The British Open — or what the rest of the world smugly calls The Open Championship — returns after 11 years to Carnoustie, the Scottish links course known for its difficult conditions. After a US Open in which no one finished at par or better for the week, golf fans can probably expect similar carnage at “Car-nasty.” It’s likely that this year’s winner will need to overcome strong seaside winds and navigate the course’s narrow fairways and deep bunkers.
So who will hoist the claret jug this time? Here are the odds and my take on the major contenders and some thoughts about where my money will be.
Dustin Johnson @ 11 to 1: He has two victories and two runner-up finishes this year, and he thought he had another U.S. Open title until his putter went cold on the weekend at Shinnecock Hills. He is tough to beat as long as he doesn’t get frustrated if his putts don’t go in early.
Justin Rose @ 15 to 1: Twenty years after he made his memorable Open debut, Rose will have a chance to reach No. 1 in the world. He has not missed a cut since the PGA Championship, and he has six top 10s in his 11 starts this year.
Rory McIlroy @ 15 to 1: A year that began with promise when he won at Bay Hill has the trappings of frustration. He failed to convert from playing in the final group at the Masters with a shot at the career Grand Slam. Since then, he has contended just one time.
Tommy Fleetwood @ 18 to 1: Closed out the U.S. Open with a record-tying 63 despite missing birdie putts of 12 feet and 8 feet over the last three holes. He shows up big in the biggest tournaments against the strongest fields. The last British winner of the Open was right here at Carnoustie (Paul Lawrie) in 1999.
Jordan Spieth @ 18 to 1: Spieth seems to fall off in the even-numbered years, and this is no exception. Not only has he failed to win, his only serious chance was at the Masters when he started the final round nine shots behind and shot 64 with a bogey on the last hole.
Brooks Koepka @ 20 to 1: Missed four months with a wrist injury, and didn’t miss a step in his return. He became the first player in 29 years to win back-to-back U.S. Opens. Koepka seems to play his best golf in the majors because they get his attention.
Justin Thomas @ 20 to 1: He already has backed up last year with two victories this season and reached No. 1 in the world. Thomas is mentioned frequently as a player who shows impressive control of his shots in the wind when he plays in south Florida.
Sergio Garcia @ 22 to 1: Garcia hasn’t made the cut in a major since the British Open last year. He has shown progress in Germany and France in recent weeks. Carnoustie holds several bad memories, including crying in his mother’s arms after an 89 in 1999.
Henrik Stenson @ 25 to 1: The last time the Open was played in Scotland, Stenson put forth one of the greatest performances in golf history. Stenson is first in driving accuracy percentage, first in greens in regulation percentage and third in scoring average.
Tiger Woods @ 28 to 1: Woods has had moments where he looked capable of winning this year, such as the Valspar Championship. But he struggled in the two majors. He was never closer than seven shots at the Masters and missed the cut at the U.S. Open.
Patrick Reed @ 30 to 1: No one talked about a Grand Slam until the Masters champion had a share of the lead in the final round of the U.S. Open. The Masters remains his only victory this year. Reed has been leading the Race to Dubai in Europe since his Masters victory.
I will be backing the following four contenders: Rose, Fleetwood, Koepka and Stenson plus playing all four to finish in the Top Ten. I will be using a technique known as “ditching,” a method used to divide stake over a number of selections in any event so that roughly the same amount is won regardless of which selection wins. For the longshot players, I believe there is good value in betting Tyrrell Hatton @ 40 to 1 and I’ll be taking a smaller position there. The sure bet, however, is that we will all see these great players tested and it should certainly be interesting.