And then there was one. Thanks to the PGA Tour's new schedule, the British Open is now the fourth and final men's major championship of the season. Also confusing things is the fact that the tournament won't be played in Great Britain for just the second time in its nearly 160-year history, meaning rigid golf fans are going to be even more insistent that it's called the Open Championship. In any event, glory's (new) last shot will take place in Northern Ireland as Royal Portrush plays host for the first time since Max Faulkner won there in 1951. So who is most likely to match Max and claim the claret jug this year? Here's our ever-changing weekly ranking of the best bets (with odds from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook) to win the
1. Brooks Koepka (10/1)
Reason to pick: He's won four of his past nine majors and finished runner-up in two others. Oh yeah, and his caddie, Ricky Elliott, just happens to be from Portrush and grew up playing what will be a largely unknown venue for everyone else. We're not making the same mistake as we have in the past: Brooks is OUR favorite to win no matter what Vegas says and no matter what happens between now and the third week in July.
Cause for concern: He could eat something funky on the eve of the tournament? Seriously, it's hard to think of anything with this major-championship monster.
2. Rory McIlroy (8/1)
Reason to pick: Another golfer with the advantage of some local knowledge, the Northern Ireland native once shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush. When he was 16. McIlroy also has been the best golfer throughout the entire 2019 season with 11 top-10s in 14 PGA Tour starts, including two victories.
Cause for concern: McIlroy's major drought will extend to more than five years if he doesn't win and he faces a bit of extra pressure with this "home game" and being made the betting favorite (More ammo for Brooks!). Of course, if he does win, he's suddenly the front-runner for Player of the Year honors.
3. Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Reason to pick: They don't call him "Fleetwood the Flusher" for nothing. There are few with Tommy's ball-striking ability, which will be a major asset in the Northern Ireland winds.
Cause for concern: After a great year in the majors in 2018, Fleetwood has done no better than a T-36 at the Masters this year. Also, his overall Open record is nothing special, although trending in the right direction with a T-27 and a T-12 after three consecutive missed cuts.
4. Francesco Molinari (20/1)
Reason to pick: A year ago, all this guy did was beat Tiger Woods head-to-head at Carnoustie and pull away from a pack of contenders to win his first major championship. He's been relatively quiet since nearly adding a second at the Masters, but finished T-16 at Pebble Beach in Open-like conditions.
Cause for concern: After ranking second in strokes gained: tee-to-green on the PGA Tour last season, Francesco has fallen to 57th. The ball-striking will need to be tightened up if he's to claim the claret jug again.
5. Tiger Woods (18/1)
Reason to pick: The reigning Masters champ has won two of his past eight official stroke-play starts going back to last year's Tour Championship. Before winning at Augusta National, many thought the Open—with its firmer fairways and slower greens—would be his best chance to claim another major, something he nearly did at Carnoustie last year. He's also crept down from 12/1 to 18/1 the past few weeks... value!
Cause for concern: The lack of reps. He has had only eight offical stroke-play starts since last year's Tour Championship. That's less than one a month. Tiger will not tee it up (for real) between a T-21 at the U.S. Open and Royal Portrush. He took a similar break between the Masters and the PGA and missed the cut at Bethpage Black. But at least we know he won't have any problem adjusting to the time difference thanks to his 1 a.m.(!) wake-up calls.
6. Dustin Johnson (12/1)
Reason to pick: He's the World No. 2 and he's played his best golf in the biggest events this season with runner-ups at the year's first two majors and a win at the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Cause for concern: Other than a T-2 at the 2011 Open Championship, DJ's best finish in this championship has been a pair of T-9s in 2012 and 2016.
7. Jordan Spieth (40/1)
Reason to pick: Spieth is still searching for a first win in nearly two years, but that victory came at the Open. He was also tied for the 54-hole lead at last year's Open before a final-round 76. It's possible that no one benefits more from the slower greens in this event than Spieth, whose aggressive style allows him to make more long putts without worrying about too many slick comebackers.
Cause for concern: Of course, you have to hit greens to have opportunities, and Spieth only ranks 137th in strokes gained: approach. He's also 198th in final-round scoring average. Still, his 40-to-1 odds seem a bit high. Lock that in while you can.
