The 150th Open Championship is being contested at St Andrews, widely known (truthfully or not) as the birthplace of golf. The defining characteristic of the Old Course, aside from the hotel parked unhelpfully right of the 17th tee and the road perched by that green, is a lack of defining characteristics.
It is a very flat piece of ground pockmarked with bunkers, some of which grown men can’t see out of. When there is weather at St Andrews, the golf course holds up well even against the best professionals. Without weather, though, the course is nearly defenseless except for some of the random rolls of balls off greens, into gorse, into bunkers, etc. As of this writing, the reports from Scotland indicate that the golf course is very hard. Not difficult — hard:
St Andrews is firm! pic.twitter.com/FJnXmfpaYO
— Golf Monthly (@GolfMonthly) July 11, 2022
Rain is predicted for Friday, but not enough to undo what an arid summer has done to St Andrews to date. There isn’t expected to be anything like real weather during the Open. As such, you can expect some video game scores — guys shooting 64, par-4 holes being reached off the tee with long irons and so on. Traditionalists will grumble that it’s sad to see the Old Course undone by modern technology and balls that fly too far. But most fans are going to love it. Birdies and eagles are fun!
Let’s get into the picks and predictions for this week’s Open Championship.
VALUE PICK: TIGER WOODS TOP 40 FINISH (-110)
Tiger Woods has been one of golf’s biggest stories all season despite only playing in the Masters and the U.S. Open. He is the greatest living player still capable of competing at the highest level. His withdrawal from the U.S. Open after making the cut while visibly limping was a concession to his continuing convalescence from his terrible automobile accident and also an indication that he wanted to be healthy this week.
Apparently, he is. Woods has walked upwards of 60 holes in practice rounds leading up to tomorrow. There is no such thing as free money, but Woods finishing in the top 40 in this field feels close to that. He loves this golf course, he has won here, and the firm/fast conditions will mean he won’t have to swing very hard or deal with too many testy lies in order to get the ball around the course. Woods has lost some gears over the years through injury and whatever, but his touch around the greens is still essentially perfect.
LONG SHOT PICK: WILL ZALATORIS TOP 5 FINISH (+500)
Zalatoris tried to throw us off the scent by missing the cut at the Scottish Open last weekend, but we’re not that dumb. Willy Z’s major finishes so far this season: tied for sixth at the Masters, lost a playoff for the PGA Championship, tied for second at the U.S. Open. The primary reason it’s difficult to feel great betting on Zalatoris at any point in time looks like this:
I'm pretty sure that Zalatoris is now intentionally hitting short putts off the toe.
The "signing his name" putting stroke is getting more and more exaggerated…. yet somehow more controlled?
— No Laying Up (@NoLayingUp) April 7, 2022
So maybe bet on him but whatever you do, don’t watch him putt anything inside four feet.
PICK TO WIN THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: JUSTIN THOMAS (+1600)
Just like Zalatoris, Thomas missed the cut at the Scottish Open last weekend. He did so in inglorious fashion, posting 73-77, finishing ten over par for two rounds. That’s gross.
What golf fans sometimes don’t understand, though, is that more likely than not, Thomas wasn’t trying to win the Scottish Open last weekend. He was working on the sorts of shots he will need to hit at St Andrews, whether those shots fit the Scottish Open course or not. For that matter, he was probably delighted to miss the cut, as it gave him all the more time at St Andrews.
It took Thomas a long time to get his second major title. He won the PGA Championship in 2017 and looked like a guy who was going to stack major trophies for years. But it took five full years for Thomas to win his second major; he beat Zalatoris in the aforementioned playoff at the PGA in May. Thomas is ranked seventh the current Official World Golf Ranking, and has been playing practice rounds with Woods this week. It’s hard to imagine a better teacher at the Old Course.
Thomas is ready to make the leap from a guy who takes years to win multiple majors to a guy who takes months to win multiple majors.