The Open Championship: 2018 Preview

The 2018 British Open Tournament is set to be an epic encounter. Our experts, The Analysts have an in depth preview for you that includes their best pre-tournament and in-play betting strategies.

Venue Name

Carnoustie Golf Links, Scotland, July 19-22, 2018

Course Details

Carnoustie in my opinion is the toughest links on “The Open” rotation, with its brutal thick rough and penal pot bunkers, combined with possible strong wind’s/bad weather, Carnoustie is a true test in every aspect. Carnoustie runs along the Angus Coast we are bound to see moderate or strong wind at some point during the tournament. It’s a very long, narrow golf course that requires premium ball striking, as the bunkers are strategically placed to capture anything that is less than top quality. On the last two occasions that “The Open” has been played at Carnoustie, the 72nd hole has caused havoc for the leaders.

In 1999 Jean Van de Velde came the 72th hole with a 3 shot lead and found the Barry Burn, made triple bogey and handed the tournament to Paul Lawrie. In 2007 Padraig Harrington looked to repeat what Jean Van de Velde had done in 1999, finding the Barry Burn twice on 72th hole and eventually hitting a brilliant pitch to save double bogey and then win in play-off against Sergio Garcia. Note – The 18TH hole is a beast of a hole, so be very careful taking any short price back bets on the 72 hole this year “in-play” or having any open “back” bets running on this hole during the tournament. Instead I will be inclined to using “lay” strategies on this hole and will be using lay strategies on the last 4 holes, which I will explain later in the article.

The last 4 holes at Carnoustie in my opinion is the hardest closing stretch of any “major” course worldwide.

Weather Report

Weather is one of the most important factors for betting on the British Open. I have seen on many occasions that the draw/tee times inhibits a player’s chances to contend the event depending on which side of the draw they are on.

Scottish weather can change at the drop of a hat, but at this stage –

Thursday – Morning looks to be cloudy, 13 degrees with a breeze of 9mph. The afternoon temperature increasing to a maximum of 19 degrees, with wind gusts increasing to 25mph.

Friday – Morning looks to be cloudy, 13 degrees with a breeze of 10mph, gusting to a maximum 25mph. The afternoon brings rain and a possible storm with a maximum temperature of 19 degrees.

Last 10 Winners and Runners Up

YearWinnerRunner Up
2017Jordan SpiethMatt Kuchar
2016 Henrik Stenson*Phil Mickelson**
2015Zach JohnsonM Leishman, L Oosthuizen*
2014Rory McIloryR Fowler, S Garcia*
2013 Phil Mickleson**Henrik Stenson*
2012Ernie ElsAdam Scott
2011 Darren ClarkeD Johnson, P Mickelson**
2010 Louis Oosthuizen*Lee Westwood
2009Stewart CinkTom Watson
2008Padraig Harrington*Ian Poulter
2007Padraig Harrington*Sergio Garcia*

Players contending more than once *  P Harrington, L Oosthuizen, H Stenson, S Garcia

Players contending more than twice ** Phil Mickelson.

Top 20 World Rankings performance at the event the past 5 years

Player20172016201520142013Adjusted Scoring Average
1.        Dustin Johnson284 (T54)282 (T9)284 (T49)279 (T12) 293 (T32)71.1
2.        Justin Thomas 147 (MC)291 (T53)DNPDNPDNP73.00*
3.        Justin Rose 284 (T54)285 (T22)277 (T6)283 (T23)152 (MC)71.16
4.        Brooks Koepka276 (T6)DNP278 (T10)293 (T67)156 (MC)71.64
5.        Jon Rahm 283 (T44)293 (T59)DNPDNPDNP72.00*
6.        Jordan Spieth268 (1st)286 (T30)274 (T4)286 (T36)294 (T44)70.40**
7.        Rickie Fowler280 (T22)290 (T46)282 (T30)273 (T2)154 (MC) 71.05
8.        Rory McIIroy275 (T4)280 (T5) 271 (1ST) 154 (MC)288 (60TH)70.44**
9.        Jason Day281 (T27)285 (T22)274 (T4)291 (T58)293 (T32)71.2
10.      Tommy Fleetwood281 (T27)149 (MC)145 (MC)150 (MC)DNP72.50*
11.      Bubba Watson 281 (T27)288 (T39)147 (MC)148 (MC)293 (T32)72.31*
12.      Paul Casey 277 (T11) 151 (MC)288 (T74)288 (T47)151 (MC)72.18*
13.      Patrick Reed 148 (MC) 283 (T12)281 (T20)149 (MC)DNP71.75
14.      Alex Noren 276 (T6)290 (T46)DNP DNP WD70.75
15.      Francesco Molinari 147 (MC)287 (T36)283 (T40)280 (T15)287 (T9)71.33
16.      Hideki Matusyama 278 (T14)150 (MC)280 (T18)287 (T39)286 (T6)71.16
17.      Henrik Stenson 277 (T11)264 (1ST) 283 (T40)287 (T39)284 (2ND)69.75**
18.      Marc Leishman 276 (T6)291 (T53)273 (T2)276 (T5)151 (MC)70.38**
19.      Sergio Garcia 282 (T37)280 (T5)277 (T6)273 (T2)291 (T21)70.15**
20.      Phil Mickelson 150 (MC)267 (2ND) 281 (T20)283 (T23)281 (1ST ) 70.11**

