The Open Championship: Players, Picks, Preview and Projections

Breaking Down Carnoustie and Betting the Open Championship

Our Countdown to Carnoustie continues and it’s time to get on the tee and make the big shots with our preview, picks and projections after analyzing the players and profiles. Our momentum in the majors continues after producing profit at the U.S. Open, which followed one of my best-ever results at the Masters with more match-up winners.

When determining players of interest in tournament and group match-ups, and contenders to consider for your win wagers, props, fantasy pools and other bets at the sports books and with your buddies, know that a golfers ability and interest to play in the wind and handle adverse conditions is imperative at the Open Championship. Carnoustie will always have some wind as a links layout with little protection, but if it blows harder this course will again earn its nickname of ‘Carnasty’. Rain is in the forecast for Friday and potentially the weekend, and the weather can change at any time during this time of year in Scotland, and especially in the eastern region.

The Course

Carnoustie is a true links course and it tests everything in your bag. The course is stern rather than stunning in appearance, offering only glimpses of the adjacent North Sea. The fairways are undulated, and this week they are baked, brown and will be very firm and fast. Fairway bunkers are in play on many holes and players will have to take those on with little bailout. You can’t take trouble out and there is no perfect strategy that eliminates risk. You have to be fluid and adapt your shots and strategy to the course and conditions. Hit short of the bunkers on some holes, and blast over them and deal with the fescue rough and potential heather and gorse on others. Reports are that the rough is very sparse and will present a minimal challenge. The wind is not expected to blow more than 15-18 MPH, but that could change of course. The fairway bunkers are the mini-hazards that present the biggest obstacle, as they rarely allow you to play to the green and require players to pitch out. Strange things and bounces happen, and you must always pay attention and have a strong mentality to take on the shots and live with the consequences.

The par 71 course plays to near 7,400 yards with 13 Par 4’s and just two par 5’s. The greens are fairly flat and pretty receptive, but the R&A can tuck pins as needed and make getting approach shots close to the hole far more difficult. Length helps some, but it is negated to an extent by the ‘Carnasty’ playground that is Carnoustie. A driver from the tee is not as necessary and there will be lots of bounces, roll and runouts as players try to avoid the 111 sand traps and steep-sided pot bunkers, which were designed centuries ago to keep the seaside breezes from blowing away the sand.

One of the toughest four-hole finishing stretches in championship golf starts at No. 15 ‘Lucky Slap’, where a tee shot to a fairway that slopes right towards bunkers made it the 3rd most difficult hole during the 2007 Open at Carnoustie with a scoring average of 4.35. Barry Burn (creek, river) looms across the fairways and along the closing

three holes, and the aptly-named ‘Barry Burn’ is the long Par 3 at No. 16 with a narrow, sharply contoured green nearly 50 paces deep and climbs into the dunes. But the ‘Home’ hole is the toughest of them all at 18, which had a scoring average of 4.61 during the 2007 Open. It also produced a remarkable and most memorable moment involving Barry Burn at the 1999 Open Championship with the great collapse and triple-bogey by leader John Van de Velde, who would lose in a 3-man playoff. The weather makes an Open Championship, and the wind changes, speed and prevailing gusts demand more recalculations on every shot. Carnoustie is not a nine out and nine back course, but rather a challenge every hole with different directions and changing winds to evaluate.

Keys to Success

  • Ball Striking
  • Accuracy
  • Links Experience

Add in the prerequisite for success at the Open of patience and experience, and a very strong mental makeup and you can start to eliminate many players that won’t be up for the changes and challenges they will encounter. The ability to strategically plan your way around a golf course, adapt and navigate the land and volatility that the course and conditions are going to provide will be a key to success and contending at Carnoustie.

Putting is always a premium, but at the Open, ball striking and accuracy from the tee are more important this week as those that fail to hit to the correct spots, avoid the rough and bunkers or strike it pure will have far fewer chances to score as they will be scrambling to save par too often. This is one tournament where stats take a backseat in my handicapping approach, so referencing scoring or birdie averages, greens in regulation or strokes gained in putting for example become mostly meaningless as I’m looking for proven links and wind players who are strong ball strikers, hit it straight more often and understand the nuances of links golf.

The wind and conditions, combined with the R&A setup and pin placements are such that in the last two Open Championships at Carnoustie, the winning scores were +6 and -7. The wind and weather will determine the scoring, and it doesn’t appear it will be so severe opening day that the luck of the draw (morning or afternoon tee time) comes into play. Rain could hit Friday, or anytime beyond through the weekend. But the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas apparently believes the best performing players will still conquer Carnoustie as the over/under winning score is posted at 271 (-12.5). Light winds and less rough would result in low scores at Carnoustie.

Players and Picks

Few U.S. players will make my card at Carnoustie this week, and I don’t believe an American will win the Open despite America’s depth of stronger players than its current European counterparts. But if you’re looking towards Americans that have a proven profile of playing well and thriving in windy and tough conditions, then I recommend these players who should embrace the challenges and have the right attitude, proven skills sets and stats to succeed. Less wind and rough will lessen the challenge. No win bets for me other than a bomb on Howell and a small chip-in on Fowler.

  • Dustin Johnson (12-1)
  • Ricky Fowler (18-1)
  • Charles Howell (250-1)
  • Brandt Snedeker (104-1)
  • Tiger Woods (25-1) – 3-time Open champion

Preference is towards European players and other nations with proven performers less familiar to the U.S. audience. Evaluate form and recognize other attributes including familiarity of conditions. Of course, knowing two bomb long shots won last week on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, we shoot for value with some capable longshots this week at The Open.

Contenders and long shots of Interest to hoist the Claret Jug, and add to your fantasy picks and pools. Best odds taken from leading online sports book BookMaker and the SuperBook in Las Vegas.

  • Rafa Cabrera Bello (80-1)
  • Paul Casey (30-1)
  • Matthew Fitzpatrick (66-1)
  • Tommy Fleetwood (18-1)
  • Emiliano Grillo (125-1)
  • Marc Leishman (43-1)
  • Thomas Pieters (83-1)
  • Jon Rahm (20-1)
  • Andy Sullivan (125-1)

Tournament match-ups are the focus and where we make our money consistently when wagering on golf. The leading online sports books offer more tournament match-ups and proposition bets during the majors, and BookMaker has more than 130 tournament match-ups at the Open. We’ll fire with one short of the bunker and blast another over it for our faithful Fairway followers at Carnoustie that made birdies with us at the Masters and U.S. Open.

The 2016 Open champ Henrik Stenson was surely on our radar and one to consider for a few pints at greater than 30-1, and it won’t surprise us if the accurate and supreme ball striker contends at Carnoustie where he’s played dozens of rounds in competition. But we’ll pass this week and avoid risk with his elbow injury suffered over a week ago and still bothering him, and an issue leading into the Open. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth continues to struggle with his putting, especially from mid and long range. While he’s a proven player in windy and tougher conditions, he’s not won since capturing the Claret Jug last year and no repeat performance is in the plans from this prognosticator. Sergio Garcia has been one to support in years past with a very strong record in the Open, but his form and focus was way off until very recently and I’m not convinced of his attitude and approach this week. Rory McIlroy is the most familiar player with Carnoustie, and he can usually manage his game in the wind and conditions. But his short odds are still not reflective of the fact he plays much better on soft courses and Carnoustie is going to be so firm and fast this week. He missed the cut in the 2018 U.S. Open on a hard, fast track and the 4-time major winner and past Open champ is not on our list of top contenders or potential winners this week.

Fairway’s Foursome and Forecast

Fairway’s Foursome of Winners includes:

  • Branden Grace (43-1)
  • Russell Knox (105-1)
  • Alex Noren (33-1)
  • Justin Rose (16-1)
  • Charles Howell (250-1)

If I’m going to include an American, and a caddy, it’s going to be a bomb as I believe it will take that for an American to prevail. Sinking a few 50-footers and stinging some long irons accurately and getting a few lucky bounces towards the flagstick is the America way. We’ll add a flyer and hope for Howell to score big.

Head-to-head tournament match-ups:

Andy Sullivan (-135) over Bryson DeChambeau and -1.5 strokes (+110).

Sullivan is an underrated player who plays on the European Tour. The ever-smiling Englishman was on the Ryder Cup team two years ago after winning three times in 2015 and working his way to top-30 world ranking. He admitted to getting a bit complacent but is now showing solid form again with five top-10s in his last seven starts. He embraces links golf and we get this type of match-up that would not normally be offered during a regular week on Tour. DeChambeau travels across the pond after withdrawing during last week’s John Deere Classic. He said he felt discomfort in his shoulder and the pain picked up during his opening round. It feels worse when his elbows get above his shoulders, and regardless of his attempted rest and recovery, Bryson won’t be anywhere near his best physically or mentally this week. DeChambeau missed the cut badly in his Open debut last year, and it’s easy to forecast more struggles at Carnoustie.

Alex Noren (-110) over Justin Thomas

Tournament match-ups are the focus and where we make our money consistently when wagering on golf. The leading online sports books offer more match-ups and proposition bets during the majors, and BookMaker has more than 100 tournament match-ups at the Open. We’ll fire with one short of the fairway bunker and blast another over it at The Open for our faithful Fairway followers that made birdies with us at the Masters and U.S. Open.

I’ve played Carnoustie Golf Links and the championship course, and it was a ‘Fairway Favorite’ for sure. Best wishes as you strategize your shots, fire for the flag and avoid the hazards and rough while watching and wagering on the Open at Carnoustie.

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Author: FairwayJay is a leading national sports betting analyst, writer, handicapper and sports betting insider providing insight and information you can bet on for nearly two decades from Las Vegas. He chips in additional sports betting coverage and reporting on industry news and events for leading media and sports betting sites and companies. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay