2021 Open Championship Preview

By Harris Oates and John White

Open Championship | Royal St George’s Golf Club | Sandwich, UK

Defending Champion: 2019: Shane Lowry (-15; won by 6 strokes over Tommy Fleetwood)

FedEx Cup Points: 600

Past Champions

2018: Francesco Molinari

2017: Jordan Spieth

2016: Henrik Stenson

2015: Zach Johnson

2014: Rory McIlroy

Course Breakdown

Royal St George’s Golf Club is one of the oldest courses in the world and has hosted 14 Open Championship’s since 1894. The most recent was held in 2011 where 42 year old Darren Clark won by three strokes over Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson. The course is rather short and features just two Par 5s, which rounds the course to a Par 70. Where it lacks in Par 5s, the course makes up with length Par 3s and 4s. The course originally featured many blind shots, as most links style courses often do, but there have been several modifications in the 20th century that have shaped the course to becoming much more playable. This course will not necessarily favor one particular play style, however, will definitely reward scrambling ability.

It is also worth noting that the 4th hole features the deepest pot bunker in The Open history.

Field

As good as it gets.

Weather

Credit: Weather.com

Perfect conditions for the UK.

The Favorites

Jon Rahm 7-1
Bryson DeChambeau 14-1
Dustin Johnson 15-1
Rory McIlroy 16-1
Xander Schauffele 16-1
Brooks Koepka 16-1
Justin Thomas 20-1
Jordan Spieth 20-1
Louis Oosthuizen 30-1

Jon Rahm 7-1

This summer has been the summer of Rahm and after a strong showing at the Scottish Open he very well could be primed for another major.

Bryson DeChambeau 14-1

Bryson hasn’t played links golf since gaining his length off the tee but you’d expect that to give him a boost at Royal St George’s. If he can scramble, he can win.

Dustin Johnson 15-1

DJ tied for 2nd at Royal St George’s in 2011. He hasn’t had the best summer of his career but he’s due.

Rory McIlroy 16-1

My U.S. Open pick nearly pulled it off but has been starting to heat up this summer. Can he end his major drought by winning near home?

Xander Schauffele 16-1

X man has done just about everything he can do to legitimize his name except for winning a major. He has the proper skillset but can he finally win the big one?

Brooks Koepka 16-1
A favorite in just about every major you’ll see until we have reason to not believe he is a contender.

Justin Thomas 20-1
JT is another guy who has cooled off but has the short game to really dominate this tournament.

Jordan Spieth 20-1
Spieth has been a fun guy to watch this year and has won it before. His wedge game is slowly coming together and could be there this weekend.

Louis Oosthuizen 30-1
Don’t sleep on Louis at the majors! The dude has 10 top 10s in his career with 1 win at The Open.


John’s Take

Golf’s oldest tournament continues this week as players travel from all over the world to Sandwich, England. Royal St. George’s course is no stranger to The Open Championship as this will be its 15th time to host the tournament. Much like all majors, the only certain thing we know is that we are in for an unpredictable show.

The most important statistic this week to look at is Strokes Gained on Approach. Royal St. George’s is a comparatively shorter and strategic course. All types of players will have a shot at the win this week but approach is one factor that will set them apart. With deep greenside bunkering and rolling greens, the difference between a birdie putt and having to chip from the edge of the green could be a minor mistake with a short iron or wedge. 

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Collin Morikawa (+41.6)(+3500)
  2. Justin Thomas (+27.8) (+20000)
  3. Harris English (+26.0) (+6600)
  4. Paul Casey (+25.9) (+4500)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+24.5)(+1800)

The second stat I’m looking at is strokes gained off the tee. Even though Royal St. George’s isn’t a long course, shots off the tee will still be very important this week. Distance will be an advantage due to the strategically placed fairway bunkers that require length to carry. However, accuracy will also be of utmost importance due to the long brush along the fairways.  

