Golf’s final major of 2022 will be a special treat, hosted by one of the best courses in the world.
St. Andrews will host the 150th Open Championship this year, the fifth time it will have done so since the turn of the century. Tiger Woods has two wins here, Louis Oosthuizen has a win and runner-up, and Zach Johnson won a three-man playoff in 2015, the last time the Claret Jug was awarded at the historic course.
Rory McIlroy enters as the betting favorite, and he does so with good reason. The Northern Irishman has been red hot this summer, although he cannot match Xander Schauffele’s two wins in as many starts. Schauffele also won the JP McManus Pro-Am last week before claiming the Scottish Open title.
Links golf is incredibly unique, but our GolfBet staff has found its favorite picks for the week. Check out who they are backing this week to hoist the Claret Jug at St. Andrews below.
2022 Open Championship Picks
Rory McIlroy +1000 (BetRivers)
Jason Sobel: A year and a month ago, Jon Rahm entered the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines with plenty of narratives in his favor — a venue that held a special place in his heart, a revenge/motivation factor after being forced to WD from the Memorial Tournament after a positive COVID result and, oh yeah, a reputation for being the best player in the world at that given moment. Sure, as the pre-tournament favorite, he owned short odds, but he always felt like the right play that week – one that paid off when he ultimately won.
Well, doesn’t McIlroy feel similar for this one?
Draped with his own collection of narratives entering the year’s final major, Rory has been on a tear over the past few months, posting seven consecutive top-20 finishes, though it’s the majors where he’s played some of his best golf — and I characterize that as “some of his best” because when you win four major titles by the age of 25, then go 0-for-the-next-eight-years, results of second place (Masters), eighth (PGA) and fifth (U.S. Open) only fuel more questions about what he could accomplish if — or when — he finally puts four complete rounds together at one of these events.
The truth is, each of those performances was plagued by a singular inconsistency — either one poor round or one poor stretch of holes or one poor club in the bag that he could not quite figure out.
Why should this week be any different? There are a few reasons.
First, his game has appeared more locked in lately, especially from that range of 100-125 yards, which has so curiously befuddled him in recent years. Second, if Mother Nature indeed decides to not cooperate with our schadenfreudist whims and give us 40 mph winds and sideways rain, birdies will be available in bunches and there’s nobody who piles ‘em up like Rory.
Then there’s the fact that he’s been the game’s most intelligent voice on all matters of recent change, which he told me last month hasn’t served as greater motivation to play better, but it’s easy to see off-course and on-course tenacity going hand-in-hand. And while his Open Championship record is a bit checkered recently, he owns a strong history at this tournament.
Last year’s T46 came in the midst of a discouraging summer, there was no event the previous year and in 2019, with the weight of a nation on his shoulders, he hit his first tee shot OB at Royal Portrush and a furious second-day rally couldn’t put him on the right side of the cutline, but prior to that, he’d finished 2nd-4th-5th-1st in consecutive Open Championship starts. While he missed the 2015 festivities at St. Andrews due to a soccer injury (remember that?), he was T3 here back in 2010.
If you really need another narrative besides all of those, then check out what I wrote in this week as a betting guide. Some of the biggest anniversaries for the biggest tournaments have yielded the biggest names on top of the leaderboard. The idea of Jack, Tiger and Rory helps offer a nice bit of symmetry here.
Cameron Smith +2500 (BetRivers, DraftKings)
Chris Murphy: Smith is coming off a missed cut at this year’s U.S. Open, which is giving us a bit of a discount for this week’s Scottish Open. The missed cut was disappointing, but there was not anything statistically that would make me believe the Australian cannot bounce back quickly.
On paper, Renaissance Club should be a perfect fit for Smith. I believe that golfers can get away with being a bit wayward off the tee this week, which is usually the part of his game that can get the 28-year-old into trouble. Smith ranks first in the field in his past 24 rounds in Birdie or Better: Gained. With the scores likely approaching 20-under this week depending on the weather, his ability to pile up birdies will be a major asset.
Smith has seven career wins on the PGA TOUR and DP World TOUR combined. He carries a great deal of win equity at a discounted price. If he has a bounce back week with the irons, he will be tough to beat at this golf course. You can get Smith at 28-1 at BetMGM, BetRivers or WynnBet.
