The Open: Oosthuizen Leads a Large English Set

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6:35 a.m. local time, the 149th Open got underway. A trio of Englishmen held the duty of occupying Game 1, with journeyman, Richard Bland, donning the distinct honor of striking the first tee-shot. In the end, Bland, as well as countrymen, Andy Sullivan and Marcus Armitage, put together strong first-round efforts as all shot rounds of par or better. 

They weren’t the only Englishmen to feel right at home at Royal St. George’s on Thursday. Former major winners, Danny Willett and Justin Rose carded rounds of 3-under 68 to sit inside the top-10 alongside Sullivan with 54-holes to go. As did Jack Senior, who some may remember from last week’s Scottish Open as Senior held the first-round lead and would later mount a Sunday charge at the Renaissance Club.  

A fifth Englishman was able to get to the 3-under number late in the afternoon and that was Tommy Fleetwood. Playing with Justin Thomas and Adam Scott, Fleetwood carded five birdies against two bogeys in the blustery conditions. Finishing runner-up to Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush in 2019, Fleetwood has improved every year in The Open since his debut. He put himself in a great position to continue this trend as he’ll begin his second round early tomorrow morning. 

 

Despite a number of their own racing up the leaderboard, spectators were drawn to two different names, one of which was Jordan Spieth. The 2017 Open champion was on many people’s short lists coming into the week. After a bogey on the par-3 3rd put Spieth at one-over rather quickly, stomachs began to sink around the world. 

However, a string of four consecutive birdies from holes five through eight put any uneasiness to rest. Turning in 3-under 32, Spieth would miss a birdie look on the par-5 14th before converting two in a row on 15 and 16. In total it was a round of 65 and a vintage Spieth performance. Carving approach shots into tucked pins, rolling in 25-foot putts, and getting our hopes up that a fourth major title may be coming his way, Spieth energized the spectators and television audience in a way that no cup of coffee ever could. 

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At 5-under, Spieth sits one-stroke off the lead held by Louis Oosthuizen. Another major, another week being in contention for the smooth-swinging South African as he attempts to take the “only shows up at majors” title away from Brooks Koepka. Having held a share of the first-round lead with Russell Henley last month at Torrey Pines, Oosthuizen sits alone atop the leaderboard, which can be seen in its entirety, here

With runner-up finishes in the last two major championships, it’s no surprise that Oosthuizen will once again play a factor. Exquisite ball-striking combined with steady putting led him to playing his final 11 holes in 6-under.  

Arguably a top-5 player in the world over the last couple of months, questions surrounding his closing abilities will inevitably swirl. Perhaps fair, perhaps not, Oosthuizen will have to deal with both internal and external doubt over the next three days. Having been in this position many a times, it’s hard to believe Oosthuizen still only has one major championship to his credit.  

The man that stands in his way, at least on the odds board, is Spieth who is listed right next to him at the top at PointsBet Sportsbook at +450. With Oosthuizen also at +450, the duo has created a small gap between them and the rest of the field. Collin Morikawa, who carded a round of 3-under despite having to play in the more difficult afternoon conditions, is the third betting favorite at +1600. 

Live selections are all the more difficult for The Open. Without strokes gained data, we are left in the dark a bit and there are only so many informed decisions that we can make. Relying on some napkin math and our viewing prowess, we’ll take the conservative route and forgo adding any outright selections for the time being. 

Updated Odds to Win (Odds Via PointsBet):

+450: Jordan SpiethLouis Oosthuizen 

+1600: Collin Morikawa 

+1800: Tommy Fleetwood

+2000: Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson 

+2200: Brian Harman, Brooks Koepka 

+2500: Scottie SchefflerViktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele 

+2800: Stewart Cink

+3000: Justin Rose

+3300: Jon Rahm, Paul Casey 

+3500: Rory McIlroy 

+5000: Sergio Garcia 

+6000: Mackenzie Hughes 

+6600: Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Danny Willett 

Round 2 Plays (Odds Via PointsBet):

Tommy Fleetwood (+158) over Justin Thomas and Adam Scott

It is once again that time of the week where we attempt to ride Round 1 momentum into Round 2. Despite playing against the world No. 3 in this one, Fleetwood's play on Thursday was decent enough. The ball-striking from Tommy Lad wasn't his finest, hitting 13 out of 18 greens in regulation and only five fairways, but he was still able to put together a solid score while his counterparts weren't. 

He got the better of Thomas by five-strokes and Scott by six and I can't imagine too much changes tomorrow. Thomas' ball-striking, specifically his iron play, wasn't fantastic coming into the week and it appeared to resurface in Round 1, hitting 15 out of 18 greens. However, it was Thomas' putter, which he leaned on so heavily in Scotland, that greatly disappointed. Typically, this would be an ideal spot to target a bounce back on the greens, but when we see Thomas struggle with the flat stick, he really struggles.

Needing 35 putts to get around Royal St. George's on Thursday, his confidence on the greens is surely shaken. The same could be said of Scott, who has never been the finest with the broom stick in his hands. In a three-ball with three shaky putters, Fleetwood not only looked the most comfortable, but exuded the most confidence. I expect more of the same to be in store tomorrow as Fleetwood will want to close the gap between him and Oosthuizen.

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Kevin Kisner (+185) over Tyrrell Hatton and Phil Mickelson

I’ll gladly pick on this year's PGA champion in this three-ball after he turned in a round of 10-over 80. With Mickelson presumably out of the picture, this comes down to a head-to-head between Hatton and Kisner. The former Georgia Bulldog stands out as the correct play to me, especially with the odds that are being given. 

Having liked his chances coming into the week, due to his recent outings at the Travelers Championship and the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Kisner did nothing to turn me off in the first-round hitting 10 fairways and 13 greens. A proven links player, he got around Royal St. George's with relative ease en route to posting an even-par 70. He stumbled on a few of the more gettable holes, namely the 12th and should hopefully correct that going into tomorrow. 

Hatton, while always a threat, wasn’t my cup of tea pre-tournament. He has shown the ability to bounce back in the second round after a poor start, but not so much in the majors. While he played the course just slightly worse than the afternoon scoring average at 2-over, his major championship track record as a whole is too concerning for me to back him as such a heavy favorite. 

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