British Open 2021 picks: Why our experts are betting on Jordan Spieth's major chances
Set your alarms. Fire up the coffee maker. Prepare to debate the title of a tournament on social media. Oh yeah, it’s British Open Open Championship week, folks.
For the casual golf viewer, The Open is arguably the best golf viewing experience of the year, and the same could be said for the hardcore bettor. None of us are ashamed to admit we’ll be up at 3 a.m., living and dying with every shot at a time of day no one should be living and dying with any sporting event.
Fortunately, our expert handicappers, at least the ones on the east coast, might have some extra time to sleep in before Jordan Spieth tees it up Thursday morning at 9:26 a.m. (eastern). That’s right, the majority of us (and what feels like the whole gambling community) are on Jordy at Royal St George’s, which will make for a highly entertaining four days, as every Spieth start does.
Spieth’s last major victory, of course, came in this event in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, where he famously stunned Matt Kuchar late on the back nine on Sunday to pick up his third. Since then, despite a serious slump, he still managed three top-three finishes in major championships, so we know he can still raise his game on the biggest weeks of the year. It helps that he’s seemingly all the way back, too, having won the Valero Texas Open and collecting five other top-four finishes in 2021 alone.
Read on for our full analysis of the 2021 Open Championship.
British Open 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Paul Casey (45-1, Bet365) — The 43-year-old has been one of the best players in the majors in 2021—a seventh at the U.S. Open; a fourth at the PGA. His ball-striking—as it always is—is superb right now. Royal St. George’s seems like the perfect place for this Englishman to get his elusive first major title.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Jordan Spieth (20-1, William Hill) — Spieth has faded from the news following his early season run, capped off with a win at the Valero, but the form remains excellent. And now, he finally gets a setup most equipped to fit his skill set. Spieth has gained in all three tee-to-green metrics in seven straight starts, and now gets a blustery course, with uneven lies, that will provide a perfect showcase for his imagination on and around the greens.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Patrick Cantlay (33-1, FanDuel) — Cantlay has all the tools to win a major, and the odds are more than fair. Cantlay has just two Open Championship starts but made both cuts (12th and 41st). He’s elite in each of the tee-to-green stats and is also in the 96th percentile in both scrambling and bogey avoidance over the past 100 rounds, via FantasyNational.com.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Viktor Hovland (40-1, William Hill) — Hovland lacks Open Championship experience, but that’s really the only negative about him this week. He’s a two-time winner on the PGA Tour (Mayakoba and Puerto Rico), where playing in the wind is a prerequisite for success. He added a European Tour victory to his resume just a few weeks ago, and now he’s primed for his first crack at The Open. His ball-striking is elite on the tour, and the data tells us he has really improved his short game. He’s ready to make noise this week.
The latest videos from Golf Digest
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Jordan Spieth (20-1, William Hill) — There are many reasons to like Spieth. Per Rick Gehman’s site, Spieth has been the best player in the world strokes-gained-wise per round in 2021. Look at his history at links courses since 2015 (compiled across tours by my guy @PGASplits101 on Twitter, a must-follow by the way), and Spieth is second only to Brooks Koepka in SG/total per round. His iron play has been superb, and his creativity and shot-making are the intangibles you need to win an Open. Spieth has done it at The Open before—why not find major No. 4 this week at Royal St. George’s?
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Jordan Spieth (20-1, William Hill) — It would appear as though the entire community is on Jordan Spieth, which can only end one of two ways: catastrophic disaster or a one of the great Twitter parties in Twitter party history. I’m seriously feeling the latter. He’s been far too good in every statistical area to not capitalize in the form of another long-awaited major victory. He loves this tournament, loves the style of golf, loves being creative and hitting shots. Simply put, I’m not missing out on the Spieth party, and if it ends in tragedy, so be it.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Brooks Koepka (16-1, William Hill) — Koepka comes into this event ranked fifth for Opportunities Gained over the past two months and second for SG/tee to green over the same period. He also ranks second in FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking thanks to his ability to grind out pars on tough courses.
