This year’s edition of the Open Championship, widely but incorrectly known in North America as the British Open, tees off before most of us will be awake on Thursday morning from the legendary St. Andrews Old Course in Fife, Scotland. Anyone who has paid even a little bit of attention to golf over the last decade knows that odds on the best golfers, and especially Tiger Woods, have consistently been ridiculous.
This tournament has reached a new level of bizarreness, though - despite his widely-publicized issues, Tiger Woods is the favorite to win at 5/1, while there isn’t another golfer in the field at less than 16/1. That’s a lot of faith in a guy who hasn’t done a lot to earn that faith recently. Here’s a look at Tiger’s chances, and those of some of the other interesting golfers in the field along with some predictions (odds referenced in article are from Bodog, click the link to go to the site for full British Open odds):
Tiger Woods (5/1) - At first glance it makes sense that Woods is favored - he has won the Open the last two times it has been played at St. Andrews. Those wins came in 2000 and 2005, though, and a lot has changed since then. That’s an understatement. Woods comes into this tournament in truly abysmal form. Most recently he played very poorly in a pro-am in Ireland, then chose to go home to practice alone instead of preparing on the unique courses of Britain. In his last tournament outing at the AT&T National he managed to do what should have been impossible for him - he finished four rounds without a single birdie. On top of all that he has been putting so badly all year that he has taken the surprisingly panicked step of changing putters. He’s ornery and totally lacking confidence, his results have been poor, and he’s going to be under incredibly intense scrutiny from the British media. I find it incredibly hard to be optimistic about his chances.
Phil Mickelson (16/1) - This price is attractive compared to Tiger’s given their relative form. That being said, I don’t like him at all at this price, either. Mickelson has been incredibly lousy at the Open - his best career finish is an 11th, and he was 60th last time out at St. Andrews. He is far from comfortable on links-style courses, and the poor weather that is expected is going to shut down his ability to be creative and take the risks that might give him an edge. Mickelson has a first and a fourth in his last two majors, so he can never be ruled out entirely, but I’ll certainly be looking elsewhere.
Rory McIlroy (16/1) - The co-second choice in the field doesn’t do much more for me than the two ahead of him here. He’s an incredibly talented guy who is going to be a force to reckon with, but this is not yet his time. He has never won in Europe, he has been cut in his last two majors, and he has shown no form yet in limited experience at the Open. At twice this price I’d think about it, but at 16/1 I’ll pass.
Ernie Els (18/1) - This is the best of the lower odds options in my eyes. He has played majors at St. Andrews three times and has been under par each time. He has been in the Top 10 in three of his last four majors, and eight of the last 10 British Opens. He has won twice this year, and is as healthy and hungry as he has been for a long, long time.
Lee Westwood (18/1) - Westwood is the best player without a major, and since he is 37 he needs to get going quickly if he wants to lose that distinction. He was second at the Masters and won on the PGA a month ago, so he’s clearly competitive. He has been dismal in his three tries at St. Andrews, though. He’s certainly a factor here, but he’s quite overvalued at this price. I’d let him beat me at this price.
Paul Casey (33/1) - This s the best value on the board in my eyes. He’s in decent form, and he has a lot of experience playing on links courses and in the foul weather that can be expected this week. He has an extremely good short game, and that’s going to be very important with this weather. His weakness is driving, and that isn’t going to be much of an issue on this course - especially if the wind blows. He’s a tough and talented guy who should be in the picture until the end.
Geoff Ogilvy (50/1) - At this price I like Ogilvy a lot. He has won a major, so he knows what it takes to compete. He has a win this year to prove that he’s still competitive. The last time this tournament was at St. Andrews Ogilvy posted the best two round score on the weekend. He is definitely overlooked at this price.
Edoardo Molinari (66/1) - You always have to have a longshot in your stable, and this is mine for this year. He won last week at the Scottish Open, so he is clearly in form and comfortable on the links. His win was no flash in the pan, either - both he and his brother Francesco, who was also in the final group last week and is also at 66/1 here) - are guys on the rise in Europe.