British Open 2012 Odds: Handicapping the Field

Carlos TorresContributor IJuly 14, 2012

British Open 2012 Odds: Handicapping the Field

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    Golf's third major of the year, The British Open—or as it's better known, The Open—will be played July 19-22 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

    The host course, Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, located in northwest England, first hosted The Open in 1926 and entered the rotation in 1952. It will be the 11th time that the course hosts The Open.

    This year marks the first time that consecutive British Opens will be held outside Scotland since 1952 and the first time ever for consecutive British Opens in England.

    The last time The Open was played at Royal Lytham & St Annes was in 2001, when David Duval was at the peak of his game and won by three strokes over Sweden's Niclas Fasth.

    Tied for third that year with five others—including Ernie Els, who won the year after—was this year's defending champ, Darren Clarke.

    Clarke will be looking to become the first champion to repeat since Padraig Harrington did it in 2007-08. Tiger Woods won it the previous two years, in 2005-06.

    Playing at Royal Lytham & St Annes means you better bring your A-game for your sand saves. The course has over 200 bunkers, so when you start looking at someone to win, look no further than the top players in that category.

    Let's take a look at the players with the best odds, according to vegasinsider.com.

Darren Clarke (150-1)

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    Darren Clarke shocked the world when he won The Open last year at 200-1 odds. 

    He jumped to 30th in the world, but since then he has slid down to 84th, the product of only three top-20 finishes and 10 missed cuts, including six in his last eight tournaments.

    His best finish in this past year was 12th, at the Nedbank Golf Challenge last December.

    He would need another miraculous play this year to repeat as champion. At least he has played well on the Royal Lytham & St. Annes course, having finished T11 and T3 the last two times The Open was played here.

    But this is a very different Darren Clarke this time around.

The 50-1s

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    In order of their world rankings, Bubba Watson (sixth), Matt Kuchar (eighth), Steve Stricker (13th), Charl Schwartzel (18th), Jim Furyk (32nd) and Nicolas Colsaerts (35th) are tied at 50-1 odds for the tournament.

     

    Bubba Watson

    Watson won The Masters this year and missed the cuts at The Memorial and the U.S. Open, but he bounced back to finish T2 at The Travelers on his last start.

    He has missed the cut twice and tied for 30th last year at The Open.

     

    Matt Kuchar

    Kuchar  won The Players Championship this year and was T8 at The Travelers on his last start. His best finish at The Open was a T27, in 2010.

    He has not made the cut the other six times he's played it.

     

    Steve Strickler

    Stricker hasn't been at his best after his neck injury, but at this moment he is in the midst of playing for a fourth John Deere Classic in a row.

    He finished T8 and T7 in 2007-08 and T12 last year. He finished T22 and T42 the last two times at this venue.

     

    Charl Schwartzel

    Schwartzel spent four weeks recovering from a muscle strain in his chest but is back healthy for The Open. He has finished T14 and T16 the past two years and may be the best bet among this group for a win this year.

     

    Jim Furyk

    Furyk had the 68-hole lead at the U.S. Open last month and then let it slip on those final holes.

    Seems that he hasn't recovered, finishing T34 and missing the cut on his next two starts.

    He has a pair of top-five finishes at The Open, but on average he hasn't been faring well on it. 

     

    Nicolas Colsaerts

    Colsaerts leads the European Tour in driving and was contending at the U.S. Open last month.

    This will be his first British Open since his lone appearance at the event, in 2004, and comes at a time where he is playing his best golf, having reached a career-best 35th ranking in the world.

The 40-1s

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    If the group of players at 50-1 odds was big and strong, the group at 40-1 is even bigger and stronger.

    In order of their world rankings, Jason Dufner (seventh), Hunter Mahan (10th), Adam Scott (12th), Martin Kaymer (14th),  Dustin Johnson (15th),  Phil Mickelson (16th), Rickie Fowler (19th), Louis Oosthuizen (20th), Ian Poulter (27th) and Ernie Els (40th) are the players at 40-1 odds.

     

    Jason Dufner

    Dufner has been outplayed only by Tiger Woods the past couple of months. Two wins, a second place and a T4 at the U.S. Open have earned him the seventh spot in the world rankings.