Recent results: Golf Digest's betting panel has been red-hot the past two seasons—and we’re finishing this season HOT. Our experts have now predicted eight of the past 20 winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel predicted Cam Davis’ win in this column at the Rocket Mortgage (at 100-1)! Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports called Garrick Higgo’s victory at the Palmetto Championship (at 40-1)! Stephen Hennessey predicted Jason Kokrak’s victory at the Charles Schwab Challenge a few weeks ago (at 45-1)! He also picked Jordan Spieth (11-1) at the Valero Texas Open. That continued a strong 2021—at The Players, Christopher Powers and Rick Gehman called Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1). That was each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman and Gdula calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Listen to Golf Digest's weekly betting podcast, "Be Right," (above) where we interview the industry's leading experts (and sometimes tour pros) to help you make your bets and pick your fantasy lineups. And be sure to subscribe to "Be Right" wherever you get your podcasts!
British Open 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)
Caddie: Joaquin Niemann (70-1, FanDuel) — The kid has a complete game. His ball-striking is elite and he can control it in the wind with his low ball fight. I’m excited to see how his game translates to links golf—if he gets on well with it, he could be a true contender.
Mayo: Branden Grace (66-1, DraftKings) — After flaming out in the third-to-last group Sunday at the PGA Championship, the South African followed it up with a top five at Memorial, then a top 10 at the U.S. Open, an event where he led all players tee-to-green. Now, he gets the major which should suit him best. A former winner of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Grace always seems to thrive in horrible conditions, and the conditions should get plenty horrible this week.
Gdula: Tony Finau (50-1, FanDuel) — Finau’s not a triple-digit longshot, but this number is too big for someone of his skill level. Finau also has finished 18th, 27th, ninth and third at The Open the past five years. He has missed his last two cuts, but the long-term form for Finau is way better than the odds imply. My win simulation model suggests he should be 38-1, so take the value.
Gehman: Branden Grace (66-1, DraftKings) — Grace won earlier this year in Puerto Rico, where wind can certainly play a major role. Now he enters this week with two impressive finishes in a row. His T-4 at the Memorial and T-7 at the U.S. open featured excellent ball-striking and around-the-green play. Now he can tap into his Open Championship experience and try to capture his first major.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Matt Kuchar (200-1, DraftKings) — There are some big price discrepancies, so make sure to shop for the best line if you like Kuch. To me, there’s a lot to like. It’s a short course—one where he can actually compete. Kuch had an arm wrapped around the claret jug just four years ago at Birkdale. I throw out most stats for The Open—but I’m looking at the same links-course stats since 2015 from @PGASplits101, and Kuchar ranks 12th. At these odds, I think you have to throw a dart on him.
Powers, Golf Digest: Lee Westwood (56-1, DraftKings) — Spieth and Westwood. As you can see, I’m betting with my heart over my head this week. This is the one week you actually can throw the stats out the window, and that’s exactly what I’m doing with Spieth and Westy, two notorious heartbreakers.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Collin Morikawa (40-1, William Hill) — Morikawa's razor sharp irons give him a huge advantage on difficult courses which is exactly why he ranks No. 1 in the FanShareSports course-suitability ranking this week. He also comes into this event ranked first for SG/tee to green over the last two months. So he has the course fit and form going for him.
British Open 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Bryson DeChambeau (14-1, William Hill) — I think Bryson knows this is not the major for his game. Science and data don’t win Open Championships—artistry do. He had a better chance of winning this title when he was a younger, less-bulked-up player.
Mayo: Louis Oosthuizen (25-1, DraftKings) — Louis will likely be in the mix at some point, but throwing a number this low next to his name just won’t do. He’s a great player, but you can find his equals at double and triple his price tag.
Gdula: Justin Thomas (18-1, FanDuel) — Even though Thomas has historically been iffy at Open Championships, his odds bumped up, likely in part from a T-8 at the Scottish Open last week. The odds are just too high at 18-1 to rank him above some of the other studs.
Gehman: Dustin Johnson (11-1, PointsBet) — There’s nothing “wrong” with Johnson’s game right now, but there’s certainly not much to get excited about. We’ve been waiting six months for him to “flip the switch,” and we’re still waiting. He’s missed the cut in each of his past two majors and only has one top-10 finish in his past 10 starts.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Tommy Fleetwood (28-1, PointsBet) — This is kind of a ridiculous number to me. Sure, Fleetwood had the T-2 at the last Open in 2019. But he’s been shaky in majors since. He finished T-58 at Torrey Pines, missed the cut at the PGA. I don’t see the value in this number.