Derek Farnsworth: Smith is my favorite play of the week and we are getting a very fair number at +2500. While trends are made to be broken, the two that I have my eye on this week are as follows:
Eight of the last 10 winners of the Open had a win earlier that season
Nine of the last 10 winners at St. Andrews had a top three at the Masters
There are not many in the field that meet both criteria, but Smith is one of them. He has two wins this year (Tournament of Champions and THE PLAYERS) and he has two top-three finishes at the Masters.
Unbelievably, his putter has been what has held him back over the last couple of months. Luckily, it came alive last weekend and he vaulted up the leaderboard at the Scottish Open. He has a magical short game, he is one of the best iron players in the field, and these wide fairways should help his lack of accuracy off the tee.
Jordan Spieth +1800 (BetMGM)
Matt Vincenzi: Jordan Spieth’s Open Championship record is incredibly impressive. In 2015, he finished one shot back of a three-man playoff at St. Andrews. Since then, he has been equally as impressive. In five starts at The Open since, Spieth has a win and an additional runner-up to go along with a ninth-place finish. He is arguably the best Open Championship player in the field.
Jordan Spieth is one of the most creative golfers in the history of the sport. He is a shot maker who knows how to use rolling slopes and hills to his advantage. His excellent lag putting and ability to stick a wedge shot close to the whole are major reasons why he has done so well in links golf throughout his career.
Even when the 28-year-old has struggled over the past few years, he has seemed to always play well at the courses and events that he has historically excelled at. His tee to green game is strong enough this season to where some Open Championship comfortability could be just what is needed to help him find his missing hot putter.
Landon Silinsky: Spieth is very likely the premier links golfer on TOUR right now. The man absolutely loves this style of golf and more specifically, the Open Championship.
Spieth won this event at Royal Birkdale back in 2017, outlasting Matt Kuchar as a 23-year old to take home his third career Major. He has been stuck on three ever since, but is absolutely on the short list to win here at The Old Course this week.
Links golf is very different from what we see in the U.S. every week, and it requires a specific skill set. There are tons of hills and bunkers littered throughout the course and knowing how to shape your shots, as well as having an elite around-the-green game is a prerequisite.
When you think of those two skills, Spieth immediately jumps to the top of the list. His record at this event has been great, as since his win he has gone T9, T20 and second. These finishes also came in his “down years,” so it is clear even when he’s not firing on all cylinders he can still dominate a links course in his sleep.
Spieth shook off the rust from his MC at the Travelers with a T10 last week at the Scottish Open and he should be ready to rock this week. He also finished T4 at this very course in 2015 the last time the Open was held here. He checks every box for me this week and I really believe he could take this thing down.
Tony Finau +4500 (BetRivers, bet365)
Joshua Perry: Finau has not played the Old Course, but has solid Open form. He has made all five cuts with no finish worse than 27th. His third in 2019 is the best major finish of his career, so this has been a spot where he has been comfortable in the past.
Outside of a bad driving week at the U.S. Open last month, his ball striking has been solid for a couple months now.
Justin Thomas +2200 (BetMGM)
Bryan Berryman: With the winds forecasted in the single digits for most of the week, the old course appears to be in a very vulnerable position. While the course is expected to play firm and fast, I still think this will turn into a high-scoring affair. The course will play right around 7,300 yards and features a unique par-72 setup with two par five, two par 3s, and 14 par 4s.
I believe the R&A will try to protect St. Andrews as much as possible from being overpowered by modern day golfers. By strategically picking their pin positions, they will force golfers to be precise with their approach shots into these greens, and severely punish them when they miss. Of the 14 par 4s, half of them are slated to play under 400 yards. Wedge play will be paramount to success, and J.T. is one of the best wedge players in the world.
Thomas ranks in the top six over all the available sample sizes for proximity to the hole from both the 75-100 and 100-125 yard ranges. When he does happen to miss, he possesses the elite short game that will be required to get it up and down, ranking 12th in this field in Strokes Gained: Around the Green over the last 50 rounds.
Finally, J.T. ranks fourth in the field in Birdie or Better percentage over the last 50 rounds. With what look like they’ll be stellar conditions this week at St. Andrews, Thomas should be able to fill up the scoreboard on The Old Course, putting him in prime position for a third major championship.