Poor Form*- Players Averaging over 72 –  5 players inside the Top 20 World Rankings have poor form at the British Open – Justin Thomas, John Rahm, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey. In Justin Thomas and John Rahm’s case, they have only played “The Open” twice, so this year will be interesting to see if they can turn their form around.

Good Form** – Players averaging under 70.50 – 6 players inside the Top 20 World Rankings have good form at the British Open – Henrik Stenson leads the way as the only player to average under 70 the past 5 years, followed by Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, Rory Mcllroy and Jordan Spieth.

Top 20 World Rankings Current Form Review (Past 5 events played)

PlayerEvent 1Event 2Event 3Event 4Event 5Scoring Average
1.       Dustin Johnson 3RD 1ST T8T17 T1668.80**
2.       Justin Thomas T56T25T8T11T2170.3
3.       Justin Rose T9T10T61ST T23 68.45**
4.       Brooks Koepka T191STT302NDT1168.45**
5.       John Rahm MCT5T63MC4TH 70.50*
6.       Jordan Spieth T42MCMCT32T2170
7.       Rickie Fowler 6TH 12TH T20T8T1468.95**
8.       Rory Mcllroy T28T12MCT8T269.72
9.       Jason Day T12MCT44T51ST 69.55
10.    Tommy FleetwoodMCT592NDT23T2070.77*
11.    Bubba Watson T131ST MCT44T5769.61
12.    Paul Casey T2T16T5T20MC70
13.    Patrick Reed T23MC4TH T29T4169.72
14.    Alex Noren 1ST 25TH T23T3T1769.65
15.    Francesco MolinariT21STT252ND 1ST 67.50**
16.    Hideki Matsuyama MCT16T13T16MC70.37
17.    Henrik Stenson T6T26T13T23T1969.65
18.    Marc Leishman T13MCT45T622ND 70
19.    Sergio Garcia T8T12MCMC70TH 71.62*
20.    Phil Mickelson MCT65T48T12T1370.33

Players in good current form averaging under 69 **  Francesco Molinari is the hottest player in the world right now, averaging 67.50 the past 5 events. Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose & Rickie Fowler are all playing very well also.

Players in poor current form averaging over 70.5 *   Sergio Garcia leads the way with the poorest current form of the top 20 world ranked players, however his past two events have been much better. Surprisingly Tommy Fleetwood has been in poor recent form other than his 2nd in the U.S Open. John Rahm is also up & down and hard to catch which week he will play well.

Adjusted Stroke Averages for the Top 20 World Ranked Players

Note – You can compare my rankings against the Betfair Market to find under the odds and over’s

PlayerRankings for the tournament
1.       Dustin Johnson 69.5
2.       Henrik Stenson 69.56
3.       Justin Rose 69.59
4.       Francesco Molinari 69.63
5.       Rickie Fowler 69.68
6.       Brooks Koepka69.86
7.       Rory McIlroy69.96
8.       Alex Noren 70.08
9.       Jason Day 70.11
10.    Phil Mickelson 70.11
11.    Jordan Spieth 70.12
12.    Marc Leishman 70.22
13.    Patrick Reed 70.49
14.    Paul Casey 70.53
15.    Bubba Watson 70.68
16.    Hideki Matsuyama 70.72
17.    John Rahm 70.85
18.    Justin Thomas 70.9
19.    Sergio Garcia 70.91
20.    Tommy Fleetwood 70.92

Betting Notes –  Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose in my opinion is the deserved 1st and 3rd favorite and I feel the market is the correct price, however I have Henrik Stenson 2nd favorite and should be $19 not $34 in the outright betting market. I also have Francesco Molinari 4th favorite and should be $22 not $38. On the flip side, I have Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Thomas as under’s in the market. Currently the outright betting market has Tommy at $26 whereby I think he should be $50, and Justin Thomas is currently $30 and I think he should be $44. You can also apply the under’s and over’s I have provided for top 5, top 10 or top 20 betting.