Powers, Golf Digest: Bryson DeChambeau (14-1, William Hill) — If you do some digging, you can find 30-1s and 35-1s on Bryson this week. I would never discourage taking a player of his caliber at a number like that. Seriously, have at it. But 14-1 is a definite no for me dog, especially considering he hasn’t been that sharp as of late, not to mention the Brooks/caddie stuff that is also distracting him.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jon Rahm (7-1, William Hill) — Rahm is clearly playing some great golf right now and has the game to win an Open, but this is too short a price with so many other great big game players all within a shout this year.
British Open 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Brooks Koepka (-142) over Bryson DeChambeau (FanDuel) — I think a lot of people will enjoy betting on this one … and I’m fading Bryson, so you know where I stand on this one.
Mayo: Harris English (-125) over Brian Harman (DraftKings) — Very rarely do you get a head-to-head matchup between the No. 12-ranked player in the world and the No. 46-ranked player in the world, and only have to pay a quarter of juice. In the last 12 rounds they’ve played in the same tournament together, Harman has only won one of those rounds.
Gdula: Tyrrell Hatton (-112) over Shane Lowry (FanDuel) — Hatton rates out better across the board in strokes-gained stats over the past 50 rounds, via datagolf. My model thinks Hatton should be around -130 in this matchup.
Gehman: Jordan Spieth (-143) over Scottie Scheffler (DraftKings) — As much as I like Scheffler this week, Spieth is arguably the best player on the planet. Since the start of 2021, no golfer has averaged more strokes gained per round than Spieth, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. His creativity will prove valuable at Royal St. George’s, and his short game is elite.
Hennessey: Jordan Spieth (-114) over Dustin Johnson (PointsBet) — All the signs point to Spieth this week, and I’m not seeing too much reason to back DJ, despite the course history.
Powers: Kevin Kisner (-125) over Matt Kuchar (DraftKings) — Links-style golf suits both Kisner and Kuchar’s games, as their past Open results have proven. Kiz is clearly the in-form player here, though, with a pair of top 8s in his last two starts. Kuchar, meanwhile, is coming in on a MC-50th-MC stretch.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Harris English (-125) over Will Zalatoris (Bet365) — Zalatoris finished an uninspiring 26th place last week on his first visit to British Links golf and statistically will struggle putting on these bentgrass greens. English on the other hand is the second best putter in the field on these greens. He also ranks 10th in the field this week for SG/tee-to-green over the last two months and has climbed to No. 12 in the world off the back of his recent form.
Matchup results from the John Deere Classic: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Seamus Power (-129) over Dylan Frittelli); Alldrick: (Kevin Streelman (-142) over Si Woo Kim); Caddie, Mayo, Gdula, Gehman, Powers: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Hennessey: 21-13-3 (up 6.65 units); Alldrick: 22-16-1 (up 4.13 units); Gdula: 19-18-2 (down 0.28 units); Powers: 18-17-4 (down 0.49 units); Gehman: 16-21-2 (down 5.00 units); Caddie: 13-22-4 (down 8.92 units); Mayo: 14-22-2 (down 9.14 units).
British Open 2021 picks: Top 10 (Odds from William Hill)
Caddie: Cam Smith (+600) — You’re going to need a short game to scramble from squirrly lies at Royal St. George’s. And Cam Smith is one of the best. He’s also an incredibly talented ball-striker who can keep his ball low and out of the wind.
Mayo: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+650) — Bezuidenhout just keeps fighting his way through major championship setups, which don’t seem tailored to his skills whatsoever. Now at a course which should de-emphasize distance, and put the onus on irons, chipping and putting, the South African’s Spieth-like skills should shine.
Gdula: Harris English (+600) — English was third at the U.S. Open and has 13 straight made cuts at majors. He’s great at getting up and down and putting on bentgrass, too, so it’s a strong profile for a top 10.
Gehman: Joaquin Niemann (+500) — Niemann is sneaky-long off the tee, ranking ninth in driving distance this season. His piercing ball flight and low trajectory will be vital when the winds gust off the Kent coastline. He fell short in a playoff at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, but his game looks sharp—and as long as he doesn’t chip his way out of the tournament—he can contend this week.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Brooks Koepka (+163) — Another bet I like? Koepka to finish in the top 20: In his past 20 major starts, he has 17 top-10s. The guy is an absolute machine.
