With three weeks left until the British Open tees off at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland,
FrontPageBets is taking a look at the early favorites heading into the season’s final major.
Matt Fitzpatrick won the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., with some superb golf down the stretch, holding off always-game Will Zalatoris and World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler.
Perhaps there are no three golfers playing better at this point … save for maybe one:
The Northern Irishman, currently ranked second in the world, is a four-time major winner, including the 2014 British Open at Royal Liverpool. McIlroy has finished in the top eight in every major this year, including second in the Masters. (He was T-5 at the U.S. Open and eighth at the PGA Championship.) He also won the RBC Canadian Open in early June.
It’s no coincidence that McIlroy is the odds-on favorite (+900, 9-1) to win his fifth major when the British Open is held at the Old Course from July 14-17.
While Fitzpatrick (+2000, 20-1), Zalatoris (+2500, 25-1) and Scheffler (+1200, 12-1) are all in the top-12 list of favorites at St. Andrews, according to
DraftKings, there are some notable golfers who have recently joined the LIV Golf tour who are in the mix. Dustin Johnson, who announced earlier this month his intentions to leave the PGA Tour and join up with the Saudi-funded golf series run by Greg Norman, is just outside the top 10 in odds for the 2022 British Open. Right with DJ is Brooks Koepka, who has reportedly also joined up with LIV Golf. Both of them sit at +2500 (25-1) odds. Phil Mickelson, the biggest name to join LIV, and a six-time major winner, is +15000 (150-1) odds to win in Scotland in July.
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Regardless of who is playing the best or creating headlines, one name will always stand out above the rest whenever he is in the field. And that's
skipped the U.S. Open after playing in the Masters and PGA Championship, said he plans to play in the season's final major. He’s currently at +4000 (40-1) to win his fourth British Open and his 16th overall major. Woods won at the Old Course in St. Andrews back in 2005 by five strokes.
Here’s the odds list of the top 20 golfers, according to DraftKings:
McIlroy questions competitive desire of players in LIV Golf
NOT SO PERFECT GOLF
Jon Rahm knows as well as anyone how hard it is to win a major, much less a U.S. Open. It was only reviewing highlights of his win last year at Torrey Pines that he realized that great golf and perfect golf are not the same.
It helps to already have one major, so he said that eases a little of the pressure. He feels he can enjoy the U.S. Open a little more knowing he doesn't have to do anything special.
“It's easy to think you need to be playing perfect golf,” Rahm said. "And I remember watching my highlights of Sunday last year, and I thought I played one of the best rounds of my life. And I kept thinking, ‘I cannot believe how many fairway bunkers I hit that day, how many greens I missed, and how many putts I missed.’
“It's golf, and that's how it is,” he said. “You truly don’t have to play perfect, and that’s I think the best lesson I can take from that.”
Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia are the only players at the U.S. Open who played in the 1999 Ryder Cup. Those aren't the only players making a return to The Country Club.
Four players who reached the quarterfinals of the 2013 U.S. Amateur also made it into the U.S. Open at Brookline. That starts with Matt Fitzpatrick, the winner. It also includes Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, Corey Conners of Canada and Brandon Matthews.
Scheffler had an amazing run. He needed 20 holes to beat Stewart Jolly in the first round, 20 holes to beat Brandon Hagy in the second round and he beat Matthias Schwab on the 18th hole to reach the quarterfinals. He lost to Brady Watt, 2 and 1.
“I remember being down in pretty much all my matches and coming back,” Scheffler said. “On the three that I won, I came back late on all of them. I think I made a big putt against maybe Brandon Hagy — may have been Brandon — on 17. I have good memories of this place.”
Collin Morikawa is a two-time major champion at age 25, the No. 7 player in the world who can expect to be exempt in the U.S. Open for years to come.
It wasn't always that easy.
“Yeah, well, I suck at qualifying. I really do," Morikawa said Tuesday.
He said he never made it to a U.S. Junior and he can think of only one U.S. Amateur appearance when he was exempt through his amateur ranking. As for the U.S. Open? He went through qualifying three times while at Cal and never came particularly close.
“I decided I hate California — no, I'm kidding,” the California native said.
He missed out by four shots at Lake Merced in San Francisco in 2016 and in 2018. In between, the U.S. Open sectional was in Newport Beach. He missed that by seven shots.
“I just never played well in those events and decided to go to the Ohio one three years ago,” he said. “Made that. The rest is history.”
He made it through Columbus — known as the PGA Tour qualifier because it has the strongest field and the most spots — without a shot to spare. That was in 2019, and he tied for 35th at Pebble Beach in his second tournament as a pro.
Four starts later, he was a PGA Tour winner. A year later, he was a major champion. Yes, the rest is history.
A CADDIE'S LIFE
Rory McIlroy is back to work with his old caddie for the U.S. Open.
