The 150th Open Championship will be played at a familiar place: The Old Course at St. Andrews, which has hosted The Open Championship 29 times in the past dating back to 1873.
Let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
St. Andrews (The Old Course) Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,536 (long: ~150 yards longer than the average par 72)
Fairway Acres/1,000 Yards: 4.0 (average: PGA average is 4.2)
Average Green Size: N/A
Green Type: Fescue/Browntop bentgrass/Poa annua
Past 5 Winning Scores (Course): -15, -16, -14, -19, -6
Past 5 Cut Lines (Course): E, +2, +1, E, +4
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Long-Term Form/Total Strokes Gained, Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Driving Distance, Birdie or Better Rate
We've seen a lot of runaways at St. Andrews in the past. In 2010, Louis Oosthuizen won at -16 but no other golfer was better than -9. In 2005, Tiger Woods won at -14 with no other golfer better than -9. In 2000, Woods won at -19 with nobody else better than -11. In 2015, however, Zach Johnson beat Marc Leishman and Oosthuizen in a playoff. Keep that in mind when looking at the winning scores.
Statistically speaking, the strongest correlation among full-season stats with in-event stroke differential is full-season strokes gained average. Put another way, better golfers who are in good form tend to separate here.
Trailing stroke average in terms of importance, we see strokes gained: off the tee and driving distance gained really emerge. Yes, even though you may not think it based on Zach Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen winning here in the past. Oosthuizen was picking up distance on fields back in 2010, and Johnson played nearly to the field average during his win.
Approach play matters a good deal still, and short game tends to correlate quite weakly with performance at The Open Championship by comparison. That said, you'll need to make putts and score birdies.
With winning scores likely around -15 (given the game's current distances off the tee, especially if the weather is tame), I'm actually preferring birdie-or-better rate rather than bogey avoidance for this major.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
The best golfers in Open Championships since 2017 in terms of strokes gained per round -- of those with at least two starts -- include Jordan Spieth (+2.94), Robert Macintyre (+2.31), Brooks Koepka (+2.06), Tony Finau (+2.00), Tommy Fleetwood (+1.87), Shane Lowry (+1.86), Rory McIlroy (+1.69), Francesco Molinari (+1.61), Xander Schauffele (+1.56), Jon Rahm (+1.54), and Matt Kuchar (+1.54). That's quite the list.
Those with standouts in their lone Open start in this span include Collin Morikawa (+4.21), Mackenzie Hughes (+2.46), Scottie Scheffler (+2.21), Viktor Hovland (+1.96), Marcel Siem (+1.71), Rory Sabbatini (+1.67), and Lucas Bjerregaard (+1.67).
Win Simulations for The Open Championship
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds this week at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for The Open Championship
Of those, I'm most inclined to bet Smith and Burns.
I'll update with my actual plays closer to the first tee time.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for The Open Championship
All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Rory McIlroy (FanDuel Salary: $12,000 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +900) - The favorite and the highest-salaried golfer in the field, McIlroy really sets up well to dominate at The Old Course. Rory has field-best rates in long-term form and long-term adjusted tee-to-green play. He's also the second-longest driver in the field, and the putter is great right now. He has made 17 of 21 major cuts since 2017 with 11 top-10 results. He's my anchor play for the week even at $12,000.
Xander Schauffele ($11,300 | +2000) - I basically just rinse and repeat with Schauffele at majors, and it tends to work out all right. He has finished top-26 in four of his past five majors, and since 2017, he has netted six top-five results, trailing only Brooks Koepka (and tied with Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm). Xander is one of the best putters on Tour and still should have better luck, based on his distance splits. The ball-striking? It's 95th-percentile good.
Jordan Spieth ($11,100 | +1600) - Spieth is the best golfer at The Open since 2017 in terms of strokes gained average, and it's not particularly close (as mentioned above). He actually gains driving distance on the field despite the knock that he's not long off the tee, and in total, he owns 82nd-percentile adjusted tee-to-green data. The open setup should continue to suit Spieth well.
Cameron Smith ($10,900 | +2700) - Some of these guys are bound to be in the $10,000 range, and we just need to take advantage when they get there. That's where I am with Smith, who is just a tick below average in driving distance but benefits from accuracy not being vital at The Old Course. Smith ranks in the 89th percentile or better in the three strokes gained stats other than off-the-tee data. The best putter from within five feet and someone who can go low, Smith very well might be a lock for cash games this week at this salary.
