Let’s face it – the British Open can be kind of a drag sometimes.
The tournament tees off awfully early for viewers in the United States – especially for those on the West Coast like myself. The 36 or 54-hole leader is often someone casual state-side golf fans have never even heard of.
Worse, the Open Championship has a way of breaking hearts.
Justin Rose contended at the Royal & Ancient event as a teenage amateur, but has never won after 2 decades of trying. Doug Sanders once missed a 4-foot putt to beat Jack Nicklaus for the Claret Jug and wound up converting to Catholicism.
Tom Watson’s 40-something career has a stain on it from his near-misses at the Open Championship. Watson could conceivably have won the British in his 40s and his 50s. But the tournament favors efficiency as often as it favors greatness, and it was Stewart Cink (remember him?) who prevailed with some nifty putting at Turnberry in a historic Sunday round of 2009.
Even when people win the British Open it can curse them. Greg Norman won the Claret Jug twice, but all it did was raise expectations for a career in North America that never lived up to the hype.
Last season, however, golf’s oldest major championship began to reflect a new era. We have chronicled on the blog how the years of mundane major title winners like Lee Janzen and Brad Faxon and – well – Stewart Cink could be largely a thing of the past. Brooks Koepka and Tiger Woods have galvanized the landscape in 2018 and 2019. Rory McIlroy has shown flashes of his early-20s form.
For the 1st time in recent memory, if none of the solid gambling favorites win a given major, it’s at least a mild surprise. Rose finished 2nd in ’18, getting closer after so many years of toil.
Francisco Molinari, who was often dominant on Tour in 2018, holds the Claret Jug for now.
Head to Head Markets, Prop Bets and 3-Balls Wagers at the British Open
Sportsbooks are offering their usual last-minute array of head-to-head markets and 3-balls wagers on what could be a wet and chilly 2019 Open Championship at Royal Portrush.
I’ll look at a few promising lines in each, then recommend a few prop betting wagers for our more adventurous readers.
British Open Head-to-Head Match-Ups ‘
Good old Bovada Sportsbook is a good source for the ol’ 72-hole head-to-head markets. In fact, Bovada is 1 of the only online betting sites that suitably spells out just what the markets are.
Certain other books (*cough* BetOnline *cough*) throw out weird labels like “Thursday, July 18th Head-to-Head” making newbie gamblers unsure if they’re betting on the whole tournament or just the Thursday round.
After some hilarious back-and-forth with site representatives, I have confirmed that pretty much any market in our network with a pair of golfers matched on a moneyline is for 72 holes indeed – 3-balls markets are for 18 holes with Thursday and Friday groups handicapped by the house.
But since Bovada Sportsbook is thoughtful and logical enough to call the head-to-head moneylines “tournament match-ups,” a nice clear helpful definition, I’ll let the Big Daddy take honors – or honours – for my opening touts of the tourney in Ireland.
Tom Lehman (-150) vs Austin Connelly (+115)
This is a clever match-up pitting the senior golfer Lehman against a 22-year-old “rabbit” or also-ran on the PGA and European Tours in Connelly.
Lehman loves the British Open, and the layout at Royal Portrush will not overtax his long game. He won the tournament back in 1996.
At the same time, Tom Lehman is 60 years old. He won’t be able to get close enough to hole locations to make birdies in an event bound to be full of them unless the wind blows wild.
Connelly is having a miserable season on the PGA Tour, a big bummer for a kid of USA and Canadian heritage. But he’s been competent in big overseas events and on several links courses even while having suffered a dreadful spring slump.
Remember that you don’t need a player to make the cut to win a head-to-head “72 holes” wager – if both players miss the 36-hole cut (likely in this case) the lower score prevails. I’d probably take Lehman against Connelly at (Even) or (+120) odds but that isn’t what the veteran’s line is.
A market of (+115) for the young upstart could be a product of Lehman’s enduring name-recognition and must be called into question considering the prohibitive age of the older linksman.
- Lean: Connelly
Dustin Johnson (-140) vs Tiger Woods (+110)
This mispriced line seems like yet another example of bookies and bettors looking at players’ form only and forgetting that golf is also a competition of human vs golf course.
