The 150th edition of The Open Championship takes place this weekend at the home of Golf, St. Andrews, Scotland. Over the past few months, I’ve been building a weekly custom betting model for PGA Tour events. So far, it has been able to accurately predict 4 of the last 10 winners, with plenty of longshots finishing inside the top-20 for good measure.
What goes into a model for The Open Championship?
The first thing I do is look at stats that correlate to success at the course in question. In this case, it’s St. Andrews. The course is unique in so many ways, but carries certain similarities to courses like Augusta, while presenting its own challenges. There’s an emphasis on distance off the tee and a lack of accuracy can be forgiven due to its humungous fairways. However, creative approaches from awkward angles onto huge greens empower lag-putting prowess and finesse with mid irons.
From there, I look at those stats over each golfers last 50 rounds, and then those same stats when playing the course in question and others that have similar profiles. I value each stat to bring a combined grade for every golfer in the field.
The Open Championship model results
These are not the droids you’re looking for
Rory McIlroy may be the favorite going into this week’s event, but my model says different. McIlroy is my 18th-ranked golfer in terms of value going into this week. That’s not to say he won’t win, but as a favorite, for me to play him, I’d need him to at least be inside the top-3, and more reasonably a runaway train. In terms of why he didn’t grade out well, McIlroy has struggled massively around the greens this year and his wedge play has been sporadic at best. His three-putt avoidance has also been inconsistent, and those two metrics matter crucially around here, dropping him down the order.
Two majors in a year for JT?
Instead, the man at the top of the board is Justin Thomas (+1600). While he’s not the strongest links player, he grades out at -15 in my model, excelling in scrambling, approach putting, and mid-range approaches. The open nature of this course should give JT some forgiveness he lacked last week, and it’s also worth noting that Thomas ticks a lot of the trend-related boxes.
He ranks inside the top 40, has won a Major, ranks inside the top-10 in scrambling, and has posted a top-10 recently, just as 7 of the 10 most recent Open winners have before him.
Riding the hot hand
Xander Schauffele (+1200) is in second spot at -14 having technically won three tournaments on the bounce. It’s really hard to write him off when he’s playing this well. The only area he loses to JT in my model is approach on correlated courses. The upside here though is that while Xander is by far the hotter golfer, this feeds into his betting odds. JT is cheaper and a shot better in my model, which makes him extremely enticing.
Best of the rest
The next trio of Golfers are interesting, because there’s significant reason to doubt each one.
Cam Smith +2200 – Very streaky player who could go -11 or +11
Patrick Cantlay +2000 – Choked away a recent tournament and gifted the win to Schauffele/Theeegala
Hideki Matsuyama +5000 – Injury battles earlier in the year
Hideki is the first of the real value play of the day at +5000 and he has an average finish at correlated courses of 13 over his past 5 events.
Bargain bin plays
Harold Varner III (+10000) and Webb Simpson (+13000) are the two real value options here. Both finish inside the top 15 of my model and are great longshots due to the depth of the field. It’s always better to be early on Webb than it is to be late on him. His average finish over his past 10 rounds is 60th, meaning that he’s far removed from where he could be price-wise. However, at correlated courses, that finish is 22.8. A Webb top-20 could be a great shout.
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George Walker/Icon Sportswire