Once again, it's time for the Open Championship — or British Open, if you're stateside — and this time, the magnificent tournament returns to its finest course: St. Andrews' Old Course, the cradle of golf. Many of golf's finest are playing some of the best golf of their careers, so who's going to bring home the Claret Jug? Yahoo Sports' Jay Busbee and Scott Pianowski are here to guide you through your wagering options, with all odds via BetMGM.
BUSBEE: St. Andrews is one of the most famous courses in the world, and deservedly so. It's a singular locale, beguiling and challenging. Scott, give me your initial perspective on the Old Course as a venue.
PIANOWSKI: I love the venue. We have to accept that golf is the European version, and what we have in America is a hybrid. Don’t misunderstand, I love both versions. There’s plenty of room in my diet for variety. But you need the proper reverence for the Old Course.
And look at some of the people who have won Opens at St. Andrews — Jack, Tiger, Nick, Seve. One-name guys. Gods. Monoliths. That’s a feather in the cap.
BUSBEE: The legacy of St. Andrews is well-earned. But we're here to talk about the future ... specifically, this week. How well will a century-plus-old course hold up against the best of 2022?
PIANOWSKI: The dirty secret of the Open the last few years is that without major wind, we’re getting absurdly-low scoring for a major. This is not my favorite thing. I’d love a major where par is always a good score and you might take -3 or -4 or -5 before the event even started. That hasn’t been the case in the 2000s very often. And in the last seven Opens, the collective winning score is -102. I consider that bug, not feature.
Maybe I shouldn’t sneer at Mother Nature. Perhaps she’ll kick up her heels and remind us who’s boss. But some of the par 4s are going to play easy, and I think -10 at minimum is required to be a Sunday factor.
BUSBEE: Yeah, I know it's cruel and malicious, but I have to confess I enjoy watching our favorite players struggle in the elements, at least for a week. With that in mind, what kind of player, to you, fares well in the Open?
PIANOWSKI: I want a creative player on my pick sheet, someone who is comfortable playing the ball low, someone who won’t lose their nerve if they get a bad break or the wrong side of the wind draw. Equanimity is always critical in golf, but on a track where the runout of the ball is so critical, you especially need it here.
BUSBEE: Enough preamble. Let's start talking money, and where to place it. What kind of player should bettors run from?
PIANOWSKI: Although John Daly (+100000) did bag his second major here, I don’t see this as a track that’s good for a hothead. Even if Bryson DeChambeau (+6600) were in form, I’d never pick him here. The younger version of Jon Rahm (+1800) probably wouldn’t fit, though I think he’s in a calmer space these days, grabbing a major and becoming a dad in the last year. I can’t take Tyrrell Hatton (+4000) here, runs too hot.
BUSBEE: Time to be positive. Which players do you like this week?
PIANOWSKI: You can spray the driver around some and get away with it, but you better be creative around the green. I want the calm guys, the outside the box guys, the excellent chippers, the guys who could solve the greens. Three names quickly percolate to the top of that profile — Jordan Speith (+1800), Collin Morikawa (+3300), and Cameron Smith (+2500).
Will Zalatoris (+2800) also has to be considered, for his exquisite iron play and the absurd run he’d had in the majors. But you have to wonder, is all this Zalatoris stuff a sign of greatness to eventually be validated, or will it go down as another Rickie Fowler 2014, when Fowler ran T5, T2, T2, T3 in the majors, but never paid it off with a win after? Fowler isn’t even sharp enough to be in this field this year.
My gut says it’s coming with Zalatoris, he’s not Fowler 2.0. But remember, Zalatoris still doesn’t have a PGA Tour win, let alone the major he’s been so close to. Coffee is for closers, only. We need to seer some of it.
Justin Thomas (+2000) warmed up with Tiger and has Bones on the bag. JT has a lovely wedge game. I think he eventually wins a British Open, just a matter of when. It’s fun to see Tiger being Mark O’Meara to JT’s Tiger 2.0 — that’s not a direct comp, but close enough. Big Brother, Little Brother.
BUSBEE: Among the leaders, who are you avoiding this week?
PIANOWSKI: I’m not going to bet Rory (+1000) or Xander (+1400) because the odds are trampled. And given how long it’s been since McIlroy won a major, and that Schauffele has been a forever tease in the majors (he’s another guy building that Fowler resume), I feel justified letting them walk.
Patrick Cantlay’s (+2500) recent form had me spooked until the T4 at the Scottish Open. I think it’s a trap. I won’t pick any of the LIV guys, perhaps for petty reasons but really for form reasons; hey, I’m a capitalist.
BUSBEE: Who's a dark horse flying under everyone's radar, to mix metaphors?
PIANOWSKI: Adam Scott (+8000) hasn’t had great major results lately, but he was an ATM at this event in the 2010s (and should have won at least once). His profile fits this track and 80-1 outright is tempting. Max Homa (+5000) and Sam Burns (+4000) have the inner fortitude to thing they can win on any stage, no matter how large. Nothing ever seems to bother Marc Leishman (+8000). Billy Horschel (+10000) is the type of thinking player who can thrive here.
These are the type of guys to make Top 20 bets on. Maybe Webb Simpson (+12500 to win), too, who’s a lot like Zach Johnson (+25000), who’s won here.
BUSBEE: And finally ... Tiger. Where will he end up?
PIANOWSKI: Warren Zevon reminded us to Enjoy Every Sandwich. That’s where we should be with Tiger (+6600). His body has been through so much. I don’t think he has that many majors left in his body, and this will almost certainly be his last visit to St. Andrews. Tiger has a sense of history, ridiculous pride, and along with Jack the best Golf IQ in history. He’ll think his way inside the cut, duck inside the Top 20 briefly on Saturday, and then settle for something respectable and watchable — if short of contention. A T31 finish feels right. And if you can find a way to play that as a ticket, I’ll sign off.
BUSBEE: Time to put those units where your mouth is. You've got 100 jelly beans, where are you placing them?
Throw 10 on Spieth at 18-1, Smith at 25-1, JT at a lovely 22-1. I’ll take the Famous Willy Z at 28-1, five jelly beans. Five on Morikawa, 28-1.
Thomas at +190 to Top 10 seems like an overlay, especially since BetMGM pays full on all ties. So 30 Jelly Beans there.
Ten jelly beans on Tommy Fleetwood to be the top Euro. That’s 11-1.
The final 20 beans go on Tiger to make the cut, or any other Tiger prop the kind reader wants to do. I don’t even care if it loses. I want to appreciate him while he’s still here.
Rest up, my friend. Our mornings are booked solid for four days.