Sixty-eight years in the making, the Open Championship's return to Royal Portrush delivered some intrigue after Day 1. Pre-tournament favorite Rory McIlroy faded early (and late); Tiger Woods looked like a shell of the golfer who won the Masters only three months ago; and Jon Rahm looked as if he'd be the leader for much of the afternoon. But a couple late bogeys by the Spaniard, plus J.B. Holmes' consistent play en route to a five-under 66, gives the Kentuckian a one-shot lead over Shane Lowry after 18 holes.
Oddsmakers don't have too much confidence in Holmes, putting his live odds at 33-1 despite being the outright leader. That tells us that the sharp guys behind the counters of sportsbooks expect other players around Holmes to catch him eventually. Who will they be?
There's a talented group of golfers just two back of Holmes, namely Rahm and four-time major champion Brooks Koepka. Others include Webb Simpson, Sergio Garcia, Tony Finau and Tommy Fleetwood—who we know all have the talent to remain in contention. We asked our group of expert handicappers, including Columbia University senior lecturer and Ph.D. Lou Riccio, who uses predictive analysis and modeling to forecast winners in golf; Jason Sobel and Justin Bailey from the Action Network, the premium sports betting site; DraftKings' Reid Fowler and FanShare Sports' Lee Alldrick for their insights and analysis.
(All odds courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook)
Outright winner: Tony Finau (27-1) — Oddsmakers were not bullish on Finau pre-tournament: You could've found him at 75-1 at many books. Quietly, after a three-under 68 in his opening round, Finau is firmly in contention but still not commanding too much respect. Take advantage of that while you can. Finau hasn't had a consistently great season by his standards—he owns only two top-10 finishes. But he might've found something at the 3M Open. He had his coach, Boyd Summerhays there in Minnesota, and he gained almost seven strokes tee-to-green on the field. That was a huge improvement on his three missed cuts prior. Finau, don't forget, is a big-game hunter. He has four top-10s in the past two years in the majors. He's been in this spot enough—if his game is truly firing, this could be his week. My model gives him the best chance to win out of anyone else—with my simulations saying he wins 11 percent of the time from this position. —Dr. Lou Riccio, Columbia University senior lecturer
Sergio Garcia (16-1) to be End of Round 2 Leader — I’ll admit it: Entering this week, I really didn’t have Sergio on my radar, based mostly on his recent major performances—namely, seven MCs in 10 starts since winning the Masters two years ago. But now that I’ve seen which Sergio is showing up this week, I’m hopping back on the bandwagon of a guy who loves playing links golf. It looks like the better weather draw will continue to favor the late/early players, which means he could post a nice score in the morning. Of course, he’s got Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm—the two favorites for this bet—in the same wave, but for this price, I like taking a chance on Garcia shooting something in the range of 67 and hanging on for the rest of the day to be leader (or at least share the lead) entering the weekend. —Jason Sobel, senior writer, Action Network. Click here for more picks and expert analysis from the Action Network.
