We love the Open Championship for so many reasons, but one of the sneaky qualities that makes golf's oldest major so unique is that the field tends to be one of the most interesting in golf. Unlike the Masters, with typically around 90 players, or the PGA Championship, which boasts the most players in the top 100, or the U.S. Open with its democratic field, the Open affords an opportunity for some less-heralded golfers to gain notoriety. That's how we became familiar with names like Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Jazz Janewattananond and others who play on less familiar international tours.
It seems odd that golf's last major now takes place in July, but this jam-packed summer of golf hasn't disappointed. And we're sure a stunning venue like Royal Portrush will deliver again. We broke down the field that will conclude major season into various segments based on their likelihood of winning.
TIER 1: The "biggest favorites"
Rory McIlroy 9-1; Brooks Koepka 10-1.
Oddsmakers have narrowed the heaviest favorites down to two this year—bypassing others like Dustin Johnson or Tiger Woods, who are typically in this area—meaning that sportsbooks have the highest liability on these two players. Rory McIlroy's momentum has continued to grow over the past couple of months, as more bettors realize his connections to the Northern Ireland links. But it's not just forced narratives. The stats all point to Rory. Over his past 50 rounds, Rory leads the field in strokes gained/off-the-tee; strokes gained/ball-striking; strokes gained/tee-to-green and overall strokes gained, per FantasyNational.com. He's also No. 1 in birdies gained on the field; opportunities gained (which indicates birdie opportunities inside 15 feet); eagles gained and seventh in strokes gained/approaches. Rory gained more than 20 strokes on the field in his RBC Canadian Open win last month, and though he didn't look super sharp at last week's Scottish Open, he did seem to be hitting the ball great. As often is the case, it was the putter that let him down. You would think that the familiar putting surfaces at Portrush would help his flat stick wake up. Consider all that, and you realize why people are so high on Rory this week. It seems like he's playing too well in 2019 not to end the year with a major.
Then there's Brooks Koepka. You know how dominant he is in the majors. Four wins in a nine-major span is absolutely insane. It's a historic pace, so to fade him takes serious guts. Koepka hasn't necessarily flexed at the Open, but he does have two top-10s. Consider that over the past three years, Koepka has gained an average of 14.1625 strokes on the field in the majors (absolutely incredible), but only 6.25 strokes at the Open. That's probably the only reason not to think Koepka will have a strong chance to win this weekend. At this point, most people would be surprised if he doesn't contend in a major. We wouldn't bet against him.
TIER 2: The "rest of the best":
Dustin Johnson 16-1; Jon Rahm 16-1; Tiger Woods 18-1; Justin Rose 22-1; Xander Schauffele 22-1; Francesco Molinari 25-1.
What’s not to like about this group? You could play a tournament on the moon and Dustin Johnson would be a threat to win. Jon Rahm is fresh off a final-round 62 to win the Irish Open, and it seems just a matter of time before he gets his first major (T-4 or better in three of his last seven majors). Many have surmised that Tiger Woods’ best opportunities to win majors for the rest of his career will be in the Open Championship or at Augusta. No one crafts a game plan quite like Woods, so you have to figure he’ll be able to plod his way around Royal Portrush and be in the mix. Justin Rose is everyone’s sneaky pick to win every major, rightfully so, as he’s had eight top-10s in majors since the 2015 Masters. Speaking of “sneaky” picks, it’s hard to even consider Xander Schauffele “sneaky” in the majors anymore. He played in the final group at Carnoustie a year ago, then nearly stole the Masters from Tiger in April. Oh yeah, he also finished T-3 at Pebble Beach, giving him his fifth T-6 or better finish in a major in only 10 career tries. Rounding out this tier we have the defending champion, Francesco Molinari, who might be the sexiest pick of the group at that price. There is a very good chance the man raising the claret jug on Sunday comes from this six-some.
TIER 3: "Major experience, plus the game to win":
Adam Scott 28-1; Henrik Stenson 30-1; Tommy Fleetwood 30-1; Justin Thomas 31-1; Patrick Cantlay 31-1; Matt Kuchar 33-1; Rickie Fowler 38-1; Hideki Matsuyama 40-1; Jason Day 40-1; Jordan Spieth 40-1; Bryson DeChambeau 45-1; Louis Oosthuizen 45-1; Matt Wallace 45-1; Paul Casey 45-1; Gary Woodland 65-1.