Harry Diamond, a longtime friend and Irish amateur player, has been on McIlroy's bag the last five years but was home last week as his wife gave birth to their second child. McIlroy had a backup plan — former Irish rugby union player Niall O'Connor — when he won the RBC Canadian Open for his first win this year.
“Niall and I's run has come to an end at this point,” McIlroy said. “Pretty good record. Had a fourth in Dubai and a first in Canada. If I ever need someone to jump in for Harry, I've got a pretty good substitute there.”
STAT OF THE DAY
Of the six news conferences Tuesday, Scottie Scheffler was the only player who was not asked about the Saudi-backed LIV Golf series.
“If you want to be one of the best players in the world, this is the country where you need to play the majority of your golf.” — Rory McIlroy.
5 things to know about LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed PGA Tour rival debuting this week
The root of most of the controversy surrounding this PGA Tour alternative is the source of the financial backing.
LIV Golf Investments is backed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. It has pledged more than $2 billion through 2025, an amount that includes tournament operations, prize money and other efforts to entice high-end golfers. Roughly $400 million has been pledged for the inaugural season, with more than a quarter billion earmarked strictly for prize money.
Most consider this a form of “sportswashing” — akin to what Qatar has done with the World Cup and what Russia did with past Olympic Games — when countries with poor reputations try to repair them, or divert attention away from it, through sports.
Greg Norman’s willingness to play 'villain' ... again
Tiger Woods has spent more weeks at No. 1 in the world than any other golfer, active or retired. No. 2 on that list belongs to Greg Norman, the eccentric 67-year old Australian who has served as the public face of LIV Golf, at least among non-competitors.
Norman has not been shy about going toe-to-toe with the PGA Tour and commissioner Jay Monahan, calling them “monopolists” and saying LIV Golf is entering the golf space to better serve professional golfers, who aren’t given ample opportunities via the PGA Tour.
This is not Norman’s first attempt and going toe-to-toe with the PGA Tour, either. Almost 30 years ago, he tried to set up a super league that would consist of smaller, 40-player fields that would compete for massive purses. The concept, which he called the World Golf Tour, was so far along that he had secured a 10-year, $250 million commitment from Fox for broadcast rights.
That league never got off the ground, though, as then-PGA Commissioner Tim Finchem convinced members of the tour to stick with the PGA. He later started up the World Golf Championship, which still exists to this day, and runs as part of the PGA Tour calendar.
Big name commitments
A major part of the recent LIV Golf buzz is the number of big-name commitments Norman has secured as it inches closer to its debut. The two biggest names on the marquee: Phil Mickelson, whose flirtation with LIV Golf was very public and controversial, and ultimately led to him stepping away from the public limelight for multiple months after comments made about the Saudis, and Dustin Johnson, one of the most successful players on the PGA Tour.
Johnson, who reportedly received more than $100 million to jump ship to LIV, resigned from the PGA Tour on Tuesday. RBC, his top sponsor, has already dropped him.
Mickelson signed a contract worth approximately $200 million, according to the Golf Channel’s Brentley Romine. Both players intend to play in major championships, though that decision will ultimately be made by tournament organizers themselves.
Other notable names on board include past major winners Sergio Garcia, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer, past World No. 1 Lee Westwood and Ryder Cup fixture Ian Poulter. All eight of the aforementioned players will be in the field for its first event, scheduled to start Thursday in London.
Big name rejections
LIV Golf landed a few big fish, but it also encountered a lot of public rejection. Johnson (currently No. 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings), is the only top-20 player to shun the PGA Tour for LIV Golf. And the 37-year-old Johnson fits the profile of most who have been willing to make the jump: players whose golf prime is in their rear view mirrors.
Members of the PGA Tour have confirmed that just about everyone was approached to join LIV, but the vast majority rejected those overtures. Some were more outspoken than others, including Rory McIlroy, who called LIV “dead in the water” before it ever started.
It wasn’t just active 20-somethings turning down LIV. The two golfers who most frequently find themselves in discussion for golf’s GOAT were also heavily courted.
Eighteen-time major winner Nicklaus recently told reporters he was offered more than $100 million to be the public face of LIV. That’s a big number, but apparently not even close to what Norman called a “mind-blowingly enormous” offer made to Tiger Woods, which was “high nine digits.”
Changes in format
Smaller field sizes aren’t the only noticeable changes for LIV in comparison to the PGA Tour. Events will span over three days rather than four, meaning that will be 54 holes of competition instead of 72. The 54 is the inspiration for the tour’s name, which uses the L I V roman numerals to equal 54.
LIV events will not have cuts, and every participant will receive prize money. That’s not the case for the PGA Tour, where players who miss the cut do not receive any winnings. Players will compete for much larger purses, too. Each regular season event will have a $25 million purse, with at least $4 million guaranteed to each winner.
There will be team elements to the tour, too, with player-led drafts and a season-ending team championship worth $50 million.
Events will be streamed via Facebook and YouTube.
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