Sam Burns ($10,100 | +4100) - Burns is rating out as the best value play among the $10,000-plus range in my combo model. He struggles nowhere statistically and has plus distance (88th percentile) with great irons (also 88th). He's one of the absolute best putters on Tour and is finding his footing in majors now. He has two straight top-30 results there while putting well any time he tees it up with a major on the line. He has posted a spike week with the putter in half of his events over the past year; that's tied for second in the field.
Cameron Young ($9,900 | +6500) - If we want distance (98th-percentile) and overall ball-striking (86th), Young has both. If we want birdie ability (96th), he's got that. The main knock on him is his weak overall major history, which includes just a T3 (at the 2022 PGA Championship) and four missed cuts. However, his form now is incomparable to that of the Young in 2019 and, really, even 2021.
Tony Finau ($9,900 | +4800) - Finau keeps popping up with great recent form as measured by trustworthy samples. He's parlayed that into a T2 at the Mexico Open, a T41 at the Wells Fargo, a T30 at the PGA Championship, a T4 at the Charles Schwab, a solo second at the RBC Canadian Open, a missed cut at the U.S. Open, and a T13 at the Travelers Championship. He's gained strokes from approach in all but two measured events in 2022. Finau has made 17 of 20 major cuts since 2017 while recording nine top-10 results and 10 top-25s.
Joaquin Niemann ($9,800 | +5000) - Just like the others in this tier so far, Niemann has plus-distance (82nd-percentile) and overall ball-striking (85th-percentile). He is seven-of-seven in terms of recent made cuts at majors with two top-25 results in that span. With a big win at The Genesis Invitational in February, Niemann clearly has the chops to keep putting up big-time performances.
Corey Conners ($9,500 | +8000) - There aren't any golfers down this low in salary without any paths to pure destruction, but for Conners now, it's just the wedges (which rank in the 17th percentile). His putting (62nd) is trending up, and his expected putting (81st) well outperforms his lag putting (8th). A 94th-percentile ball-striker, then, is what we're getting with Conners -- with expected putting regression coming his way. Conners' past four major results are T15, T6, cut, cut, but in total, he has five top-25s since 2020 at majors to tie him for 12th among all golfers.
Robert Macintyre ($9,300 | +5000) - Though there's a very, very good chance that Macintyre winds up more popular than he should be, here's the case for him. He is one of just four golfers to play in at least eight majors since 2020 and make every cut (he is nine-for-nine; the others are Hideki Matsuyama [also a perfect nine-for-nine] and Bubba Watson [eight-for-eight]), he's got (slightly) plus distance, and he's a good putter. The problem? He's been really iffy with the driver and an actual negative with the irons in recent events. I still think the pros outweigh the cons here; however, he's far from a lock, given the recent stats.
Max Homa ($9,000 | +8000) - Homa's major concern in majors was just not showing up well when qualifying, but that's no longer the case. Homa had missed seven of eight major cuts before playing the weekend in four straight. Although just one of those was a top-30 (T13 at the PGA Championship this year), he has gained strokes from approach play and off-the-tee play in three straight majors with ShotLink data. He's the top value at or below $9,000 in my combo model.
Mito Pereira ($8,700 | +6500) - Pereira was a target of mine for the Genesis Scottish Open, too. Overreacting to two missed cuts to snap a streak of four straight top-15s is just silly for such a good iron player and overall ball-striker. Pereira ranks in the 89th percentile among this loaded field in adjusted strokes gained: tee to green over the past year. His near PGA Championship win should weigh more than two other missed cuts at majors in his young career.
Keegan Bradley ($8,700 | +10000) - A contender at Brookline's U.S. Open, Bradley is a stellar (83rd-percentile) tee-to-green performer. He is a near-lock to gain strokes with his irons (which he's done in six straight measured events) and off the tee (in four of six), which is a great headstart for a course such as St. Andrews. Bradley has made three of his past four major cuts, two of which were top-20s.
Hao-Tong Li ($8,400 | +15000) - Li scored a win at the BMW International before the Genesis Scottish Open, and his irons are heating up. We've seen his name at the top of an Open leaderboard back in 2017, but he hasn't played a major since 2021 (a missed cut at The Open). Li's trajectory dipped but is now trending up linearly.
Keith Mitchell ($8,300 | +15000) - The good recent form lets us buy into one of the best drivers on the planet. Mitchell has 94th-percentile distance and 96th-percentile adjusted off-the-tee play overall. His putting is also hot right now and is supported by 91st-percentile expected putting. Don't let a slow start to the Scottish Open bother you: he's as good a value play as we get (though no values are ever safe).