This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $2.07M
FedEx Cup Points: 600 to the Winner
Location: Sandwich, Kent, England
Course: Royal St. George's Golf Club
2020 champion: None
The Open Championship was not played last year because of the worldwide pandemic. Only three other events in history caused the cancellation of the world's oldest golf tournament, which originated in 1860. One was World War I (1915-19), another was World War II (1940-45). The third instance was in 1871, when, believe it or not, the tournament was canceled because there was no trophy. Literally. Really.
So Shane Lowry has been the Champion Golfer of the Year for two years now, since his remarkable and heartwarming win at the 148th Open at Royal Portrush in his native Ireland.
The 149th Open was slated for last year at Royal St. George's. Since the R&A has marked the historic 150th Open for St. Andrews, St. George's has kept its place in the rota and will play host for the first time since 2011. That's when a then-42-year-old Darren Clarke miraculously won his first and only major, at 5-under-par by three strokes over Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson. Back them the course also was a par-70 at almost the same length as now. Before that, Ben Curtis won in 2003 at 1-under and Greg Norman in 1993 at 13-under (by two strokes over Nick Faldo, for those of you who thought that Norman simply did not have that in him). The 13-under was a real aberration and, barring the most pristine weather, the winning score will be hard-pressed to top 5-under.
Royal St. George's dates to 1877. Its 15 Opens rank fourth in the rota, behind St. Andrews, which has 29; Prestwick, which has 24 but none since 1925; and Muirfield, which has 16. It is a true links course (the Renaissance Club at last week's Scottish Open isn't). As such, we'll see all sorts of uneven lies in the fairways with humps and bumps and undulations; we'll see deep pot bunkers – unlike the beachy sand traps on the PGA Tour that most of the pros have largely mastered – that are strategically positioned at pinch-points in the fairway and also all around the greens; we'll see ginormous, bentgrass/fescue greens with extended runoffs mandating skillful and imaginative play to get up and down; and we'll potentially see severe weather, with the seaside course positioned where the English Channel meets the North Sea.
All of those conditions make this a challenging week for American golfers, and for anyone who spends most of their time on PGA Tour tracks. Seven of the past 10 Open Championships have been won by international players – or, as it might be viewed across the pond, non-Americans. Jordan Spieth in 2017, Zach Johnson in 2015 and Mickelson in 2013 are the exceptions. So while all the best golfers in the world are on hand, and the top of the Official World Golf Rankings are dominated by Americans, Open Championship links courses negate some of their advantages, temper some of their skill sets. Length will still be an advantage, as it usually is, but length alone will not win this golf tournament.
There are only two par-5s, both reachable: the 566-yard seventh hole and the 547-yard 14th with OB along the right side. Two of the four par-3s are about 240 yards, and missing the green on any of them could lead to disaster. Won't those be fun to watch if there's howling wind and rain? There are five par-4s under 425 yards, but the three par-4s in the treacherous closing stretch from 14 to 18 are longer, including the 496-yard 15th and the 450-yard 18th, which can play a half-shot over par or more.
Okay, some thoughts on the field. Because of the pandemic, golfers who had qualified for the 2020 tournament have kept their spot in the 156-man field, many under 2019 accomplishments (top-30 in the 2019 FedEx Cup standings and Race to Dubai rankings, for examples). So you might look at some guys and wonder how they even qualified. However, anyone who made it as an amateur but is now a pro will not get to play.
Jon Rahm is the overwhelming favorite coming off his U.S. Open win and a seventh-place finish last week at the Scottish Open. But he has never finished in the top-10 in four previous Opens. Also, just as an FYI, he lost the No. 1 ranking back to Dustin Johnson on Monday. If Rory McIlroy were playing well, he would be the favorite. Even though he's far from the top of his game, he's the No. 2 choice on the DraftKings board and at most sports books.
Weather-wise, it's looking quite pleasant overall, with temperatures around 70 all four days and not much chance of rain, though that can change in a moment's notice. The big issue could be the wind, which is forecast to be blowing in the mid-teens and beyond all week.
