Five biggest threats to Jon Rahm at British Open

LAS VEGAS — A month ago, Jon Rahm was considered the best golfer to never win a major, a label that can be heavy baggage to carry. He shook it off and delivered a clutch performance to claim the U.S. Open title, and suddenly he’s a strong favorite to win back-to-back majors.

The oddsmakers’ starting point for the British Open, which begins Thursday at Royal St. George’s in England, is obvious. Rahm, the 7/1 favorite at BetMGM, has to look way over his shoulder to find the second choice, Brooks Koepka, who’s at 14/1.

“That’s a pretty large gap, but it’s warranted with the way Rahm is playing,” Westgate SuperBook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said. “He got the monkey off his back by winning the U.S. Open and he can play more freely.”

The 26-year-old Spaniard known as “Rahmbo” is on a roll. In early June, Rahm led the Memorial in Ohio by six strokes after a third-round 64 yet was forced to withdraw from the tournament because of a positive COVID-19 test. He emerged from quarantine to win at Torrey Pines in San Diego in mid-June, and Sunday he finished two shots back in the Scottish Open.

Current form is the most dependable handicapping tool to use this week because the course is foreign territory to most of the top contenders. The British Open was last staged at Royal St. George’s in 2011, when Darren Clarke was a long-shot winner and finished three strokes ahead of Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson in a tie for second.

Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth
Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth
Getty Images

Johnson and Rory McIlroy are each listed at 16/1. McIlroy, who missed the cut at the Scottish Open, has no major wins since 2014, when he won the British and PGA.

The British is typically considered the most unpredictable of the four majors. Rain and wind will be in the forecast at Royal St. George’s on the southeast coast of England, and European players are better conditioned for links golf.

“What you tend to see is the guys who play the Euro tour have lower odds than the American players,” Sherman said. “You could get a guy at 200/1 or 300/1 who wins this thing.”

Rahm, who went into the U.S. Open as the 10/1 favorite, has seven career wins on the European Tour. Still, staring at the sun and betting on the favorite at single-digit odds are not advised. Look deeper down the board to find five players who could stop Rahm’s roll (BetMGM odds):

Jordan Spieth (18/1)

The 2017 winner of the Claret Jug is one of three players (Koepka, McIlroy) to have three Top 10 finishes in the past five British Opens.

“Although he has been quiet in the last two majors, Spieth has maintained arguably the most consistent form of any top player this year,” said VSiN handicapper Wes Reynolds, who noted Spieth ranks fifth for strokes gained: approach, seventh for strokes gained: tee-to-green, eighth for strokes gained: short game (putting plus around-the-green), and No. 1 for strokes gained: total over the last 50 rounds.

Louis Oosthuizen (25/1)

Since his only major win at the British in 2010, Oosthuizen has recorded runner-up finishes in all four majors, including last month’s U.S. Open. The South African was in position to win at Torrey Pines before Rahm stole the show.

“While Louis hasn’t had a Top 10 finish in the British since he was runner-up at St. Andrews in 2015, you can’t look past his form coming in,” professional handicapper Jeff Sealey said. “He’s in great form with Top 10s in three of his last four tournaments.”

Viktor Hovland (28/1)

Viktor Hovland
Viktor Hovland
dpa/picture alliance via Getty I

The hottest young gun on the Euro tour is Hovland, 23. He won the BMW International Open in Germany in late June, a week after withdrawing from the U.S. Open with a bizarre eye injury. Sherman said he’s high on Hovland, who has two PGA Tour titles since December.

Matt Fitzpatrick (40/1)

This is sort of a home game for England’s Fitzpatrick, who came up short Sunday in a three-man playoff at the Scottish Open. His best showing at the British was a tie for 20th in 2019, but he’s young (26) and on the upswing.

“For Fitzpatrick it comes down to his irons, which have been hot and cold lately,” Sealey said. “He is going to gain off the tee and he generally putts well, so if his irons are there, I expect to see Fitz in the hunt.”

Daniel Berger (50/1)

VSiN handicapper Brady Kannon said he likes Koepka and Spieth at shorter odds, and his long-shot pick is Berger, who’s off a Top 10 finish at the U.S. Open and has missed only two cuts since July 2020.

“He grew up playing golf in Florida and thus is well-versed on how to deal with the wind,” Kannon said. “Berger employs a lower ball flight which bodes well for links-style golf. British Opens are generally attacked from along the ground, unlike American designs where players hoist the ball as high as possible and attack from high above the surface. Berger’s iron play is suited favorably for links golf.”


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