Time to finish up our first PGA majors season for Side Hustle Bets next week and what better place to do so than the birthplace of golf. It’s been quite a ride for us thus far and we’re dialed in to finish strong at St. Andrews.
In case you’ve been sleeping under a rock since April, your boy’s been on quite the heater. Through 3 majors, Side Hustle Bets is now +21.275 units on the year (+11 units picking outright winners alone), we’ve been profitable in 10 out of 12 rounds (83.33%), we’ve finished profitable overall for 2 out of 3 majors and… last but most definitely not least… We’ve predicted the outright winner for every single major championship this year (3 for 3… 100%). Not too shabby.
Get ready for St. Andrews to send you back in time (they don’t call it the Old Course for nothing), keep riding the lightning with us and always remember to bet smarter, not harder.
Old Course at St Andrews
The game might change over the years but the Old Course at St. Andrews has definitely stood the test of time. Known as the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world dating all the way back to the 15th century. Next week will be the 30th British Open ever hosted at St. Andrews and, lucky for us, the course really hasn’t changed much over the years.
The Old Course (also known as “The Old Lady”) involves a little bit of everything. Her numerous risk/reward type holes offer the opportunity to post low numbers but she can also play spoiler in devastating fashion if players find the rough or any of her many pot bunkers along the way. Patience is the name of the game at a British Open and there’s no better factor to test a player’s patience than the wind. Expect massive wind gusts and expect one side of the course to play entirely different than the other throughout the same round (because of said wind). Players who can accurately hit the long ball off the tee will definitely have an advantage but massive tricky greens provide an added layer of liability and/or opportunity for the field as well.
Both favorites and underdogs alike have experienced success at British Opens over the years. In fact, five Open champions over the past 15 years have been massive underdogs. What does this mean for us? It means we can’t neglect our diamonds in the rough when it comes to hoisting the Claret Jug.
Take a look at our formula, keep your eye out for our favorite Week 1-4 bets next week and prepare yourself for one of the oldest traditions in golf.
The (British) Open Recipe For Success
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (22%) + Strokes Gained: Approach The Green (18%) + Historical Majors Performance (13.2%) + Strokes Gained: Around The Green (13%) + Strokes Gained: Putting (9%) + British Open Historical Performance (8.8%) + Scrambling (7%) + Driving Accuracy (6%) + 3 Putt Avoidance: 25 ft+ (3%) = THE (BRITISH) OPEN CHAMP
Once again we’ll be utilizing “strokes gained” data for our formula this week (yet another shout out to Mark Broadie). Feel free to reference our explanation of “strokes gained” data and how it has changed the game for golf analysis from our initial Masters Prep article in April.
One thing history has taught us is that there’s more than one way to attack St. Andrews (ask Zach Johnson). That said, in general long ball hitters who can accurately hit lower drives into the wind tend to make their lives easier on the Old Course and hitting your spots on these fairways/greens will be paramount regardless of your skill set off the tee. The greens at St. Andrews are absolutely massive and require sophisticated reads given their large number of intricate breaks and undulations and virtually every single hole is surrounded by some type of trouble (thick rough, pot bunkers, etc). Needless to say, every statistical category holds some type of relevance at the Old Course this week but we’ll be giving a slight edge to driving ability, historical majors/British Open performance, approach game and ability to clean up messes around the greens.
Strokes Gained: Off The Tee will hold the most weight for our formula this week and we’ll be placing an additional emphasis on Driving Accuracy once again due to how difficult the wind can really make this course should you depart from the fairway. The Old Course isn’t overly long but it’s riddled with risk/reward holes capable of shaping the complexion of a round. That said, the players who can excel off the tee tend to take advantage of these holes (making their lives easier) and the players who struggle off the tee will have to rely on exceptional approach play and short game to keep up with the field. Driving ability has played a consistent enough factor at St. Andrews over the years that we’re willing to allocate 28% of the overall formula to driving when combining Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and Driving Accuracy.
Historical Majors Performance/Historical British Open Performance will make up our second largest portion of the formula this week, making up 22% of the overall equation when combined. Our mantra that “big players make big plays in big games” doesn’t change this week with the exception of adding an additional emphasis on historical British Open play (links courses) specifically. The ability to play well on large stages and the ability to play a links course at a major should both play significant roles in determining this years champion so we’re splitting up our 22% between the two with 13.2% going to overall Historical Majors Performance and the remaining 8.8% allocated to the British Open Performance category specifically.
For Strokes Gained: Around The Green, we will be allocating 20% of our overall formula (7% of which is dedicated to Scrambling specifically) due to the reality that players are going to find themselves on the wrong side of a few risk/reward holes eventually and their ability to avoid big numbers could make or break their round. Keep in mind, hitting the green at the Old Course doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in great shape (absolutely massive greens) and any danger outside of the fairway/around the greens will be amplified due to the chaotic wind that the players will be dealing with all week.