This is perhaps the most intriguing tier of the entire card. It's riddled with elite players who we'd normally find in the 10- to 20-to-1 range at a bigger tour event, but you'll find higher numbers here, given the popularity of Rory McIlroy and money placed on him. Oddsmakers are essentially begging for you to take Rickie Fowler at 38-1, or Bryson DeChambeau at 45-1. Out of this group, we think the most intriguing names are near the top—Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas to start. Scott is one of just four players to finish in the top 10 in the previous two majors (joining Koepka, Rory and Gary Woodland). That's elite territory. Scott has gained more than six strokes on the field tee-to-green in his five most recent starts. The only hesitation with him is that he doesn't play that often—we haven't seen him since Pebble Beach. Will he stay in form? It's anybody's guess, but he has been consistent with his ball-striking since February, so we'd think he'll hover around the leader board once again. Henrik Stenson played really well at the Scottish Open, as the Swede continues to hit the ball at an elite level—he has gained strokes on the field in sg/off-the-tee and approach shots in every event he's played since March. Justin Thomas provides great value in this range, despite his lack of success at the Open in the past. He's gained strokes off the tee and on his approaches since coming back from his wrist injury, it's just been his putting that has been abysmal. It did look better at the Scottish Open, where he finished T-9 despite not making many putts.
You'd think Matt Kuchar will keep up his consistent play of 2019, though he hasn't won anything since January. His scrambling and consistent ball-striking should keep him in the mix. Same with Matt Wallace, who is one of only four other players to finish in the top 12 in the past two majors. Louis Oosthuizen is always a threat to contend, so we think he presents decent value, as does Jason Day, if Stevie Williams can kick him into gear. His stats aren't too impressive entering the Open, but don't underestimate the renewed momentum with a proven winning caddie on the bag. And don't forget Gary Woodland, who outdueled Koepka for the most recent major played. We think 65-to-1 is a bit of a lack of respect for Gary.
TIER 4: "Major stalwarts, don’t be surprised if they lead at some point":
Shane Lowry 50-1; Bernd Wiesberger 65-1; Graeme McDowell 65-1; Marc Leishman 65-1; Matthew Fitzpatrick 65-1; Rafael Cabrera Bello 65-1; Eddie Pepperell 75-1; Ian Poulter 75-1; Sergio Garcia 75-1; Tony Finau 75-1; Webb Simpson 75-1; Tyrrell Hatton 85-1; Patrick Reed 95-1
Every single member of this Baker’s Dozen has flashed on the top of the leader board late at a major championship before, and a few have won one. Shane Lowry led on Sunday at Oakmont a few years ago, only to stumble on Sunday. The Irishman will be in good spirits at Royal Portrush, where he finished 51st in the 2012 Irish Open. Bernd Wiesberger is coming right off a victory at the Scottish Open, while Graeme McDowell, who got in thanks to an epic par save in Canada, will be playing the role of hometown hero. England’s Eddie Pepperell seems bound to steal one of these things at some point, whether he’s hungover or completely sober. His fellow countryman Tyrrell Hatton does too, though his temper tantrums don’t seem compatible with winning majors. We all did think the same about Sergio Garcia though, and he finally got one. Patrick Reed at 95-1 is certainly enticing, especially with his Ryder Cup history in enemy territory. As for Marc Leishman, Tony Finau, Matthew Fitzpatrick and the other names in this tier, we would not be surprised in the slightest to see any of them leading on the weekend.
TIER 5: "An outside chance, but everything has to go perfectly":
Erik Van Rooyen 95-1; Phil Mickelson 110-1; Alex Noren 150-1; Andy Sullivan 150-1; Brandt Snedeker 150-1; Danny Willett 150-1; Dylan Frittelli 150-1; Haotong Li 150-1; Joaquin Niemann 150-1; Kevin Kisner 150-1; Lee Westwood 150-1; Thorbjorn Olesen 150-1; Abraham Ancer 170-1; Branden Grace 170-1; Byeong Hun An 170-1; Chez Reavie 170-1; Padraig Harrington 170-1; Thomas Pieters 170-1; Billy Horschel 200-1; Brian Harman 200-1; Bubba Watson 200-1; Emiliano Grillo 200-1; Jim Furyk 200-1; Keegan Bradley 200-1; Lucas Bjerregaard 200-1; Robert MacIntyre 200-1; Russell Knox 200-1; Sungjae Im 200-1; Zach Johnson 200-1; Michael Lorenzo-Vera 250-1; Adam Hadwin 300-1; Andrew Johnston 300-1
A longshot in this range hasn't won the Open in the past half dozen years, but in recent memory, you always have a surprise contender. Think of Paul Dunne at the 2015 Open or Smylie Kaufman at the 2015 Masters. Other than that, it's been mostly favorites. So which players out of this field are worth a look? Erik Van Rooyen is taking a step into an elite category with his recent play. The South African finished in the top 10 at the PGA Championship and nearly won the Scottish Open last weekend. We like him better as a top-20 or top-30 bet, but still worth a look regardless.