8. Xander Schauffele (20/1)
Reason to pick: X has consistently marked a spot on major-championship leader boards since joining the PGA Tour at the start of the 2016-'17 season. He's finished in the top 10 in half of his 10 career major starts, including three top-three finishes in his past five. That includes a runner-up at last year's British Open and a T-3 at this year's U.S. Open.
Cause for concern: At some points, the close calls get frustrating. Just ask Rickie Fowler.
9. Jon Rahm (16/1)
Reason to pick: Rahm vaults into the ranking after his incredible performance at the Irish Open. The young Spaniard shot 64-62 over the weekend at Lahinch to win the tournament for the second time in three years. Clearly, he's feeling pretty good about himself if he was bold enough to wear this to Wimbledon:
Cause for concern: Portrush doesn't figure to be as much of a shootout and we've seen how easily this fiery player can be flustered.
10. Patrick Cantlay (25/1)
Reason to pick: It's been quite a season for Cantlay, who won the Memorial and had top-10s at the Masters and PGA Championship. And as Columbia professor and statistician Mark Broadie recently pointed out, Cantlay ranks No. 2 in strokes gained total when adjusted for course difficulty (Rory is No. 1). Considering Portrush's potential difficulty, that bodes well for the young American. He jumps back into the top 10 while Jason Day gets the boot.
Cause for concern: This will be just his second Open Championship start. That being said, he finished T-12 in his debut last year, so don't be surprised to see him climb into these rankings at some point.
10. Adam Scott (30/1)
Reason to pick: The Aussie's worst finish in his past five major starts? A T-18 at this year's Masters. Scott also had a run of four consecutive top-10s at the Open from 2012-2015. Of course, that runner-up in 2012 was pretty rough …
Cause for concern: Normally, we'd say putting, but Scott is rolling it this season, ranked a superb (for him) 24th in strokes gained: putting. No, this is just a matter of actually closing the deal. Incredibly, the man with the perfect swing hasn't won since March—of 2016.
12. Justin Rose (20/1)
Reason to pick: Rose had a disappointing final round at Pebble Beach, but the fact that he contended at a U.S. Open despite not being sharp from tee to green shows how much his all-around game has improved. Having been moved from 16/1 to 20/1, however, presents pretty good value.
Cause for concern: This has been Rose's worst major as a pro. If you take out the T-4 he had as a 17-year-old phenom in 1998, Rose only has two top-10s. However, both have come in the past four years, including a T-2 last year at Carnoustie.
13. Rickie Fowler (25/1)
Reason to pick: Despite a down year off the tee (51st in strokes gained), Fowler still ranks 18th in strokes gained: overall, and has proven to be a great wind player throughout his career. Like Rose, he's also been downgraded (from 20/1) in the weeks leading up to the event, which provides a potentially bigger payout.
Cause for concern: This will be Fowler's 40th career major start. And despite having finished in the top five in one-fifth of those events, he's still searching for that first victory.
Justin Thomas (25/1)
Reason to pick: This is mostly a value pick based on those 40-to-1 odds for a guy who was No. 1 in the world just last year. But Thomas is also an attractive pick based on being ranked third this season in strokes gained: approach.
Cause for concern: But … he's going to have to do better once he reaches those greens. JT only ranks 168th in strokes gained: putting, and he's struggled since returning in May from a wrist injury. Plus, we liked him a lot better at 40-to-1 odds last week.
Jason Day (30/1)
Reason to pick: The former World No. 1 seems reinvigorated now that he has Steve Williams on the bag, and the pair are already seeing results. After a T-21 at the U.S. Open in their debut together, Day finished T-8 at the Travelers Championship.
Cause for concern: Day's short game (90th in strokes gained: around the green) and putting (35th after being in the top six three of the past four seasons) have taken a hit. As a result, none of his six top-10s this season have translated into victories.
Gary Woodland (60/1)
Reason to pick: Did you happen to catch the U.S. Open? Those 50-to-1 odds are pretty tasty for someone ranked No. 12 in the world.
Cause for concern: Although he's never missed a cut in seven Open starts, only once (a T-12 in 2016) has Woodland finished inside the top 30 in golf's oldest major.