Fun Royal St. George's factoid No. 1: The first two Opens at the course were played in the 1800s, won by J.H. Taylor in 1894 and Harry Vardon in 1899. For what it's worth, Taylor did not break 80 in his four rounds and Vardon did not break 75.
Fun Royal St. George's factoid No. 2: Sir Ian Fleming, the author behind the James Bond novels, was a member of the club. In the 1964 movie "Goldfinger," Bond and Goldfinger play a golf match that, while not filmed at Royal St. George's, had all the characteristics of Fleming's beloved home club.
Key Stats to Winning at Royal St. George's
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/SG: Tee-to-Green/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Strokes Gained: Putting
2020 - None
2019 - Shane Lowry (Royal Portrush)
2018 - Francesco Molinari (Carnoustie)
2017 - Jordan Spieth (Royal Birkdale)
2016 - Henrik Stenson (Royal Troon)
2015 - Zach Johnson (St. Andrews)
2014 - Rory McIlroy (Royal Liverpool)
2013 - Phil Mickelson (Muirfield)
2012 - Ernie Els (Royal Lytham & St. Annes)
2011 - Darren Clarke (Royal St. George's)
Historically, we've seen that length has mattered at Royal St. George's, even though the course is not especially long. But make no mistake, it is a second-shot golf course. Because if a golfer misses the green, there will be all sorts of trouble in the form of fescue rough, deep pot bunkers and dicey greenside shots, often with no clear-cut way to play them. That's why experience matters so much at the Open. For what it's worth, 11 of the past 14 Open winners have been over 30 years old and nine of them have been at least 35, and five of the past nine have been at least 39. The winning golfer will have to keep his wits about him when things have the potential to go sideways, whether it's the inevitable bad shot or the quickly changing weather or just the pressure of winning the world's oldest golf tournament.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,300 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 9-1)
Rahm is the top guy on the DK board, which is no surprise. But the fact that's he such a large favorite at the sports books really caught our eye. He's 9-1 at golfodds.com and then Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are next at 16-1. That's a huge separation. Rahm is the best golfer in the world right now and is coming off his breakthrough U.S. Open win. He's yet to have a top-10 in four Open Championships, but he was close last time with a tie for 11th in 2019.
Brooks Koepka - $10,700 (16-1)
A little bit lost in the afterglow of Phil Mickelson winning the PGA and Jon Rahm winning the U.S. Open was that Koepka finished in the top-5 in both tournaments. And he was also top-5 in 2019 at Royal Portrush. Say what you will about Koepka supposedly caring only about the majors, but last we checked, this is a major. There is the potential for more distractions at an Open Championship than any other big event, which plays into the hands of the perhaps the most mentally tough golfer around.
Xander Schauffele - $10,000 (18-1)
This elite putter inexplicably switched to an armlock putter entering the U.S. Open. It was not the right move and now Schauffele has acknowledged it by going back to what made him great, switching during last week's Scottish Open. How a golfer fares on and around the greens will be paramount at Royal St. George's. Schauffele finished as one of the runners-up behind Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie in 2018.
Jordan Spieth - $9,700 (20-1)
Spieth won the Open at Royal Birkdale in 2017. What makes us gravitate toward him even more is that he continued to play well at the Open even during his four-year dry spell. He tied for ninth in 2018 and for 20th in 2019. When his short game – mainly his wedge/putter – is on, it's as good as any in golf. That could lead Spieth to victory this week.
Tier 2 Values
Louis Oosthuizen - $9,300 (30-1)
Oosthuizen has been the top putter on the PGA Tour this season by a wide margin. He was runner-up at both the PGA and U.S. Open. He was runner-up at the Open in 2015 and of course won it at St. Andrew's in 2010. He has six career runners-up in majors. This is a very favorable price.
Tyrrell Hatton - $9,000 (35-1)
Hatton admittedly comes with some real downside: He could miss the cut. But he's also an Englishman with a terrific short game in an Open Championship and has finished in the top-6 twice in the past four Opens.