    But he will have to make the cut for the first time at The Open before he starts thinking about winning it.

     

    Hunter Mahan

    At The Open Mahan's lone bright spot was his T6 finish in 2006, so he has some work to do to win here.

    At least he has won twice this year and has been gaining momentum, with T11 and T8 finishes on his last two tournaments.

     

    Adam Scott

    Scott started the year slowly but has picked it up recently and comes from a third-place finish at the AT&T National.

    That is good news for him: His only top-10 finish at The Open came in 2006, when he finished T8.

     

    Martin Kaymer

    Kaymer is on the wrong side of the momentum line. He has only one top-10 finish in his last nine tournaments.

    At The Open he has finished T7 and T12 the past two years, so you should expect an improvement on his recent work.

     

    Dustin Johnson

    Johnson won the FedEx St. Jude Classic this year after resting his back but then missed the cut and finished T44 and T33 at his next tournaments.

    He finished T2 last year and had a great shot at winning.

    When he is at his best, he can win anywhere against anyone.

     

    Phil Mickelson

    Mickelson gave it a big run last year to finish second, which was his best finish at The Open and his only other top-10 finish, as he placed third in 2004.

    The Open is not his best tournament, but if he repeats last year's performance, he has a chance. 

    Like his game, it's a gamble predicting whether he has a chance or not here.

     

    Rickie Fowler

    Fowler finally won a tournament this year, which was expected to be his breakthrough performance.

    But he has been dropping down the finish line ever since.

    He finished T5 last year and T14 the year before. If he can stop the down slide in finishes and regain his the form from a couple of months ago, he will contend.

     

    Louis Oosthuizen

    Oosthuizen won in runaway fashion in 2010 at St. Andrews. This year he had a stretch in which he finished third, second—at The Masters—and first, looking like the hottest player on tour.

    But he has since cooled down, with one top-20 finish and four missed cuts.

    He has plenty of work to do to contend.

     

    Ian Poulter

    Poulter finished seventh at The Masters and has a couple of top-10 finishes since, including his T4 finish at the Alstom Open de France, his last start.

    His second-place finish in the 2008 Open is his lone bright finish here. He must find some consistency to fare well.

     

    Ernie Els

    Els has been showing signs of his old self this year, after last year's downfall. He is back up to 39th in the world ranking and finished ninth in his last start at the U.S. Open. In the last decade, he won The Open once, had five top-five finishes and placed two other times in the top 10. 

    He has missed the cut both times this decade, but taking into consideration his recent form, there is now way you can discount the Big Easy.

Sergio Garcia (30-1)

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    Sergio Garcia won two consecutive tournaments last November and looked well on his way to reaching the top 10 in the world rankings to cap his rejuvenated comeback, reaching as high as 16th.

    But his rise has stalled, and from his last 10 tournaments, the only bright spot were two top-five finishes.

    He has slid down to 22nd in the world.

    The Open has been Garcia's best major, as he has seven top-10 finishes, including his best finish, second place, in 2007, and a T9 in 2001 here at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

    Last year he finished T9 and always seems to be at his best playing The Open.

    This should be the biggest reason for his odds being lower than those of many of the players ranked ahead of him.

Graeme McDowell (30-1)

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    Graeme McDowell is ranked back at 11th in the world and has played excellently at the first two majors this year.

    He finished T12th at The Masters and T2 at the U.S. Open, where he had a chance on the 18th hole to tie for first and go extra holes.

    McDowell hasn't fared very well at The Open, though. His best finish is a T19, in 2008, and he missed the cut last year.

    But he seems to be near his best level of play again and is leading the PGA tour in fairways hit.

    He could use that to propel him to a win over a course with so many bunkers on the fairways.

Justin Rose (30-1)

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    Justin Rose is having his best moment in golf.

    He leading the Race to Dubai on the European Tour, he won his first WGC Championship this year, and he reached as high as sixth in the world after his T2 at the BMW PGA Championship.

    That T2 finish is one of four top-10 finishes in his last five tournaments and a total of seven top-10 finishes this year.