The shorter and narrower a major championship layout is, the more it favors Tiger Woods and disfavors a player like Dustin Johnson. Woods getting touted over D.J. at Bethpage Black was an absolute joke because Tiger just doesn’t have the sheer power to win on the New York course anymore.
But the aging worldwide celebrity can trump The Cheetah at Royal Portrush, since the event will not require that many drivers off the tee for Tiger or anyone else. Dustin Johnson can lay-up to wedge range with a 3-iron; Tiger might use a fairway wood. It’s not that massive of an advantage.
Meanwhile, Woods can heat up with the flat stick at any time, while yikes – does D.J. ever have the yips.
- Lean: Tiger
Patrick Cantlay (-165) vs Jordan Spieth (+145)
Possibly the most mispriced golf betting line of the 2019 season. Cantlay’s present-day form and street cred as a survivor are off the charts, but Spieth’s resume in the majors is nothing to sniff at – and on a course on which length is not a prerequisite Spieth can contend to win.
He’s a sweetheart futures pick-to-win or finish Top 5, and a steal in a head-to-head at (+145).
- Lean (to put it lightly): Spieth
2019 Open Championship: 3-Balls Markets at MyBookie
Sportsbetting.ag is not offering any 3-balls markets, just a different categories of 2-player moneyline markets for 18 and 72 holes. Are the head-to-head 18-hole markets “2 balls” markets? Fill in the blank with an immature wisecrack of your taste.
So instead let’s turn to MyBookie. At the Costa Rican sportsbook, “British Open 3-Balls” is plain-as-day down the left margin among an impressive array of Royal Portrush gambling odds.
Remember, the challenge of 3-balls is to handle the extra…erm, take on the additional task of setting aside 72-hole predictions and simply figure out who will have the hottest start.
The current Thursday forecast at the Dunluce Course is light rain and a 15-20 MPH wind, with similar conditions likely for much of the weekend.
Brooks Koepka (-125) vs Louis Oosthuizen (+180) vs Shubhanker Sharma (+450)
I wouldn’t typically recommend a (-125) 3-balls moneyline wager, since the real chances weigh slightly against the favorites in the long run, and 1-to-1.25 is a stiff risk-reward margin on a 3-way outcome.
But as discussed in my preview of Carlos Vela and Los Angeles Football Club in a marquee MLS match this Friday night, sometimes you have to set the gambling theories aside and trust in the athlete who’s consistently tearing everyone else limb from limb on the field of battle.
It’s not as if Koepka is paired against God and Batman in this 18-hole market. Oosthuizen finished 60th in the PGA Championship, failed to challenge Koepka or Woodland after 3 fine days at the U.S. Open, and shot a fair-to-middling score at the Irish Open 2 weeks ago. He’s 36 years old and has missed the cut 6 out of 12 times at the British Open.
Meanwhile, somebody named Shubhanker Sharma is not likely to beat Brooks Koepka, the most dominant golfer on the planet in 2019, over 18 holes or even 9 holes at Royal Portrush. However I’m seeing a potential future as a master illusionist in Las Vegas – no need to change the name at all.
- Lean: Koepka
Jon Rahm (+145) vs Patrick Cantlay (+165) vs Matt Kuchar (+200)
I could understand these odds just fine if they weren’t for the 1st 18 holes of the tournament.
Rahm and Cantlay are each a little bit more likely to contend on Sunday than “Kooch,” who has been busy making headlines for the wrong reasons much as he did in his youth.
But the player’s talent and popularity have never gone away – and what’s more Kuchar is a wizard at shooting low scores on vulnerable major championship courses on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Like Sam Snead at the U.S. Open, he simply fails to close the deal. But that doesn’t matter on a 3-balls bet.
- Lean: Kooch
Shane Lowry (+135) vs Phil Mickelson (+180) vs Shane Lowry (+240)
This is a well-handicapped line at MyBookie except for 1 factor – Phil Mickelson’s recent 6-day fast and its temporary effect on his mood and outlook.
