The majority of North American golf fans refer to the oldest of the major championships as the British Open.
The rest of the golfing world simply call it The Open Championship, the third of the year's big four tournaments. That event will be contested this week at Royal Birkdale.
As the tournament gets underway Thursday from Southport, England, the golf landscape has changed quite a bit from the first part of the year and when golfers were preparing for the Masters in April.
Prior to that tournament in Augusta, Georgia, top golfers Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy were all in a dominant position and thought to be at or near the top of their game. That is not the case now, especially for McIlroy, who has missed two consecutive cuts.
Despite his recent troubles, McIlroy is looking forward to playing at Royal Birkdale.
“I think Birkdale is one of the best, if not the best course that we play in The Open rota,” McIlroy said, per the tournament's website. “You’ve really got to position your ball well, and it gives you options around the greens whether you want to putt from off the green or you want to chip it. So it tests every aspect of your game, and I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while.”
Even though Johnson, Spieth and McIlroy have not been close to top form lately, they are the betting favorites, according to OddsShark.
Dustin Johnson, 10-1
Rory McIlroy, 10-1
Jordan Spieth, 11-1
Jason Day, 16-1
Sergio Garcia, 16-1
Jon Rahm, 16-1
Rickie Fowler, 18-1
Henrik Stenson, 20-1
Hideki Matsuyama, 20-1
Justin Rose, 20-1
Tommy Fleetwood, 20-1
Brooks Koepka, 28-1
Adam Scott, 28-1
While there's a tendency to believe that this is the week that at least one of those favorites will turn it around, we are going in another direction.
Sergio Garcia had a huge weight lifted when he won the Masters in April, finally fulfilling his potential and winning the first major of his career. Garcia has all the weapons needed to tame the 7,156-yard, par-70 course.
Garcia has earned nearly $3 million this year and has made the cut in all 11 tournaments he has entered, and he has finished in the top 25 in eight of those events.
Garcia is averaging 69.359 per round, which ranks third on the PGA Tour, and the key to that scoring average is his accuracy. Garcia is hitting 70.42 percent of greens in regulation, and that ranks sixth on the tour.
Garcia comes into the event with odds of 16-1, and he clearly deserves strong consideration to win the event.
So does Rickie Fowler at 18-1. Fowler has won more than $4.24 million this year, and he has a win, a second-place finish and two third-place showings to his credit this year. While he has failed to make the cut in three of the 14 PGA events that he has played this year, he has been inside the top 10 seven times.
Fowler tends to be a streaky golfer, and he can reel off a streak of five birdies in a row or blow up on the back nine of any round he plays. If he can display consistency for four consecutive rounds at
Royal Birkdale, he should have an excellent chance of contending at The Open.
Fowler ranks first in scoring average at 69.161, and he is also the No. 1 player when it comes to sand saves. While he is not of the first rank when it comes to driving distance, Fowler can hit the ball far enough, as he ranks 40th in that category with an average of 298.9 yards per tee shot.
Hideki Matsuyama is one of the top players in the world, and if he can get off to a decent start at Royal Birkdale, he has a chance to factor in as a contender during Sunday's championship round.
Matsuyama has won nearly $6 million this season, and that includes two victories and three second-place finishes among the 15 PGA tournaments that he has entered.
Matsuyama is coming off an excellent performance in the U.S. Open in which he shot a 66 in the final round and tied for second, and his confidence should be high as the 20-1 shot prepares for Royal Birkdale.
Brooks Koepka won the first major of his career when he fired a 67 in the final round and won the U.S. Open last month. He is 28-1 to win the British Open.
Koepka is a powerful hitter who can get hot and outplay the field in the biggest tournaments. Koepka is averaging 307.6 yards off the tee, and that ranks ninth among PGA golfers. Koepka has earned nearly $4.5 million this season.
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood is deserving of strong consideration as a 20-1 shot in the British Open. Fleetwood ranks first on the European Tour this year, and the 26-year-old is averaging 300.8 yards per drive and 69.43 strokes per round.