The British Open, the oldest major championship in golf, stages its 146th edition this week at Royal Birkdale Golf Club on the northwest coast of England. It’s the 10th time Royal Birkdale has hosted the third major of the year and all have come since 1954.
Here’s what to expect in this tournament: the unexpected. It’s all about the weather conditions in the United Kingdom when it’s British Open time. It could be beautiful weather one minute and then 50 mph gusts and sideways rain the next. What time you tee off can be crucial.
The courses in the British Open rotation are not monstrously long like most American courses that host the other three majors. Royal Birkdale is a par 70 measuring 7,156 yards. Of course, it’s a links-style course as are all in the UK. The professionals could score at will on this track if the weather isn’t a big factor.
As an example, when Royal Birkdale last hosted the Open Championship in 2008, the weather was horrific at times. The winner was Ireland’s Padraig Harrington at 3 over par. That was Harrington’s second straight Open title and no player has repeated since – or won at over par since.
Meanwhile, the past three British Opens have had tame weather and the scores reflected that. Rory McIlroy won at 17 under in 2014 at Royal Liverpool, Zach Johnson was at 15 under the next year at St. Andrews and Henrik Stenson set a tournament record of 20-under 264 last year at Royal Troon – including an electric final-round 63.
That was Stenson’s first career major title and first-time major winners are nothing new of late. We saw it this year at the Masters with Sergio Garcia and the U.S. Open with Brooks Koepka. He was the seventh consecutive first-time major winner. That’s the second-longest streak since 1934 when the Masters debuted.
There are co-favorites on the British Open betting lines this week at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com in world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 3 Jordan Spieth at +1400. After winning three tournaments in a row earlier this year, Johnson has hit a minor slump and missed the cut in his past two events. Johnson’s best British Open result was runner-up in 2011.
Spieth has a best of fourth in 2015. He comes off a victory at the Travelers Championship, holing from a bunker in a playoff.
Rickie Fowler and Spain’s Jon Rahm are each +1600 at online sports betting sites. Fowler is arguably the best active player yet to win a major. He was an Open Championship runner-up in 2014. Rahm won two weeks ago in Northern Ireland and also has a PGA Tour victory this year. It’s only a matter of time before the 22-year-old wins a major or two.
Stenson is +2500 to repeat at online gambling sites; he also was third in the 2008 Open, six behind Harrington. Stenson hasn’t won since last year’s Open. One player who could have an advantage this week is England’s Tommy Fleetwood at +2200. He grew up around the corner
from Royal Birkdale and snuck on to play it often. Fleetwood enters with four Top 10s in a row this year, including a win in France. No Englishman has won the Open Championship since Nick Faldo in 1992.