    While his rise started after his dramatic 50-yard birdie shot on the 18th hole at the 1998 Open to finish T4 and win the Silver Medal as the low amateur, he has managed only two top-20 finishes in the tournament since.

    But this year he seems to be on top of his game, as he is leading the European Tour in stroke average, and that certainly helps his confidence heading into a tough tournament like The Open.

Padraig Harrington (20-1)

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    Padraig Harrington is a two-time Open champion (2007-08) who went into slump last year which saw him drop as low as 94th in the world.

    But this year he has been showing up around the top of some tournament's leaderboards, especially during both majors.

    He finished T8 at The Masters and T4 at the U.S. Open and comes into The Open after finishing T7 at the Irish Open.

    All signs point to Harrington's mounting a comeback toward the the top of the rankings, but he looks far removed from his best year, in 2008, when he won two majors.

    If his trend of showing up big at the majors continues, he is a player that certainly knows how to get it done at The Open and should be one to keep an eye on.

Lee Westwood (15-1)

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    Lee Westwood might be the best player never to win a major, but no one can say he hasn't had plenty of chances to win his first.

    The third-ranked player in the world has 14 top-10 finishes in the majors and has had the lead plenty other times, most notably in 2010 at The Masters, where it took a masterful performance by Phil Mickelson to deny him his first major.

    At the U.S. Open last year, he was within striking distance heading into Sunday but fell out of contention early.

    At The Open he's had four top-10 finishes, including a T3 in 2009 and a solo second place in 2010, when Louis Oosthuizen was the runaway winner.

    This year once again all the stories will be about his winning his first major, but to win it he will have to fare much better at Royal Lytham & St Annes than he did the previous two times.

    He missed the cut in 1996 and finished T47 in 2001.

Luke Donald (15-1)

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    Luke Donald remains the top player in the world, and heading into the U.S. Open this year, he had a lot of momentum and was expected to contend for his first major.

    But a 79 in the first round basically took him out of play, and he missed the cut and hasn't played a tournament since.

    After becoming the first player ever officially to win the money titles on both the PGA and European tours, he has been expected more than ever to deliver his first major.

    At The Open his best finishes have been recently. He finished T5 in 2009 and T11 in 2010. He missed the cut last year.

    Maybe the time off will help Donald be fresh for this tournament. He should come focused and poised to win his first major.

    His accurate game is a perfect fit for this course.

Rory McIlroy (10-1)

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    Rory McIlroy has been on the worst stretch of his career: He has missed the cut in four of his last six tournaments.

    To be fair he finished T7 and T10 on the other two, but before that he had 12 top-five finishes in 14 tournaments and had reached the No. 1 ranking twice.

    McIlroy has the ability to be the dominant force in golf but somehow has yet to fulfill the promise that most of the golf world has been expecting.

    He finished T42 and was the low amateur in his debut at The Open in 2007. He didn't play in 2008 and has finished T47, T3 and T25 the last three years.

    McIlroy was expected by many to  deliver a win at The Open last year after his record-breaking virtuoso performance at the U.S. Open, but the conditions at Royal St George's frustrated him, and he never delivered.

    In order to win here, he must overcome his frustration with playing against the elements and focus on going back to what took him to being the world's top player.

    His chances of winning will depend on which McIlroy shows up—the one that has missed the cut four times in six tournaments or the one who became No. 1.

Tiger Woods (4-1)

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    Tiger Woods is back to winning tournaments—three already this year.

    Will he be back to winning majors? That is the question with the million-dollar answer.

    He has 14 career major championships, four away from Jack Nicklaus' record. He already passed Nicklaus for second on the PGA Tour's all-time list in wins, so it seems that he is close to winning one again.

    Woods has won the Open three times. The last two were in consecutive years, 2005-06.

    Since then he didn't play twice, has T12 and T23 finishes and missed a cut.

    In 1996 he was the low amateur and won the silver medal, finishing T22 on this course. In 2001, as a pro, he finished T25.

    While St Andrews seem to be Woods' best place to play The Open, he could be well suited for this course. He leads the PGA Tour in stroke average and has been among the leaders in total driving.

    Like in any major with Woods, he is the top contender and the one to beat.