In Play Trading Opportunities

Assess the scoring average of the morning players Day 1. If scoring is tough we could see an opposite market trend to what we normally see on the PGA Tour week in and week out. What I mean by this is that players with good scores on the morning Day 1 could easily shorten in the market after their until they commence play in the afternoon Day 2. This could provide a good opportunity to place a “back” on a player after the morning session day 1 and then place a “lay” on that same player before he commences his Day 2 afternoon round, pinching a percentage of the market.

The reason for this is because their position on the leaderboard could get better as the afternoon players Day 1 have to play two rounds before the morning players Day 1 go out again. Therefore if the course is playing tough like it normally does at Carnoustie, you should see the morning players with good scores Day 1 move up the leaderboard as the players on the opposite side of the draw come unstuck on the course playing 2 rounds, particularly if there is bad weather.

Hole 14 – Is a Par 5, and plays very easy according the 1999 & 2007 field strokes averages, 4.55 strokes. Look for players to make a birdie on this hole, particularly if they are in a good position on the fairway.

Laying tee shots and re-backing after hole is completed.

Hole 2  – historically averages over par at 4.13 strokes, there are bunkers well placed to catch tee shots, the green is long and narrow and protected by bunkers.

Hole 5 – Averages 4.33, it requires a precision tee shot and Jockie’s Burn crosses the fairway. I will be laying tee-shots on this hole if I see players with driver in hand.

Hole 9+10 – Could prove to be a great trading hole, again laying the tee-shot and re-backing after the player completes the hole. It has out of bounds left and a drainage ditch close to the right rough.     In-fact you can let your trade ride until after the 10th hole is completed, because the 10th hole averages 4.34 strokes and if the wind is into, it will be two very good hits to get home in two. It also has 4 bunkers on the right and 1 on the left, and the Barry Burn coming into play, ready to catch players out.

Hole 12 – This hole played the second toughest in 1999 & 2007 averaging 4.39 strokes. It used be a par 5 in earlier British Opens. It has bunkers and a drainage ditch down the right side.

Hole 15,16,17,18 – I think this is the toughest finishing stretch in golf. I will be placing a lay bet on 15th tee and will be unlikely to trade out until the completion on the 18th hole. All holes average well over par, with the 18th ranking 1 in difficulty at 4.61 strokes. The final stretch of holes provides a great trading opportunity for this year British Open.

Tactical Hints

I generally don’t like to back a leader after day 3 that is only leading by a shot, history shows on the PGA Tour that 75% of players leading by a shot entering the final round don’t win. They average worse than the yearly tour scoring average. This is great for two ball match betting, tournament betting etc. Something to keep an eye on!

Assess the odds of players in the clubhouse, compared to those on the course. As a general rule, players on the course are favored over those in the clubhouse, however if scoring is tough, players in the clubhouse should make up ground, and with Carnoustie’s brutal last 4 holes, I will be inclined to be looking at potential “lay” opportunities. For example – if the leader of the tournament is leading by 1 shot coming into the last 4 holes and the player in second place on the leaderboard has finished, then in my opinion the player in the clubhouse will be favorite.

Before placing any 2 ball or 3 ball match bets, download the stroke averages of players Round 1, 2, 3, & 4 stroke averages from the PGA Tour Website. Assess if they are a fast finisher, slow finisher, quick beginner or slow beginner.

Some Examples of Pre Tournament Bets

As mentioned previously, I generally don’t like to place any bets pre-tournament, but after my rankings got the trifecta in the U.S Open, you may want to “back” some over’s or “lay” some under’s off my rankings.

You can set up a back & lay book off my rankings above, betting to under’s and over’s in the market. For example:

 LAY – Tommy Fleetwood for Top 10 at $3.8 for 2 units

 LAY – Justin Thomas for Top 10 at $4 for 2 units

 BACK – Henrik Stenson for Top 20 at $2.8 for 3 units

 BACK – Francesco Molinari for Top 20 at $3 for 2 units

If you cannot get matched on the Henrick and Francesco at the above prices for Top 20, then it may be worthwhile taking the market prices available for Top 10 on Thursday. You can always put your prices into the market until then for Top 20 and wait to see if it gets matched.

At this stage there is poor liquidity in the Tournament Match Bets (Head to Head), there should be better liquidity on Thursday.

Head to Head Betting Options

 BACK – Francesco Molinari to beat Paul Casey ($1.90 would be a good price on Molinari) for 1 Unit

 BACK – Brooks Koepka to beat Justin Thomas ($2 would be a good price on Koepka) for 2 units

 BACK – Rickie Fowler to beat John Rahm ($1.90 would be a good price on Fowler) for 1 unit

 BACK – Alex Noren to beat Tommy Fleetwood ($2.20 would be a good price on Noren) for 1 unit

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