Preview: 144th Open Championship fantasy, betting picks

Preview – Royal & Ancient – 144th Open Championship – Old Course at St. Andrews – St. Andrews, Scotland –

Confidence verses Jet Lag.

This week the Champion Golfer of the Year will earn the Claret Jug at the 144th Open Championship. Jordan Spieth steps on the historic grounds of the Old Course at St. Andrews with the chance at winning the first three major championships of 2015.

Spieth comes in following a victory last week at the PGA Tour’s John Deere Classic in Illinois and shows up in Scotland a week later than most in his position. His confidence is soaring with four PGA Tour victories this season along with a win at the Hero World Challenge in the off season.

The Old Course has a different look this go around – the 29th time the venue has hosted the Open Championship. The layout is green instead of its usual light brown due to weather this season in the area. The result could be more options for flying the ball into greens instead of typical bump-and-runs. Look for the champion to come in between 12-under and 15-under this week.

With defending champion Rory McIlroy out of the picture this week (he withdrew due to injury), Spieth is certainly the headliner. But, Tiger Woods is making some noise with his comments about a softer layout. Woods won this title twice – 2000 and 2005. Louis Oosthuizen was the Champion Golfer of the Year last time it was held at the Old Course winning in 2010.

Storylines include the return of Dustin Johnson, a one-time runner-up at the Open. He had a shot to win the U.S. Open last month before three-putting the final hole from 12 feet and losing to Spieth by a shot.

Rickie Fowler, the PLAYERS Champion, enters the Open following a victory at the Scottish Open. Fowler is now 5th in the world rankings. He finished runner-up last year to Rory.

Recent past Open champions include Phil Mickelson (2013), Ernie Els(2012), Darren Clarke (2011), Stewart Cink (2009) and Padraig Harrington (2008 and 2007).

2014 Recap:

  • McIlroy (17-under) won the Open outlasting a fast-charging Sergio Garcia and Fowler. Garcia shot 6-under in the final round, while Fowler was 5-under. Jim Furyk closed with a 7-under round to finish 13-under and fourth place. Adam Scott and Marc Leishman logged T-5 efforts, while Graeme McDowell, Victor Dubuisson, Molinari and Charl Schwartzel posted Top 10s.

Check your local listings in terms of time changes.

FANTASY: Spieth is a first-timer here, which is always dicey but he is riding a confident high. Avoid Mickelson and Bubba Watson. The Old Course isn’t usually kind to lefties and Bubba struggles historically at the Open. Consider taking Oosthuizen, who won here in the past and logged a runner-up at the U.S. Open last month. Dustin Johnson’s power and bounce-back factor makes him a play this week. Take Paul Casey, although an Englishman hasn’t won this title in years. Casey has been trending all season losing in a playoff to Bubba three weeks ago at the Travelers Championship. Garcia is sure to contend. Loves the big moment, but could fall short again like he’s done in a handful of major championships.

BETTORS: Spieth is the betting favorite at at 7-to-1 odds to win. The pressure of the single-season Grand Slam might catch up to the 21-year-old  in this spot. Take Fowler (20-1) following his victory at the Scottish Open and his PLAYERS Championship win in May. Fowler was T-2 at the Open last year falling short to Rory in several majors. With Rory out, Fowler could be in. Consider Tommy Fleetwood, who has played well at the Old Course with three Top 5s in four starts. He pays off 80-1. Molinari (100-1) stepped up last year finishing in the Top 10 and is a huge payoff this week with a victory. For a solid payoff on an American, take Brandt Snedeker at 50-1. Sneds comes in with four straight Top 10s, won earlier this season at Pebble Beach and his putting stroke should bode well at the Old Course. Being an American, perhaps less pressure for him.

Other Golf News:

  • Eleven of the last 22 Open champions have been ranked inside the Top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings heading into the event.
  • The PGA Tour hosts the Barbasol Championship this week in Alabama. Robert Garrigus, Chris Stroud and Aaron Baddeley are among the favorites to win.
  • The last five winners of the Open Championship played in the previous European Tour event at the Scottish Open.
  • The LPGA Tour returns to action this week in Ohio at the LPGA Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Club. Lydia Ko is the defending champion.
  • Spieth is grouped with Johnson and Hideki Matsuyama in the opening round. The trio tees at 4:33 a.m. Eastern Time.