The Open Championship is by far the biggest betting event in golf. The unofficial world championship of the sport is ‘Open’ to players from all the global Tours and brings together the best players from all around the world. This year’s championship is being played at Royal Birkdale in Southport and the course will put a premium on accuracy over distance. Breezes from off the Irish Seas will increase the degree of difficulty. Links form and Open experience have been assessed to identify the following 72 hole match bets which are determined by scoring over four rounds or two rounds if one or both players miss the cut.
Tommy Fleetwood to beat Rory McIlroy
It would be one of the best sporting stories ever if Fleetwood won the Open in his home town. That might be beyond the Southport born player but he should have enough to beat McIlroy over four rounds. The former world number one missed the cut in the Irish and Scottish Opens, both played on links courses and he arrives at Birkdale with injury worries and a lack of form.
Fleetwood made the payout places at the US Open and then won the Open de France on the European Tour. He is now at a career high of number 14 in the world rankings and is at the top of his game. The pressure of winning the Open as a local boy looks a tough ask but Fleetwood is playing too well not to make the cut and that could be good enough to outscore McIlroy over 72 holes.
Padraig Harrington to beat Ian Poulter
This 72 hole match brings together the players that finished first and second in the last Birkdale Open in 2008. Both players have seen a dip in form for various reasons but there are signs they are capable of capturing former glories. Poulter has not won anywhere since 2012 and he has a patchy record in the Open besides his runner-up effort nine years ago so he looks vulnerable in this match.
Harrington won the Open at Carnoustie in 2007 and defended a year later in brutal conditions. He is a player who can keep his form and concentration when the wind blows and is a master at course management. A decent effort in the Scottish Open last week was a good prep for Birkdale. Winning the Open again is not out of the question but in any case Harrington has the profile to beat Poulter over two or four rounds.
Hideki Matsuyama to beat Henrik Stenson
Matsuyama is a major champion in waiting because he is often high up the leader board at the end of the four events that matter most. He is a top 10 player for greens in regulation on the PGA Tour and a good scrambler. These skills are key to good scoring at Birkdale and Matsuyama prepared with a top 15 in the Irish Open on a links course.
Stenson has talked down his chances of winning the Open again and Troon last year was his week in the sun and best of his career. Confidence and form are not good so a defence is unlikely. Making the cut could be the limit of Stenson’s ambitions but Matsuyama looks like having his measure in their 72 hole match bet.
Rickie Fowler to beat Jon Rahm
In 1999 a young Sergio Garcia arrived at Carnoustie as the next great player but he missed the cut. Rahm’s win in the Irish Open marked him as a player who could handle links golf and in the context of the Open was superb form. However, expectations are now so high that Rahm may struggle to cope with the pressure and not fail to figure this week.
Fowler is the more solid selection because he has proven Open form. In 2011 he maintained form in poor weather at Sandwich and made the payout places at Hoylake in 2014. Rahm could win or miss the cut but the percentage call is to back Fowler to beat him over four rounds.
Adam Scott to beat Jason Day
Scott has Open and Birkdale form and that profile should get the job done against Day. The selection finished in the top 10 in the Open from 2012 to 2015 and all but won the championship in 2012 but won the US Masters the following year. Scott is second for all time Open earnings without winning the championship.
Day has had a torrid time on and off the course since winning the USPGA Championship in 2015. A tough links course is not the place to find form and mistakes could be compounded and lead to double bogeys or worse. Scott has everything in his favour in this match bet and can outscore his compatriot.
Back next Thursday.