Patrick Reed - $8,800 (35-1)
On one hand, Reed has been disappointing in the majors this season – he hasn't come close to contending. On the other hand, he notched a top-10 at the Masters and two top-20s in the other two majors. Any time the degree of difficulty around the greens is high, we like Reed. He was top-10 at Royal Portrush in 2019 and was top-20 two other times in the Open. Remember, he's sub-$9,000.
Adam Scott - $8,100 (80-1)
We turn to Scott here, though not for the best reasons. The remaining guys in Tier 2 – roughly $9,500 on down – don't really instill a lot of confidence in us, be it because of recent poor play or inexperience in links golf or injury. Scott has only one top-10 all year, but he's missed only one cut in his past 18 starts going back to the 2020 PGA Championship. And he continues to putt better than anyone realizes: He's ranked 17th on the PGA Tour.
Tier 3 Values
Tommy Fleetwood - $8,000 (40-1)
We rarely go near Fleetwood on the PGA Tour, but the European Tour is a different story. Quite frankly, his $8,000 price is a bargain – as his 40-1 odds would indicate. Fleetwood has gone T27-12-2 in his past three Opens, finishing as the runner-up to Shane Lowry in 2019.
Shane Lowry - $7,900 (40-1)
Defending champions in majors inherently are a bit risky. But the fact that Lowry is two years removed from his Open victory minimizes that for us. And like Fleetwood, his DK price and betting odds don't jibe. Lowry also has been playing well in 2021, making 13 of 15 cuts with four top-10s, including recent ones at the PGA and the Memorial.
Sergio Garcia - $7,600 (80-1)
Any time putting is an important consideration and you pick someone who's not a good putter, there's an element of risk. But Garcia is such an elite ball-striker and has excelled through the years in this major that it's a risk worth taking. Especially in the mid-$7,000s. He has a whopping 10 top-10s in 23 Open starts, with five of them being top-5s. Garcia is also coming off three straight worldwide top-20s, including at the U.S. Open.
Rickie Fowler - $7,400 (60-1)
Fowler in a way is lucky to be here. He qualified thanks only to his high finish from two years ago, when he tied for sixth at Royal Portrush. But he's another golfer who has played well in this major through the years, and that's likely a big reason why he's only 60-1. Open experience matters. Plus, Fowler has shown signs of breaking out of his funk with a top-10 at the PGA and a T11 at the Memorial.
Kevin Kisner - $6,900 (125-1)
It was a bit surprising to learn that Kisner has played in only five career Open Championships. He's made four cuts, including a shared runner-up behind Francesco Molinari at Carnoustie in 2018. Importantly, Kisner really has come out of his season-long slide in recent weeks. He's made three straight cuts, first at the U.S. Open and then consecutive top-10s at the Travelers and Rocket Mortgage.
Lucas Herbert - $6,800 (125-1)
The 25-year-old Australian arrives as one of the hottest golfers in the world. Herbert won the the Irish Open on July 4 and then last week was top-5 at the Scottish Open. That has carried him into the top-50 for the first time at No. 49. Even before that 1-2 punch in Europe, Herbert connected back-to-back top-20s on the PGA Tour at the Memorial and the Travelers. He also made the cut at the PGA and the Honda – and at the 2019 Open.
Joost Luiten - $6,600 (300-1)
We're not picking Luiten because his full name is really Willibrordus Adrianus Maria "Joost" Luiten. But it's still fun to know. At 35, Luiten is enjoying a decent season, one that has seen him make 12 cuts in 14 starts with five top-25s. This will be his eighth career Open and he's made four cuts. The Dutchman is ranked 190th in the world but once was as high as 28th.
Jason Scrivener - $6,300 (250-1)
Another Australian among the Long Shots, Scrivener is enjoying his best year in golf at age 32. He finished top-25 at the PGA in just his second lifetime major. He has four top-10s this year, including a runner-up in Abu Dhabi at the beginning of the year and two more recently in Sweden and Ireland. This will be Scrivener's first Open Championship. He's ranked 103rd OWGR.