Powers, Golf Digest: Brooks Koepka (+163) — Do I really need to defend this one? He’s top-10’d in 12 of the last 17 majors. Case closed.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Justin Rose (+500) — Rose showed earlier on in the year that he still has the game to compete in majors, and this setup should see him further validate that claim. He ranks 10th in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking this week and has the 11th-lowest scoring average in the field this week of those that have played in all four of the past four Opens.
Top-10 results from the John Deere Classic: Gehman: 1 for 1 (Seamus Power, +350); Powers: 1 for 1 (Kevin Na, +350). Everyone else: 0 for 1.
Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 9 for 36 (up 15.35 units); Hennessey: 6 for 34 (up 2.5 units); Powers: 7 for 36 (even on the season); Tour caddie: 6 for 35 (down 12.85 units); Gdula: 3 for 35 (down 16.5 units); Mayo: 2 for 35 (down 20 units); Alldrick: 2 for 34 (down 24 units).
British Open 2021 picks: One and Done
Gehman: Justin Thomas — I’m certainly not thrilled about leaving Thomas for this event, but it could be worse. He’s starting to show signs of improvement with his top 20 at the U.S. Open and T-8 at the Scottish Open last week. Those are some of his best finishes since his victory at The Players. He possesses the creativity around the greens to succeed at an event like this, as long as the putter cooperates.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Jordan Spieth. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Daniel Berger. Valspar: Paul Casey. Wells Fargo: Viktor Hovland. AT&T Byron Nelson: Sam Burns. PGA Championship: Collin Morikawa. Charles Schwab Challenge: Charley Hoffman. Memorial Tournament: Billy Horschel. Palmetto Championship: Lucas Glover. U.S. Open: Brooks Koepka. Travelers Championship: Keegan Bradley. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Jason Kokrak. John Deere Classic: Kevin Streelman.
Hennessey: Rory McIlroy — I feel like this is a good contrarian one-and-done play this week. Rory was likely used by most at Kiawah. But consider his Open history since 2014: a win; T-5; T-4; T-2 and a missed cut at Portrush.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Dustin Johnson. RBC Heritage: Webb Simpson. Valspar: Charley Hoffman. Wells Fargo: Max Homa. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Xander Schauffele. Charles Schwab Challenge: Abraham Ancer. Memorial Tournament: Collin Morikawa. Palmetto Championship: Matt Fitzpatrick. U.S. Open: Jon Rahm. Travelers Championship: Paul Casey. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Bryson DeChambeau. John Deere Classic: Alex Noren.
Powers: Xander Schauffele — Not in love with the putter tinkering he’s doing again, but he still managed a T-7 at Torrey Pines despite some poor putting with the arm-lock method. He’s back to standard left-hand low this week, and his major record cannot be ignored.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick. Valero Texas Open: Chris Kirk. The Masters: Jordan Spieth. RBC Heritage: Kevin Kisner. Valspar: Patrick Reed. Wells Fargo: Patrick Cantlay. AT&T Byron Nelson: Will Zalatoris. PGA Championship: Rory McIlroy. Charles Schwab Challenge: Joaquin Niemann. Memorial Tournament: Jon Rahm. Palmetto Championship: Harold Varner III. U.S. Open: Bryson DeChambeau. Travelers Championship: Scottie Scheffler. Rocket Mortgage Classic: Doc Redman. John Deere Classic: Brian Harman.
By The Numbers:
Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:
1.91 — The number of strokes gained per round by Collin Morikawa since the start of 2021, the third-best mark in the field, behind only Jordan Spieth and Jon Rahm.
2.89 — The number of strokes gained per round by Jordan Spieth in Open Championships since 2015, the best mark in the field.
23 — The combined number of top-10 finishes for Ernie Els (13) and Sergio Garcia (10), the only two golfers in the field with seven-plus top-10 finishes at the Open Championship.
14.3 — The average finish for Tony Finau in four starts (third, T-9, T-27, T-18), the best average finish of any golfer with at least two starts.
About our experts
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.