I actually don’t think the weight loss will help Phil to contend in the tournament in the long run – he might even feel listless at the end of a rainy unpleasant week.
But in the opening round? Phil’s likely to turn handsprings and sink a few putts and shoot a 68, taking advantage of soft, damp greens and big, high tee shots that stop dead in the fairway.
I’m reminded of Jack Nicklaus’s much-ballyhooed “return to the forward press” swing style in his 50s. The aging Jack never won a PGA Tour event with the forward press at address. But the 1st few times he tried it, he shot excellent weekday rounds and beat younger golfers.
Great champions are such confident creatures that any tiny psychological edge can give them a rapid boost in form and energy level. Mickelson is a good pick to have a fast start at near-2-to-1 payoff odds.
- Lean: Phil
Handicapping BetOnline’s Prop Markets on the 2019 Open Championship
Finally, I want to touch on just a few promising prop lines at BetOnline, a book which does an excellent job in the golf proposition category of odds-making,
But first a word about Rory McIlroy – you might wonder why a linksman I’d rank next to names like Brooks Koepka is not mentioned much in this preview. He has shot a 61 at the Dunluce Course after all.
Nothing against Wee Mac – I just haven’t found as much value in McIlroy outside of the futures odds.
To read what I think of Rory’s chances to win the 2019 British Open, visit our Open Championship Futures preview published late last week.
Now…on to those prop options.
Player to Have a Bogey-Free Round (Adam Scott (+200))
Adam Scott will not win the British Open at Royal Portrush. He doesn’t putt well enough to sink the relentless 6 and 8-footers that always crop up during a round at the British.
Scott’s use of the “grandfathered” (some would say “grandpa”) pendulum putter is a dead giveaway that he’s uncomfortable on the greens in key moments.
But consider that the Aussie’s length and accuracy off the tee will put him in flick-position at almost every Par 4 and Par 5. He can tap in for par after par. On a good day in a light rain and not much wind, I’m liking his chances to go bogey-free for 18 holes…while maybe shooting a paltry 67 or 68.
Albatross Scored in the Tournament (+1000)
An “albatross” is a double eagle, a 1 on a Par 4 or a 2 on a Par 5.
The odds betray that there haven’t been many albatrosses hung around the mantles of many PGA Tour or European/Asian tour players at majors over the past decades.
However – I actually like the bet with a microscopic or “round-off” unit. The Par 5s are all reachable in 2 shots at Royal Portrush in favorable wind conditions, and a couple of the Par 4s might be reachable downwind from the tee as well. Rainy days could help soften the landings of bombs aimed at the flagstick, and the long-odds chances of a miraculous 1 or 2 could be overcome by the sheer number of shots attempted by hundreds of golfers if the course is being friendly.
Cut Line Under 144 ½ Strokes (-155)
I’m expecting a winner at lower than 10 under par by Sunday evening (afternoon in the United States). But I’m not sure anyone will be -10 after 2 rounds, making this a “sucker” line of sorts. Friday’s weather forecast is still tentative. There’s a chance the stiff breeze of Thursday could be a warning of gales yet to blow in from the sea.
Over (144 ½) at (+125) might be a better wager…at least until that Wednesday night forecast is out.
Leading Round 1 Score: Under 65 ½ (-115) vs Over 65 ½ (-115)
Here’s our gimme. We already know that the wind will be manageable and the turf soft on Thursday. Yes, the rough will be gnarly in the rain, but as Johnny Miller once said, when professionals go low they’re not in the rough.
Par at Royal Portrush is only 71. With pure slugging-distance not an issue even in the rain, and 1st round hole locations on a breezy, fresh course, do you really want to wager on not 1 out of well over 100 golfers at the British Open not getting to -6 on the day? Not me.
Ignore the increased juice – it’s a product of how vulnerable the line might be to gamblers who follow the weather.
Unless Mother Nature (or Irish Summer) does anything crazy on Thursday morning, you can expect at least one Sunny Jim to emerge from the maiden 18 holes with at least a -6 or -7 scorecard.