Andy Sullivan might be an auto first-round leader bet. The guy can go low, but he's been inconsistent over the past couple of years. Same with Thorbjorn Olesen—he seems to always be near the leader board after Day 1 or 2, but then fades. Stick to an early round bet with Olesen. Kevin Kisner, who contended last year at Carnoustie, might also be worth a look at such a great price, but he missed the cut at the Scottish Open and hasn't played particularly well over the past two months after his WGC-Match Play title. But those odds are still nice. Same goes for Chez Reavie, who had a great U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and also finished T-14 at the PGA, then won the Travelers (170-1 seems really high). Thomas Pieters, also at that price, is trending up—and a little deeper we really like two more names: Adam Hadwin (300-1), who has gained more than 10 strokes on the field in two of his past three starts … and Jim Furyk. We seem to always see the random old guy contend at the Open. Could Furyk be this year's Darren Clarke? At this price, we're willing to take a chance.
TIER 6: The rest:
Tom Lewis 250-1; Aaron Wise 300-1; Andrew Putnam 300-1; Cameron Smith 300-1; Jason Kokrak 300-1; Jazz Janewattananond 300-1; Joost Luiten 300-1; Jorge Campillo 300-1; Kiradech Aphibarnrat 300-1; Kyle Stanley 300-1; Lucas Glover 300-1; Romain Langasque 300-1; Rory Sabbatini 300-1; Si Woo Kim 300-1; Adrian Otaegui 350-1; Alexander Bjork 350-1; Benjamin Hebert 350-1; Brandon Stone 350-1; C.T. Pan 350-1; Charley Hoffman 350-1; Christiaan Bezuidenhout 350-1; Jimmy Walker 350-1; Joel Dahmen 350-1; Justin Harding 350-1; Kevin Streelman 350-1; Luke List 350-1; Oliver Wilson 350-1; Paul Waring 350-1; Robert Rock 350-1; Ryan Palmer 350-1; Adri Arnaus 450-1; Andrea Pavan 450-1; Brandon Wu 450-1; Chris Wood 450-1; J.B. Holmes 450-1; Keith Mitchell 450-1; Mikko Korhonen 450-1; Nate Lashley 450-1; Richard Sterne 450-1; Ryan Fox 450-1; Sung Kang 450-1; Zander Lombard 450-1; Alexander Levy 500-1; Corey Conners 500-1; David Lipsky 500-1; Doc Redman 500-1; Doyeob Mun 500-1; Ernie Els 500-1; Kurt Kitayama 500-1; Miguel Angel Jimenez 500-1; Nino Bertasio 500-1; Shugo Imahira 500-1; Stewart Cink 500-1; Callum Shinkwin 750-1; Chan Kim 750-1; Connor Syme 750-1; Darren Clarke 750-1; Dimitrios Papadatos 750-1; Gunn Charoenkul 750-1; Jack Senior 750-1; Jake Mcleod 750-1; James Sugrue 750-1; Matthias Schmid 750-1; Patton Kizzire 750-1; Prom Meesawat 750-1; Sang-hyun Park 750-1; Shaun Norris 750-1; Shubhankar Sharma 750-1; Takumi Kanaya 750-1; Yoshinori Fujimoto 750-1; Yuki Inamori 750-1; Yuta Ikeda 750-1; Andrew Wilson 1000-1; Ashton Turner 1000-1; Austin Connelly 1000-1; Curtis Knipes 1000-1; David Duval 1000-1; Dong-Kyu Jang 1000-1; Garrick Porteous 1000-1; Inn Choon Hwang 1000-1; Isidro Benitez 1000-1; Matthew Baldwin 1000-1; Mikumu Horikawa 1000-1; Paul Lawrie 1000-1; Sam Locke 1000-1; Tom Lehman 1000-1; Tom Thurloway 1000-1; Yosuke Asaji 1000-1
When looking at this group, we’re reminded of Brooks Koepka’s comments at Bethpage Black, when he said that half the field is eliminated at a major before even putting a tee in the ground. From this bunch, you can basically eliminate all the amateurs (last amateur to win was a guy named Bobby Jones) and all the seniors. Yes, this is the one major seniors have a chance in, but unless Darren Clarke conjures up some magic in his hometown, it’s not happening this year. While it would be stunning for someone from this group to win, a few candidates we’d consider wagering a small amount of money on include Cameron Smith, Lucas Glover, Brandon Stone, Joel Dahmen and Zander Lombard. If you want to get really nuts, Miguel Angel Jimenez has finished inside the top 30 in seven of his last 10 Open starts, the most recent being 2016, when he finished T-18.
(Odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)