Golf handicapper and Las Vegas radio host Brian Blessing (Sportsbook Radio/Vegas Hockey Hotline, KSHP-AM 1400, 1-2 p.m. weekdays) breaks down the British Open, which takes place Thursday to Sunday at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England:
Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson staged a birdiefest last year on the weekend at the British Open, with Stenson hoisting the Claret Jug after 72 holes and a 20-under score. Don’t expect that brand of play in this year’s edition at Royal Birkdale. On this true links-style course with windy conditions, look for a more pedestrian winning score of slightly under par.
The British Open is a unique test of skill and nerves while facing wild weather. Here’s a list of players I think merit strong consideration at a wide range of prices on the wagering board:
The hot trend to consider is that the past seven majors have produced champions that earned their first major title. There are numerous players in outstanding form that can keep that unusual streak alive.
From a current-form perspective, it’s hard to go past Spain’s Jon Rahm (15-1) and England’s Tommy Fleetwood (20-1). Rahm has stormed onto the scene this season, being spectacular at times. He scored a win two weeks ago in the Irish Open, firing a record 24-under 264.
Fleetwood put up a great fight in finishing fourth behind Brooks Koepka at the U.S. Open in June and has since scored a win in France and two top-10 results. Fleetwood leads The Race to Dubai and has soared to No. 14 in the world.
The main negative for these two is their price.
Timing is everything. I mentioned the lofty price of 100-1 on Rafa Cabrera Bello last week on Sportsbook Radio to Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman. He played great Sunday in the Scottish Open and had a win gift-wrapped by Callum Shinkwin, who bogeyed the final hole in regulation. By virtue of that victory, Bello dropped from 100-1 to 60-1 at the Westgate.
The other huge long shot I’d consider is Soren Kjeldsen at 150-1. The steady Dane recorded a top-10 finish in the Scottish Open, where six of the past seven British Open champs competed the week before.
As for the big-name players on the board, seeing Rory McIlroy at 20-1 seems a bit foreign to the eye. His current form is in question, but would it shock anyone if McIlroy were in contention on Sunday?
Jordan Spieth is the 12-1 co-favorite with Dustin Johnson. Spieth’s ability to contend when not playing his best is a testament to how good he truly is. When last seen, Spieth scored a playoff win in the Travelers Championship, with a dramatic hole-out from the bunker. On that Sunday in late June, Spieth was spraying the driver, and short putts were an adventure. Yet he kicked the door down.
Daniel Berger, who lost to Spieth in the Travelers playoff, is playing as well as anybody else and has a juicy price at 60-1. Berger won the St. Jude Classic in June and also contended Sunday at the John Deere Classic before faltering.
Patrick Reed also is high on my list with a combination of grit and ball striking that will be paramount. Reed has been relatively quiet this year, but his form is on the rise, and his 50-1 price is attractive.
Finally, when Sergio Garcia broke through at the Masters, Lee Westwood’s favorite movie character became Lloyd Christmas from “Dumb and Dumber.” “So you’re telling me there’s a chance” is the Englishman’s new mantra. At 60-1, Westwood is usually seen in majors but never heard from at the end. Ball striking has never been the issue for Westwood. A shaky flat stick on short putts has been his regular undoing.
When trying to land on a winner in a golf tournament, my mantra is “Never say never.”
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Blessing’s best bets
Jordan Spieth 12-1
Jon Rahm 15-1
Tommy Fleetwood 20-1
Rory McIlroy 20-1
Patrick Reed 50-1
Rafa Cabrera Bello 60-1
Daniel Berger 60-1
Lee Westwood 60-1
Soren Kjeldsen 150-1