And then there was one. Thanks to the PGA Tour’s new schedule, the British Open is now the fourth and final men’s major championship of the season. Also confusing things is the fact that the tournament won’t be played in Great Britain for just the second time in its nearly 160-year history, meaning rigid golf fans are going to be even more insistent that it’s called the Open Championship. In any event, glory’s (new) last shot will take place in Northern Ireland as Royal Portrush plays host for the first time since Max Faulkner won there in 1951. So who is most likely to match Max and claim the claret jug this year? Here’s our ever-changing weekly ranking of the best bets (with odds from Westgate Las Vegas Superbook) to win the British Open.
1. Brooks Koepka (10/1)
Reason to pick: He’s won four of his past nine majors and finished runner-up in two others. Oh yeah, and his caddie, Ricky Elliott, just happens to be from Portrush and grew up playing what will be a largely unknown venue for everyone else. We’re not making the same mistake as we have in the past: Brooks is OUR favorite to win no matter what Vegas says and no matter what happens between now and the third week in July.
Cause for concern: He could eat something funky on the eve of the tournament? Seriously, it’s hard to think of anything with this major-championship monster.
2. Rory McIlroy (8/1)
Reason to pick: Another golfer with the advantage of some local knowledge, the Northern Ireland native once shot a course-record 61 at Royal Portrush. When he was 16. McIlroy also has been the best golfer throughout the entire 2019 season with 11 top-10s in 14 PGA Tour starts, including two victories.
Cause for concern: McIlroy’s major drought will extend to more than five years if he doesn’t win and he faces a bit of extra pressure with this “home game” and being made the betting favorite. Of course, if he does win, he’s suddenly the front-runner for Player of the Year honors.
3. Tommy Fleetwood (25/1)
Reason to pick: They don’t call him “Fleetwood the Flusher” for nothing. There are few with Tommy’s ball-striking ability, which will be a major asset in the Northern Ireland winds.
Cause for concern: After a great year in the majors in 2018, Fleetwood has done no better than a T-36 at the Masters this year. Also, his overall Open record is nothing special, although trending in the right direction with a T-27 and a T-12 after three consecutive missed cuts.
4. Francesco Molinari (20/1)
Reason to pick: A year ago, all this guy did was beat Tiger Woods head-to-head at Carnoustie and pull away from a pack of contenders to win his first major championship. He’s been relatively quiet since nearly adding a second at the Masters, but finished T-16 at Pebble Beach in Open-like conditions.
Cause for concern: After ranking second in strokes gained: tee-to-green on the PGA Tour last season, Francesco has fallen to 57th. The ball-striking will need to be tightened up if he’s to claim the claret jug again.
5. Tiger Woods (16/1)
Reason to pick: The reigning Masters champ has won two of his past eight official stroke-play starts going back to last year’s Tour Championship. Before winning at Augusta National, many thought the Open—with its firmer fairways and slower greens—would be his best chance to claim another major, something he nearly did at Carnoustie last year.
Cause for concern: The lack of reps. He has had only eight official stroke-play starts since last year’s Tour Championship. That’s less than one a month. Tiger will not tee it up (for real) between a T-21 at the U.S. Open and Royal Portrush. He took a similar break between the Masters and the PGA and missed the cut at Bethpage Black. But at least we know he won’t have any problem adjusting to the time difference thanks to his 1 a.m. wake-up calls.