of now, the weather forecast is predicting favorable conditions, although wind could be a factor come Thursday afternoon.
In 2017, Jordan Spieth claimed his first claret jug when he posted 11 under par to beat his fellow American, Matt Kuchar, by three strokes.
At just over 7,400 yards, Carnoustie is classic par-71 Open Championship course with pot bunkers, burns and large greens, and it's also exposed to the elements. The dry weather conditions this summer means that the course will be playing extremely fast and firm. The course is dry enough that players may not need to hit driver much this week, and players have talked about the possibility of being able to hit clubs as short as eight iron off the tee for position. On the other hand, the likes of Jon Rahm have said that taking driver off the tee as much as possible is the way to go this week, as the rough is a lot less penal than it has been in previous Open Championships. Players are expecting low scoring conditions, and as always at this championship, you will need all facets of your game to be sharp to contend for the claret jug.
He sounds very bullish about his chances this week, and with favorable conditions allowing for attacking golf, Jon Rahm has the game to capture his first major championship at Carnoustie. The Spaniard has been in excellent form all year, and he comes into this event having claimed back-to-back top-five finishes on the European Tour. The last of these was at the Irish Open, an event which he had won previously, and his performance two weeks ago in Co. Donegal shows that Rahm has the game to take on the challenges that links golf provides.
Rahm has stated that he will be hitting as many drivers as possible this week, and one of the reasons for this is the rough which he has said is the most playable of the Open Championships he has appeared in thus far. Rahm has said the rough is less penal here that it was at the Irish Open, and this reduces the opportunity of blow-up holes, which was the only thing that prevented Rahm from winning a second Irish Open title. Rahm sits second in the field for strokes gained off the tee for his previous 24 rounds, and if he can drive the ball well this week, he will have the opportunity to bring Carnoustie to its knees. At 20/1 with ten places available, this is a good enough price to make Rahm my top pick for the week, and there is no doubt that he has the all-around game to claim the claret jug.
The best putter on tour this year, Jason Day has come close to claiming this title in the past, and he comes into this year's event under the radar, despite having won twice in 2018. Day hasn't played an enormous amount of golf this year, and almost nobody seems to be picking him this week. A lot of the doubt surrounding Day at the moment has been the state of his iron play this year. The Australian sits a very underwhelming 159th for strokes gained approaching the green, and it's an area of his game that has certainly held him back in the big event's this year.
However, despite an inconsistent iron game, Day has still managed to win multiple times in 2018, and if his iron game catches fire, he is sure to be in the mix. It could well be this week that it happens too. Day's last appearance was at the Travelers Championship last month, and very encouragingly it was his best performance with his irons in nine months. It may be that he has finally found consistency with his irons, and we are going to find out this week if that is the case. A price of 30/1 for a player of Day's ability looks an excellent price and one that I'm happy to take in the hope that his performance with his irons last month was a sign of more to come.
Adam Scott comes into this year's Open Championship with fewer expectations on his shoulders than any year in the past. The Australian has dropped to 82nd in the official world golf rankings, as his putting woes continue to plague him. Scott though may be the most prepared player in the field for this week's challenge. Determined to capture the claret jug, Scott has spent the last three weeks in Scotland playing Carnoustie and has now added experienced caddie Fanny Sunesson to his bag as he looks to put himself into contention for the claret jug once more.
Scott is a links specialist and has not missed the cut at this event since 2009. Since then, Scott has recorded four top-10 finishes at this tournament, and the lack of expectations this week may well be a positive for him. Concerning recent play, Scott has shown that he can still put on a ball striking clinic, and over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks ninth in this field for ball striking and 10th for strokes gained approaching the green. The 80/1 looks a little on the large side considering Scott's Open Championship record.
Rounding up my outright picks for the week is Emiliano Grillo. The Argentine thrives on tight tracks where accuracy and ball striking are demanded, and Grillo has shown enough form to justify some interest this week. Over his last 24 rounds, Grillo sits 14th in strokes gained approaching the green, fifth in putting and tenth in strokes gained total. Grillo has recorded three top-25 finishes in his last four events, and he notched a T12 finish at the Open Championship back in 2016. On 150/1 with ten places available was enough to get me involved in the Argentine this week.
Fresh off his first victory in seven years, Kevin Na will be full of confidence entering this week. Na has made the cut in his last four Open Championship's, and there is every reason to believe that Carnoustie will suit Na more than any other Open Championship course. Similar to Grillo, Na is a very accurate player, and he has been one of the best iron players on tour all season. Over his last 24 rounds, Na sits eight in this field for strokes gained approaching the green, and it's his hot irons right now that I believe can pave the way for him to have a positive week here in Scotland. Na isn't getting much respect in the market this week, despite his victory at the Greenbrier, and 13/2 looks a terrific price for him to continue his excellent form and claim a top-20 finish at Carnoustie.
72 Hole Match Bets
Just like it was at the U.S. Open, Dustin Johnson is up against Rory McIlroy with a lot of books this week, and just like he did at the U.S. Open, I believe Johnson will get the better of him. Johnson has finished no worse than 17th all year, which shows remarkable consistency. McIlroy, on the other hand, has been very up and down, missing two of his last four cuts on the PGA Tour and finishing a disappointing T-28 at his home event two weeks ago. Johnson is the favorite this week, and if you want him onside but find his outright price a little on the skinny side then take him to get the better of McIlroy at a major championship once more,
It's fair to say that Bubba Watson plays neither the U.S. Open or Open Championship particularly well. In his last nine events combined at both, Watson has failed to make it to the weekend six times, and despite playing some excellent golf this year it's an event where he has to be faded until he shows he can handle the unique challenges that links golf throws up. Mickelson has recorded five top-25 finishes at this event in his last seven appearances, including winning the title in 2013, and is a confident pick to get the better of Watson here this week.
2018 The Open Championship recommended bets
Outright Winner (All Each Way)
- Jon Rahm 20/1 (10 places, PaddyPower)
- Jason Day 30/1 (10 places, PaddyPower)
- Adam Scott 80/1 (10 places, SkyBet)
- Emiliano Grillo 150/1 (10 places, SkyBet)
- Kevin Na 13/2 (Boylesports)
72 Hole Match Bets
- Dustin Johnson over Rory Mcilroy 4/5 (Bet365)
- Phil Mickelson over Bubba Watson 10/11 (Unibet)