British Open Odds 2014: Handicapping the Field at Royal Liverpool
With all apologies to the public relations people at the Masters, it’d be just as accurate to label the British Open—or The Open Championship, if you prefer—as "a tradition unlike any other."
Instead of the visual green saturation presented by the typical U.S.-based major golf competition, the U.K.-based Open offers a smorgasbord in brown that’s often accompanied by wicked winds, pelting rains and a distinct look of misery on the faces of players and spectators.
It doesn’t figure to change all that much this week at Royal Liverpool, the 145-year-old club that’ll host the Open for the 12th time in its history and the first time since 2006.
Tiger Woods won the event for the third time that year, scoring the 11th major title in a career that’s been stuck on 14 majors since the 2008 U.S. Open.
Here are some things to keep an eye on as the 2014 championship unfolds: things like pretenders, contenders and even some players who might come from nowhere to be major factors.
Just in case you find yourself in a wagering state of mind when play gets going on Thursday...
Bubba Watson: The highest-ranked American golfer has won a pair of majors (the Masters in 2012 and 2014) and took second at the PGA in 2010. But he’s never cracked the top 20 in the Open and hasn’t done better than a tie for 16th in his last three events.
Jason Day: A tie for 18th and a missed cut are typically not the best ways to lead into a major at which you’ve never contended. And though he’s been a leaderboard fixture at the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA in the past, it seems like his game and the British haven’t melded.
Sergio Garcia: It’d be easy to look at the 34-year-old Spaniard and remember the swashbuckling teen who arrived in the spotlight while dueling with Tiger Woods. But the reality these days is that his last five major performances have yielded nothing better than a tie for 21st at last year’s Open.
Jordan Spieth: At age 20, he’s the hottest young player in the game—he’ll turn 21 a week after the Open ends—and will get no shortage of cheers from U.S. fans looking for the next coming of Tiger Woods. But the gut feeling here is that he’s not as ready for the British Open as it might be for him.
Dustin Johnson: Perhaps the best player to not win a major after leading twice on the final day. He can hit the ball as far as anyone and can work it with the best of them, but for a man with all that talent, Johnson still hasn't been able to nail down a big trophy. That fact will dog him until he overcomes it.
Adam Scott: Counting the No. 1-ranked player in the world as anything less than a contender would be dubious at best, especially when he won a major (the Masters) as recently as last year and took second at the Open in 2012. It’s his event to lose when it begins.
Henrik Stenson: He’s second to Adam Scott in the Official World Golf Ranking entering the tournament and has finished no worse than a tie for seventh in his last four European Tour events since late April. Plus, he’s finished second once and tied for third twice at the Open.
Matt Kuchar: If you believe a guy having a consistently strong season is due for a breakthrough, Kuchar might be your pick. He’s never been better than a tie for ninth at the Open, but a win, a second and six other top-10 finishes in 2014 have boosted him from an 11th-place world ranking in March to fourth now.
Justin Rose: The 33-year-old Englishman has a lot on his side. He won the final European tuneup at the Scottish Open, a feat also pulled off by Phil Mickelson in 2013. Rose won his previous event two weeks earlier, the Quicken Loans National, as well. He’s the reddest of red-hot coming in.
Rory McIlroy: If anyone’s capable of laying the sort of whipping on a field that Martin Kaymer unleashed at the U.S. Open, it’s McIlroy. He shot 64 to begin the Scottish Open this weekend and has a first, a second and a ninth in Europe this season. His best British finish was a tie for third in 2010.
Tiger Woods: It’s not often that a 14-time major winner and three-time British champ is relegated to dark-horse traction, but he’s not played a major since last year, and his only outing since back surgery was a missed cut at the Quicken Loans National. Still, he knows the way at Royal Liverpool.
Jim Furyk: He’s 44 years old and winless in any surroundings since 2010, but the unorthodox Pennsylvanian seems to find his way into contention in more majors than not. Given the recent run of 40-somethings at the Open, it’s not inconceivable he’ll be hanging around come Sunday.
Rickie Fowler: If a tie for fifth at the Masters and a tie for second at the U.S. Open this year are indicative of anything, it’s that the snappy-dressing 25-year-old isn’t shy in big moments. His fourth-place tie at the Scottish Open over the weekend is a good sign that the trend will continue in Europe too.
Miguel Angel Jimenez: If you’re looking for him on Vegas Insider's odds list, he’s down there at 85-1—sandwiched between Patrick Reed and Victor Dubuisson—but it feels like Jimenez deserves better. He was fourth at the Masters this year and tied for ninth at the Open as recently as 2012. Be surprised but not shocked.
Beating the Odds
Though at this moment they’re all just names on a list, one of them is already attached to the player who will rise up and lift the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon.
According to the folks at Vegas Insider (as of Sunday at 5 p.m. ET), that player is most likely to be Aussie standout Adam Scott, who is positioned as a 12-1 pick in the midst of a season that’s already seen him earn top-15 placements at both the Masters (tie for 14th) and the U.S. Open (tie for ninth).
He's the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and broke into the major-champions conversation with a playoff win at the 2013 Masters.
Four other players join Scott at 20-1 or better, including Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy at 15-1, Henrik Stenson at 18-1, and Martin Kaymer—who rolled the field for an eight-stroke win at the U.S. Open last month—at 20-1.
Who Will Extend the Long Gray Line?
More so than any other major, the British Open has become a haven for older golfers with the steadiness and discipline to handle both the elements and the significance of the week.
In fact, when 43-year-old Phil Mickelson won in 2013, the Open became the first major to see three consecutive winners aged 40 or older, following the championship feats of 42-year-old Ernie Els in 2012 and Darren Clarke, then 42, in 2011.
Twenty-six 40-plus players were in the prospective field for 2014 as of Sunday evening, and the most likely candidate to continue the streak and score himself a repeat appears to be Mickelson, who’s the ninth-best overall choice at Vegas Insider, with odds of 28-1.
Looking for a gray horse in the field? Perhaps Angel Cabrera, at age 45, fits the bill, though his best finish at the tournament—fourth place behind playoff winner Paul Lawrie—came way back in 1999.
He’s listed at 50-1.