Don't bet against Sweden's Alex Noren on the European Tour when he has a 54-hole lead! Noren had that at least week's Scottish Open and brought home his fifth career Euro Tour title, all coming with a lead entering the final round. Noren shot a final-round 2-under 70 to finish at 14 under at Castle Stuart in northern Scotland and win by a shot over Tyrrell Hatton, with Nicolas Colsaerts, Danny Lee and Matteo Manassero a shot further back. Noren hadn't finished better than sixth in any event this year, but it was his fourth Top-10 finish in his last eight tournaments. Noren was the 15th winner this season on the Euro Tour to have led going into the final round. Remember, there was no PGA Tour event last week.
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There were a handful of Americans playing as a warm-up to the British Open. Patrick Reed had the best result of them in Scotland with a tie for 10th at 9 under. Phil Mickelson was 13th at 7 under. I'm familiar with Noren but didn't have him winning last week or on any props. I did get Reed at +450 for a Top 10 and at +250 as the top American. Also hit on Padraig Harrington at +450 as the top Irishman. Just missed on another Swede, Henrik Stenson, for a Top 10 as he was T13. My pick to win was Branden Grace, but he was T29.
So now it's on to Royal Troon in Scotland for the 145th British Open. It's the ninth time the course has hosted the third major championship of the season. It last did in 2004 when unknown American Todd Hamilton beat Ernie Els in a playoff -- keep in mind that the British Open playoff format is four holes with an aggregate score. If it's still tied after that, it goes to sudden death. Hamilton has done virtually nothing since taking home the Claret Jug. Only four players from the Top 10 in 2004 are teeing it up this week: Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Els and Hamilton, who was the sixth straight American winner at Royal Troon.
Royal Troon is a par 71 at 7,190 yards. The most well-known hole is the par-3 8th, called "Postage Stamp." At 123 yards, it's the shortest hole in the British Open course rotation. Els had an ace there 12 years ago. The toughest hole during the 2004 Open was the par-4 11th, which played to a 4.41 stroke average. Needless to say, weather is likely to be a big factor this week.
The defending champion is Zach Johnson, who beat Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in a playoff at St. Andrews. Johnson birdied the 72nd hole to get to 15 under par for the tournament, the first to post that score. It was Oosthuizen's second playoff loss in a major (2013 Masters). Jordan Spieth entered having won the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open and missed the playoff by just a shot. He missed a crucial par putt on the 17th and then couldn't birdie No. 18 to get in the playoff. Spieth had nine holes of bogey or worse in the tournament. Jason Day also was a shot from the playoff. Remember that 2014 British Open champion Rory McIlroy missed last year's event due to injury.
There are 16 former Open champions in the 156-man field this week. Also playing are Justin Leonard and Mark Calcavecchia, who won the Open at Royal Troon in 1997 and 1989, respectively. The Open Championship is maybe my favorite major because when you get up in the morning on the weekend, the leaders are already playing. And links golf and that United Kingdom weather make it nearly a different sport than on the pristine courses on which we play golf in the USA.
Golf Odds: British Open Favorites
Dustin Johnson and Jason Day are the +800 favorites at Bovada. Not a big fan of Johnson this week only because he has won his past two events, the U.S. Open and WGC-Bridgestone. You just don't win three tournaments in a row these days. He hasn't contended in a British Open since a T2 in 2011. And, frankly, his length isn't a big advantage on this shorter course. Day doesn't have a great British Open track record other than last year. He was third last time out at the WGC-Bridgestone.
McIlroy (+900), Spieth (+1000) and then a huge falloff to Adam Scott and Grace (+2200 each) round out the favorites. McIlroy hasn't actually played all that great on the PGA Tour this year but does have a recent win and a third-place finish in Europe. Spieth didn't contend his first two British Opens until last year. He comes off a third at the WGC-Bridgestone. Scott has four straight Top 10s in this tournament. Grace hasn't played too well at the British Open but has three Top 10s in his past four events this season.
Golf Odds: British Open Picks
Here are a few eliminator facts: 10 of the past 11 winners of The Open Championship had all made at least six prior starts in the event; of the past 11 winners at The Open Championship, 10 had a finish of sixth or better in a past one; and the past 15 major winners overall were all ranked 28th in the world or better.
Bovada has too many props to address this week, including the score for several top players on their first hole of the tournament. There are a few groups vs. the field props. You can get Dustin Johnson, Day, McIlroy and Spieth at +150 vs. the field (-190). Or Scott, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler and Mickelson at +600 vs. the field (-1100).
For a Top-10 finish, I like Day (-120), Spieth (even), Scott (+200) and Sergio (+225). Head-to-head, go Scott (-120) over Sergio (-110), Spieth (-105) over Dustin Johnson (-125), Day (-120) over McIlroy (-110), Reed (-125) over Charl Schwartzel (-105), Lee Westwood (-130) over Bubba Watson (even), and Fowler (-125) over Justin Rose (-105).
The past three major champions have been first-timers. So that makes me really ponder Sergio here. But I'm going with Scott. You best option thus might be the Scott/Garcia/Fowler/Mickelson vs. the field prop. Fowler's also looking for his first major.
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