Outright Winner: Dustin Johnson (37-1) — It was unfathomable to see Johnson’s odds at 16-1 pre-tournament, and if you had buyer’s remorse Wednesday night, it’s now your time to get the No. 2 golfer in the world at an even more enticing number. DJ struggled today only hitting 61 percent of his greens and 64 percent of his fairways, but is still within striking distance only six back of the leader. The weather should be less mercurial in round two and Dustin should be in attack mode, especially on the par 5s where he didn’t make a single birdie in round one, but ranked sixth in par-5 scoring over his last three tournaments coming into this week. —Reid Fowler, DraftKings
Day 2 Three-ball matchup: Ian Poulter (+150) over Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Sungjae Im — It was a rough Day 1 for Ian Poulter, shooting a four-over 75. He needs to go low tomorrow to make the cut. We like the prospects of the Englishman, who owns two top-threes in past Open Championship, getting back into the mix. Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who had a very nice Thursday, sits just two off the lead. He might play conservatively, settling for something like a 71 or 72. Plus, in his Open history, as well as in past Scottish and Irish Opens, he has only made three of 15 cuts. We expect regression, especially if the conditions get blustery. Sungjae Im, meanwhile, has little to no links golf experience—leading us to liking Poulter at this number. He's the links player you'd be most confident in, by a long shot, out of this group. —Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest
Day 2 Three-ball Matchup: Russell Knox (+200) over Bernd Wiesberger and Haotong Li — The oddsmakers are slightly inflating Wiesberger's odds after his Scottish Open win last week. My model projects Russell Knox's second-round score to be almost a full stroke better than Wiesberger, but you're getting 2-to-1 odds (same as Li). I like fading Wiesberger, who might be tired after that five-hole playoff, and going with the ultra consistent Scotsman, who is a proven links player. —Riccio
Day 2 matchup: Patrick Cantlay (-105) over Justin Rose — I’ll take Cantlay as the slight dog in this matchup after Rose had the second-fewest putts on Thursday’s opening round even though he hit just 55.56 percent of greens in regulation (GIR). Meanwhile, Cantlay hit 77.78 percent of GIR, but he didn’t have as hot of a putter (1.39 average putts vs. 1.89). —Justin Bailey, Action Network Click here for more picks and expert analysis from the Action Network.
Top-10 finish: Tyrrell Hatton (+195) — Hatton has recorded 13 top-10 finishes (and two wins) in 32 events in Great Britain and Ireland. That's the most consistent success any player in this field has had in this region. A great links player, Hatton very nearly went bogey-free in round one, his only dropped shot coming at the tough 18th. Expect that standard of golf to continue. —Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports
Day 2 Three-ball Matchup: Mike Lorenzo-Vera (+138) over Alex Noren and Sam Locke — Lorenzo-Vera had a day to forget hitting less than 40 percent of both his greens and fairways while Noren outperformed his current form on the greens ranking seventh in average number of putts in round one, but came into the Open ranked 112th in strokes-gained/putting over his last three tournaments. Although Noren putts well in extremely windy conditions, I’m relying on Lorenzo-Vera’s ball-striking ranking (14th) and inside the top-20 in strokes-gained/around the green on the European Tour over his last 46 rounds. —Fowler
Outright winner: Jon Rahm (6-1) — The Spaniard looks ready to finally make an impact at an Open Championship. This is on the heels of really good recent form: A victory at the Irish Open a few weeks back; a third-place finish at the U.S. Open and a ninth-place at the Masters. He was making Portrush look easy for most of Thursday—I'd expect that to continue. —Alldrick
Outright winner: Matt Kuchar (41-1) — This is a value play on Kuchar. The guy's only four back of J.B. Holmes' lead. And he always seems to make a Friday or Saturday move to get into contention. The question, as usual, is whether or not he can close the deal. He nearly did against Jordan Spieth at Birkdale, so we know he's capable of doing it at an Open Championship. If he shoots a 67 or 68 tomorrow, he'll be firmly in the mix and you'll have to pay more than double this price. Hennessey
British Open live odds 2019:
Brooks Koepka 9-2 Jon Rahm 6-1 Tommy Fleetwood 11-1 Shane Lowry 12-1 Justin Rose 14-1 Patrick Cantlay 27-1 Webb Simpson 27-1 Henrik Stenson 29-1 Tony Finau 29-1 Sergio Garcia 31-1 J.B. Holmes 33-1 Rickie Fowler 33-1 Tyrrell Hatton 30-1 Jordan Spieth 41-1 Dustin Johnson 41-1 Matt Kuchar 41-1 Alexander Noren 41-1 Jason Day 45-1 Justin Thomas 50-1 Louis Oosthuizen 50-1 Hideki Matsuyama 66-1 Dylan Fritelli 66-1 Bernd Wiesberger 80-1 Kevin Kisner 80-1 Lee Westwood 80-1 Eddie Pepperell 80-1 Kiradech Aphibarnrat 100-1 Matt Wallace 100-1 Matthew Fitzpatrick 100-1 Robert MacIntyre 100-1 Romain Langasque 100-1 Thomas Pieters 100-1