The 2018 British Open will begin on Thursday, as the legendary course at Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland, will present the world's best golfers with a unique challenge.
The remarkably dry British summer has resulted in fast and firm fairways, which is a rarity for a Scottish course so close to the sea.
The players have been amazed:
Here's a look at the latest odds, courtesy of Bovada (via OddsShark.com):
Keep the Course Conditions in Mind
Traditionally, Carnoustie favours the top technicians with excellent short games, rather than the power-hitters who do their damage from the tee and set themselves up that way.
But with the fairways as firm as they are, it might be worth backing the latter. When people say Carnoustie is baked-out, they're not overreacting:
Dustin Johnson's advantage off the tee may be compromised by those conditions―he won't be pushing the ball that much further than the rest as he often does―but his ability to keep the ball on a low flight path could be crucial if the wind picks up, which often happens at Carnoustie.
Those winds can change at any time due to the location of the course, close to the North Sea. Accuweather is expecting some gusts, with the wind increasing as the contest goes on.
Tiger Woods found success in such conditions in 2006 and could be a value play here. Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau are also value picks to keep an eye on.
Back the Brits
Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood enter the tournament among the favourites to take home the Claret Jug, and for good reason. Both are in excellent form, have plenty of experience on links courses, sit inside the top 10 of the world rankings and have already bagged a big win this year.
Rose won the Fort Worth Invitational in May, beating Koepka to the finish line, while Fleetwood took home the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.
The latter is also the record-holder on the course with a round of 63, set less than a year ago. Like Johnson, he can drive the ball low off the tee, and the fast course should suit his game.
As for Rose, he's certainly not intimated by Carnoustie:
He finished in 10th place in the U.S. Open and took ninth in the Scottish Open, finishing three-under or better in each of his rounds.
Be Wary of Jordan Spieth
Defending Open champion Jordan Spieth is winless since he lifted the Claret Jug and enters the tournament in poor form. He failed to make the cut at the U.S. Open earlier this year—the first time he missed a cut in a major since 2014—and has failed to advance in three of his last seven tournaments.
Per Peter Scrivener of BBC Sport, the 24-year-old said he feels he needs to add more imagination to his game:
"I was dragging along, playing cut-line golf and a heavy schedule and I needed to get away from the game.
"An Open Championship requires a lot of feel and imagination, and that's what I needed a bit of in my game.
"I had got very technical and into making everything perfect instead of the way I normally play. This week provides that opportunity where you don't know how far the ball is necessarily going to go off the tee.
"You need to play the spots and then use your imagination from there—hold the ball, ride the wind. You'll see guys playing the golf course with a lot of different strategies."
Spieth is a tremendous talent, but his form is too spotty to be worth a punt at this point. The Open hasn't seen a back-to-back winner since Padraig Harrington in 2008, adding yet another challenge to his bid.