At many links courses, a wild tee shot may result in being in another fairway. That won’t be the case this week, as deep and penal rough should stop the ball before it gets to the next fairway. This one factor could be the difference in going into the weekend or missing the cut completely. 

Total Strokes Gained: Off the Tee in past 24 rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+26.8) (+3300)
  2. Jon Rahm (+20.5) (+800)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+19.6) (+4000)
  4. Dustin Johnson (+19.5) (+2000)
  5. Brooks Koepka (+18.9) (+1800)

Royal St. George’s rolling terrain makes this a ball striker’s course. Approach and ball striking go hand in hand but let’s not forget you need a little bit of luck to win this tournament. In golf, luck derives from great ball striking. Take a look at the tee to green stats. 

Total Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in regulation 

  1. Collin Morikawa (+56.7) (+3500)
  2. Brooks Koepka (+40.4)(+1800)
  3. Viktor Hovland (+34.6) (+3000)
  4. Sergio Garcia (+34.4) (+6600)
  5. Patrick Cantlay (+34.2) (+6600)

I stated earlier that the most important stat would be the approach shot. However, bouncing back from a missed approach shot will be a huge factor as the rolling greens may decide to spit a ball right back into the fairway. Around the green play is one of the most important factors of any Open Championship. This links course will demand tough and creative chips or flop shots that could be the difference between a Par or Bogey. 

Strokes Gained: Around the Green in past 24 rounds:

  1. Jon Rham (+17.6) (+12500) 
  2. Danny Willett (+15.4) (+16000)
  3. Marc Leishman (+14.9) (+35000)
  4. Tony Finau (+14.4) (+5000)
  5. Viktor Hovland (+14.1) (+6600)

One stat I had to include this week is strokes gained from the bunker. The “pot bunkers” at Royal St. George’s are flat out brutal. One of the deepest bunkers in the world is at Royal St. George. This course is famous for its bunkers and even has nicknames for them such as Hole No. 4 “Himalayan Bunker”. Staying clear of bunkers is the goal but it’s not always obtainable. Strokes gained out of the bunker should not be undermined. 

Bunker Saves: Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Matt Kuchar (+9.1) (+17500)
  2. Cameron Smith (+8.3) (+6600)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+8.1) (+12500)
  4. Webb Simpson (+7.0) (+7700)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+6.2) (+1800)

Last but not least we are going to look at wind gust stats. Strong wind is always going to be a factor when playing in an Open Championship. The more distance off the tee, the more wind plays a factor on your ball. However, this isnt always a bad thing. Shorter distance players will still be affected too. 

Total Strokes Tee to Green: Windy Conditions ONLY (These stats are from the past 2 years and were only taken from courses with 10+ MPH wind gusts)  

  1. Jon Rahm (+60.1) (+800)
  2. Dustin Johnson(+53.5) (+2000) 
  3. Louis Oosthuizen (+50.0) (+12500)
  4. Patrick Cantaly (+49.9) (+20000)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+47.3) (+3500)

I know this is a lot of statistics to take into consideration. Like I said before, this is one of the most unpredictable tournaments and it’s also being held at one of the most unpredictable courses in the world. Looking at the stats above, you may notice Colin Morikawa’s name in 3 of the stats listed. For that reason, Colin will be in a majority of my lineups. 

Top Picks: 

1. Colin Morikawa 

2. Xander Schauffele

3. Webb Simpson 

Wildcard Picks:  

1. Justin Thomas

2. Viktor Hovland

3. Justin Rose 

John White’s Favorite Lineup: 

1. Colin Morikawa (9,200)

2. Marc Leishman (7,700)

3. Shane Lowry (7,900) 

4.Louis Oosthuizen (9,300)

5. Justin Rose (8,000)

6. Cameron Smith (7,800)

*DFS stands for Daily Fantasy Sports and is a fantasy format that uses a salary cap style of picking a lineup. The salary cap figures are fictional and in no way represent real money or currency.

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