Six straight major golf championships have been won by first-time champs. Will we see a seventh at the 2017 Open Championship?
The tournament starts this Thursday (July 20) at Royal Birkdale, which hosts for the 10th time. Not every golfer’s game is suited to Royal Birkdale, and scouting the course is pivotal to making a smart wager. Here’s what you need to know before laying any money down at the best online sportsbooks.
ROYAL BIRKDALE SCOUTING REPORT
The Fairways are Flat
Links courses are known for their unpredictable layout. Sideways and downhill lies tend to test players’ creativity. That is not an issue at Birkdale. Because it is mostly flat, you don’t get the weird bounces and awkward lies caused by undulating fairways. Guys who are considered shot-makers — think Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson — lose an edge as a result. As long as you are in the fairway, things are pretty straight forward.
Accuracy off the Tee
Being in the fairway is much more important than extra length at Birkdale. The dunes and long grass that surround the fairway is treacherous. Hitting it short and straight is much preferred to deep and inconsistent. While fairways are flat, they are tight too. Players who have great driving accuracy, like Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler, and Sergio Garcia, are more suited to the course than long hitters like Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Bubba Watson.
Not only are there a lot of pot bunkers, they are placed in such a way that make approach shots vital. You must be precise on your approach or trouble looms. The best ball-strikers on tour include Garcia, Paul Casey, and Hideki Matsuyama.
The elements frequently wreak havoc at the Open Championship, and Birkdale should be no different. It has no defense against the breeze off the water, and rarely do back-to-back holes play in the same direction. Players who have been consistent in this tournament (like each of the last four champs: Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Mickelson) understand and adjust to links golf.
The PGA Tour has seen wildly inconsistent results throughout recent majors and no player is less than 12/1 to win the Open Championship. If you’re looking for a hot-hand to ride, Fowler (16/1) is playing very well and has the right sort of game. If you’re looking for a bigger potential payout, Zach Johnson (85/1) played well last week, has been in the top dozen in four of the last five Open Championships; he’s offering tons of value.