I find myself in a bit of limbo this year. Since I'm not getting to Carnoustie until Saturday, I can't make my normal stop to a betting parlor and wager on the British Open. And since legalized gambling isn't quite up and running in New York yet, that isn't an option to
wager waste my money either. Instead, I'm left with betting through a friend who has an online account. The big drawback, though? He refuses to bet on any of the "favorites." He also refuses to bet on Tiger Woods. Even at 25-to-1 odds. Sigh.
As a result, I have four $10 bets on the following players at longer odds: Marc Leishman (40/1), Branden Grace (50/1), Adam Scott (80/1), and Brandt Snedeker (125/1). So if any of those guys win, drinks on me (in the media center) on Sunday night. So now that we've established who definitely won't claim the claret jug, here's who probably will since I have no money on them.
Tommy Fleetwood (20/1): Last year, Fleetwood was the trendy pick at Royal Birkdale, a course he grew up minutes from. Perhaps the pressure of playing at home was too much, but that won't be a problem this year. The World No. 10's precise iron game is well suited for Carnoustie and at 20-to-1 odds, he still fetches a decent price. Fleetwood is downplaying the fact he established a new Carnoustie course record (63) at last year's Alfred Dunhill Links due to different conditions, but you're not fooling me, Tommy.
__Justin Rose (14/1): Late betting action has moved Rose to the second favorite (Dustin Johnson is 12/1 at Las Vegas Westgate Superbook), and that's well deserved. As Golf Channel's Justin Ray points out, in Rose's last 22 worldwide starts, Rose has nearly as many victories (4) as he does finishes out of the top 10 (5). Although his ball-striking left him on the weekend at the U.S. Open, Rose showed that his career-best putting (7th in strokes gained on the PGA Tour) is good enough to keep him in contention when other parts of his game are faltering. His Open track record is surprisingly poor, but his second-best finish as a pro (T-12) came the last time the tournament was at Carnoustie.
Henrik Stenson (25/1): Are you noticing a trend here? I'm picking a lot of guys who were in contention at Shinnecock Hills last month -- even this one despite a left elbow injury that's more likely to keep him from going after any burglars this year. While many players will be adjusting their game plan to hit fewer drivers this week, it's a strategy Stenson is used to employing with that trusty 3-wood. Baked out conditions should also make Carnoustie play easier than usual, as indicated by the over/under for low round being set at 63.5. And the last time we saw a shootout at an Open in Scotland, we remember this Swede faring pretty well. . .
Tiger Woods (25/1): But none of what we previously said matters because Tiger Woods is winning this week. I talked myself into it by writing this last week, and I'm not alone in picking Tiger to finally claim another major title. Hank Haney and Brandel Chamblee are also on board the Tiger train and for good reason. Woods is third in strokes gained/approach-the-green and when he misses greens with his impeccable irons (or more likely because he's out of position off the tee), he's fourth in strokes gained/around-the-green. Carnoustie will present a unique challenge that Woods will enjoy -- particularly because Big Cat won't have to rely much on the big dog. It's really too bad I won't win any money from this victory, but it will still be fun to watch.
Good luck to everyone in fantasy and gambling this week, and please have a listen to our British Open preview podcast: