Predicting a winner in golf is among the hardest picks in sports, but there are at least several superstars who are a strong bet to triumph at The 2018 Open Championship.
While Michael Kim was roaring to an eight-stroke victory at the John Deere Classic this past weekend, many of the world’s top golfers were getting a crash course in links-style golf at the Scottish Open.
Kim was the last to enter the field for the season’s third major, but will have to adapt his style starting this Thursday, as Carnoustie Golf Links in Scotland promises to present a challenging test.
Read on for a breakdown of some of the favorites, along with a few dark horses to consider wagering on in the 147th edition of golf’s oldest championship, with odds to win, via OddsShark.com, in parentheses.
10. Tyrrell Hatton (40-1)
Coming off a tie for ninth at the Scottish Open, Hatton is in solid form of late. He has three top 10s in his past four major appearances, including the most recent U.S. Open, where he registered a tie for sixth at the brutally tough Shinnecock Hills.
The 26-year-old is just beginning to realize his potential and could easily be in the hunt for the Claret Jug on Sunday. Hatton is an exceptional putter who’s excelled this season on par fours, where he ranks third in scoring on the European Tour among players who’s logged at least 200 holes of that kind.
Hatton tied for fifth at The 2016 Open Championship, so he’s proven capable of playing well at these types of links venues before. Two of his three Euro Tour wins came at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which is played on three different courses — one of them is Carnoustie.
It’d be surprising if Hatton wasn’t at least in the conversation entering the weekend. Whether he can hold up for all four rounds is another matter, but he should be inside the top 10 by Sunday’s end.
9. Branden Grace (40-1)
A model of consistency, Grace has made 21 straight cuts. He has the ability to flight the ball down, which will come in handy amid blustery Carnoustie conditions.
The forecast currently projects winds at 12 to 15 mph through all four days of the championship, with gusts of course going higher than that. Such a climate plays to the advantage of someone like Grace.
Over the previous three full seasons, Grace has logged five top-six major finishes. He also has eight European Tour wins and one PGA Tour victory and just turned 30, so the South African is only now entering his presumptive golfing prime.
If Grace can get his flat stick to cooperate and sink a few key putts, he has all the makings of a Champion Golfer of the Year.
8. Brandt Snedeker (150-1)
One of the best players in their later 30s yet to have won a major, injuries have unfortunately held the 2012 FedEx Cup champion back throughout his solid career. Few are a better bargain bet than Snedeker this week, though.
When he’s right, there aren’t many in the world better than Sneds on the greens. His quick, pop stroke is especially useful when the greens are exposed, which promises to be the case at Carnoustie.
Snedeker doesn’t have the length off the tee most of the game’s best players boast. However, that typical shortcoming won’t matter as much at Carnoustie, if its current, dried-out conditions are any indication.
Following a practice round at the course on Saturday, Snedeker tweeted he hit a drive 427 yards and he’d “never seen an Open this firm.” If the fairways remain that fast, or even at a similar level, it could well mean Snedeker will claim his maiden major title.
7. Tommy Fleetwood (20-1)
Last year’s Open Championship was a bit of head game for Fleetwood, who faced the pressure of playing at Royal Birkdale, the course he grew up just around the corner from. He recovered after a bad start to finish tied for 27th, though — his first made cut at the event in four attempts.
Fleetwood missed a short birdie putt in an otherwise spectacular final round at this year’s U.S. Open to fall one stroke short of Brooks Koepka. It’s pretty clear the 27-year-old is on the precipice of a big coming-out party with the hardware in hand.
England has experienced a dry spell of Open champions, with Nick Faldo being the last to claim the title in 1992. However, players like Fleetwood, Hatton and two others on this list give the nation plenty of hope at this year’s tournament in particular.
6. Paul Casey (40-1)
Another representative of England, the perception Casey hasn’t won as much as his talent would presumably project is a little misguided. He’s has 18 victories worldwide, including 13 wins on the European Tour.
Casey has missed only one cut since January 2017. He also grabbed his first trophy since 2014 at the Valspar Championship several months ago.
The 40-year-old ranks sixth on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: approach to the green, which shows how strong his iron play has been. Even when he’s missed the green, Casey knows how to get it up and down, ranking 13th on tour in scrambling.
That combination of skills means if Casey is keeping the ball in play, he has a great chance remain on the first page of the leaderboard this week. He was tied for second in his last start at the Travelers Championship, so he comes to Carnoustie in fine form.
5. Francesco Molinari (33-1)
Not as well known by some stateside fans, Molinari has been making plenty of noise across the globe as of late. A runaway eight-shot victory at the Quicken Loans National was preceded by a win at the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event.
There aren’t many hotter golfers on the planet at the moment. Ball-striking has always been a strength for the Italian veteran, who ranks second on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: tee-to-green.
With a big improvement in putting of late, Molinari is starting to put together all the elements of his game as he never has before. He’s not been a slouch at majors either. Molinari was tied for second at last year’s PGA Championship, and logged top-25 finishes at the Masters and U.S. Open thereafter.
Don’t be surprised if Molinari picks up his third worldwide win of the calendar year this week and cements himself as a truly elite player.
4. Justin Rose (16-1)
In his past 22 professional starts, Rose has racked up four victories, 17 top 10s and has missed only one cut in that span. He has a mere two top-10 finishes in The Open Championship, and one came as an amateur in 1997.
Although this event hasn’t been kind to the Englishman in the past, this is as probable a time as any that Rose will rise to the occasion. Rose has one major on his resume, the 2013 U.S. Open, but he’s had a number of close calls, including two runner-up efforts at the Masters in the past four years.
With a scoring average of 69.165 that ranks second on the PGA Tour, few have been as steadily great as Rose of late. The biggest reason for his stellar form is massive improvement on the greens.
Ranking 100th or worse in strokes gained: putting in every season from 2012 on, Rose has turned the tables and is seventh in that category ahead of this week. If that continues, there’s no reason the No. 2 co-favorite Rose can’t break through for another major.
3. Rory McIlroy (16-1)
The four-time major winner hoisted the Claret Jug in 2014, and in his two starts at this championship since, he’s finished in the top five. McIlroy may be viewed as a boom-or-bust bet. I’d argue Jon Rahm, unproven on the major stage, falls more into that category.
Think about it this way: McIlroy has won the Race to Dubai, the FedEx Cup, three of the four majors, the BMW PGA and pretty much every significant tournament in the world other than the Masters and Players Championship. He’s still only 29.
One could hardly blame McIlroy for suffering a bit of a letdown of late with all he’s accomplished. Quietly, though, he’s having a strong season, highlighted by a three-stroke victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He matches Rose and Rickie Fowler with the second-shortest odds to win the Open.
McIlroy was the low amateur at Carnoustie all the way back in 2007, so he has some fond memories from the last time the Open was hosted there. With so much experience accrued since then, it stands to reason McIlroy can vault himself into contention.
2. Brooks Koepka (22-1)
Not the most original pick considering he just successfully defended his title at the U.S. Open, yet Koepka deserves to be among the favorites at Carnoustie all the same.
Koepka didn’t play between the big Opens last year and has only teed it up once since his latest triumph at the Travelers Championship, where he closed with a final-round 65 to tie for 19th. Any lack of reps before chasing a second straight major shouldn’t hurt Koepka, considering he finished tied for sixth at last year’s Open Championship.
This venue isn’t a bomber’s paradise. However, Koepka has proven he has enough finesse, uncanny clutch putting and precocious mental resilience to hold up under adverse conditions.
The U.S. Open is widely considered the toughest test in golf. Koepka’s status as a two-time champion of that tournament shows his game can travel anywhere. He started his pro career across the pond, too, so he’s more familiar with links golf than most of the young Americans.
1. Dustin Johnson (12-1)
“DJ” was dominant for the first two days of the U.S. Open until his putter started failing him. He wound up finishing in third place.
There’s arguably no one with better physical tools than Johnson. He’s No. 1 in the world rankings and the odds-on favorite at 12-1 for a reason. When he puts all elements of his game together, no one can really hope to catch him.
Johnson is bound to win multiple majors before his heyday is over, and why not start collecting more hardware this week? He’s finished worse than 18th only once in his past 20 stroke-play events, so he’s more likely than not to be up near the lead.
His current rank of 18th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting would be a career-best for Johnson if it holds up. That’s why he’s atop the FedEx Cup standings — and why he could be atop The Open Championship standings come Sunday.