Strokes Gained: Approach The Green has a slightly lower place on the totem pole this week but I wouldn’t call it a fade persay. It’s crucial that players hit the right spots on these gigantic greens or else they’ll find themselves staring down the barrel of a 100 ft three putt or hitting out of a pot bunker horizontal to the fairway just to get out of the hazard. Ball striking will always play a significant role in any major so we’ll be allocating 18% of the overall formula to players’ approach games this week.
The final 12% of our formula this week will be dedicated to Strokes Gained: Putting and 3 Putt Avoidance: 25 ft+. This is one of the higher levels of importance that we’ve placed on Putting since the Masters back in April. As we’ve already mentioned, these greens are huge and realistically players will be tested on the flat surface from long range. As any golfer will tell you, the key to long range putting is distance control/lag putting… that’s where our specific emphasis on 3 putt avoidance from 25 ft or greater will come into play. Not only will players need to make some putts from distance this week but their ability to put themselves in position to even make long birdie putts (quality distance control with their first putt) will be equally important.
Preliminary British Open Success Projections
Crystal ball time again… We’re taking a slightly more granular approach with our preliminary projections this go around by adding two additional sections for your viewing pleasure (“Longshots” and “Wait And See”). These new sections are meant to provide you with more information on some players that were right on the cusp of our favorite projections or who have red flags that have caused us initial pause.
As of today there’s still four more qualifying spots available for The Open next week depending on how the Scottish Open and Barbasol Open finish up on Sunday so we’ll keep you posted on any late qualifiers that catch our eye in our Week 1 article. Enjoy our preliminary picks and strap in for some links action next Thursday.
Rory McIlroy: This guy is a ticking majors time bomb. It feels like he’s been right on the cusp of capturing his next major for over a year now (4 top 10 finishes in a row) and his game has been immaculate this season. He’s obviously comfortable playing links courses and the Claret Jug is actually the last major championship he raised before descending into a disappointing majors drought since 2014. If Rory can avoid his patented “one blow up round per major” trend over the past year then not only can he win The Open… he could absolutely run away with it. Vegas agrees unfortunately so not getting a ton of value from McIlroy this week but it would be foolish to fade him. He’s our overall favorite to notch another major title on his belt at St. Andrews next week and he’s arguably one of the greatest drivers of the golf ball in history (at a course that rewards that).
Xander Schauffele: Man, how many times am I going to write about Xander Schauffele? As many as it takes given how beautiful his stats continue to pop off the page. Not only does Schauffele have by far the most consistent game across the board vs the entire field this week, he also has fared extremely well in British Opens throughout his career (8th in the field). Links courses are made for golfers like Xander who can hold their own off the tee, boast elite ball striking ability to avoid trouble and still have magic around the green to clean up any mistakes throughout their round. Schauffele is now coming off of two straight victories at the Travelers Championship last week and the Scottish Open today. The guy is playing with a lot of confidence and, more than anything, just simply playing up to his potential right now. St. Andrews could be the majors breakthrough we’ve been waiting for out of Xander for quite some time now.
Scottie Scheffler: Scottie is one of those players who finds a way to stick around in major championships. He obviously is having an astronomical season and he will very likely finish the year #1 in the world and win the FedEx Cup. His performance in majors has been absurd this year (1st overall in the field) and he’s played well at British Opens throughout his career (4th overall in the field). His game statistically sits at the top tier of virtually every statistical category in the field coming into this week so as long as he can remain patient when the chips are down and he can clean up his tee shots (just a little bit… not talking drastically here…) then expect to see Scottie contending for his second major on Sunday.
Jon Rahm: I’m not going to lie, I was somewhat timid to list Rahm as one of our favorites heading into this week due to his inconsistency lately but his will to win coupled with his ability to crush the ball off the tee swayed me (#1 in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee). Rahm historically has fared well at British Opens and when he gets hot with the putter it becomes a real problem for the rest of the field. He’ll need to continue to make his life easier off the tee but more than anything he’ll need to commit entirely to his shot choices throughout the tournament. Something we noticed at both the PGA Championship as well as the US Open was some indecision on Rahm’s part when it came to shot/club selection (specifically around the green) which we believe to be the main cause of his inconsistency as of late. If he can flip the switch around the greens this week then his drive and tenacity to recapture that top spot in the world should make him a force to be reckoned with at St. Andrews next week.
Collin Morikawa: Why not choose a risk/reward player at a risk/reward course like St. Andrews? Don’t let his sporadic play this season confuse you… Morikawa is still one of if not the most talented players in the world. His inability to do anything around the greens this year is an obvious concern but he appeared to right that ship for the most part at the US Open last month. He’s a solid ball striker on and off the tee, he’s the defending British Open champion coming into this year and he hasn’t even won a tournament in 2022 yet despite two 5th place finishes in majors. Morikawa is too good not to put it all together again soon and once he does it’s a nightmare for the rest of the field to keep up. Morikawa was the subject of some gossip as of late that he might be one of the next top players in the world to jump ship for the LIV Tour. Consider this another “risk/reward” factor for a “risk/reward” player at a “risk/reward” type course. That drama should either distract him heading into St. Andrews next week or fuel him to victory and given his recent comments about wanting to be world #1… I’m going to side with the latter.
Matthew Fitzpatrick: MATTY FITZ. Our crown jewel prediction of the season thus far through 3 majors. It’s impossible not to respect this guy’s drive/love of the game. He’s obviously riding high coming off of the biggest win of his career last month at the US Open and he also played well at the Scottish Open this week (his first tournament since his triumphant victory). Fitzpatrick is flirting with Rory for our top projection heading into St. Andrews statistically but we’d be lying if we said we’re not a little nervous about a major championship slump after his win at Brookline only a few weeks ago. We saw it with Scottie at the PGA Championship after his Masters victory and we saw it with JT at the US Open after his PGA Championship victory… It’s hard to play well in back to back majors, especially after an outright victory. That said, Fitzpatrick is young without distractions (his interview talking about his dedication to the game and how large of a role his caddie has played in his emergence to the top was absolutely touching), he’ll be a fan favorite right from the jump and his ability off the tee/around the greens should be a massive competitive advantage compared to the field. Hard to say he’ll repeat, but it’d be foolish not to ride the hot hand right now on home turf.
Shane Lowry: Shane Lowry is another player who was only 2-3 shots away from having 2-3 victories under his belt this season. Before missing the cut at last month’s US Open, Lowry posted 5 top 25 finishes at majors since 2021 and hadn’t missed a cut at a major championship since the 2019 Masters. His sole major championship victory came at the 2019 British Open at Royal Portrush and he finished 12th at last year’s British Open. Lowry can scramble with the best of them, he tends to hit his spots on the green and he’ll be sure to be another fan favorite. Expect patient savvy play from the Irishman which should pave his way for some weekend play next week.
Will Zalatoris: Hot take… Will Zalatoris shows up at major championships. I’m not sure how much I really need to explain here. If you ignore last year’s British Open withdrawal due to injury (which you should since he was 1 under at the time), Zalatoris has only missed 1 cut in 6 majors. In those 5 majors where he did make the cut, HE POSTED TOP 10 FINISHES IN ALL 5 EVENTS. That is absolutely ridiculous… He’s literally never finished outside of the top 10 in any major where he has made the cut… He’s had 10 top 25 finishes, 8 top 10 finishes and 3 second place finishes this season alone. I’ve never seen a guy more due for some hardware in my life. He’s currently the top ball striker on tour, he’s fantastic off the tee, he’s solid around the green and he plays smart. His biggest hurdle is still his putting but lately major championships are the only tournaments where his putter decides to show up. It’s inevitable that Zalatoris will fall back to earth in majors at some point but it’s also hard not to picture him in another playoff for the title next weekend.
Dustin Johnson: And now… my most controversial favorite of the week… Dustin Johnson. DJ has dealt with the brunt of all the flack thrown at the LIV Tour as of late and it seems to be skewing people’s perception of his talent. Johnson has been playing well on the LIV Tour, he silently posted a top 25 finish at last month’s US Open and his ball striking/ability off the tee should instantly make him a contender. DJ ranks 13th in the field for his performances at past British Opens, he tied for 8th last year and he was the 36 hole leader at the 2015 British Open (which was held at, you guessed it, St. Andrews). Talk about some more drama for the PGA should a LIV Tour player walk away with the trophy next Sunday… DJ most definitely has something to prove next week both from past blunders at St. Andrews as well as current speculations that his move to the LIV Tour indicates that his game has lost a step. Don’t be surprised to see him silence the critics next week, or end up missing the cut entirely.
Viktor Hovland: It’s truly amazing how bad Viktor Hovland has been around the greens this year (204th on tour) considering he ranks towards the top of virtually every other statistical category coming into this week. His ability off the tee, his elite approach game, his putting… It’s all top tier talent that has been weighed down by poor play near the short grass. That said, that “weight” hasn’t prevented him from posting 4 top 10s, 7 top 25s and a victory at Mayakoba this year. He finished 12th at The Open last year (in his debut) and he has yet to capture a major championship in his young career. If the rest of his game holds and Hovland is able to improve his play around the greens even just up to the average of the field standards then he should have a great shot at contending for the title.
Hideki Matsuyama: Don’t let the PGA Championship fool you, Matsuyama has had a solid year. He’s won twice, he’s posted 6 top 10s and 9 top 25s this season and he had the low round at the US Open last month where he finished 4th. He’s flying a bit under the radar right now but outside of his putting his game has been pretty consistent, especially his ball striking and ability to scramble. He finished 18th at the 2015 British Open at St. Andrews and what better player to become the first Asian to win the British Open than the first Japanese player/Asian born player to ever win the Masters??
Sungjae Im: Sungjae Im has only played in the British Open once (where he missed the cut) but his game is well suited for St. Andrews and he’ll definitely be looking to bounce back from a poor showing at the US Open last month. Im will have an advantage off the tee all week and he’s a true magician around the greens. He’s already won a tournament this year and he’s posted 12 different top 25 finishes this season. He typically plays great in majors so as long as he can hit his spots on the greens and keep his putting in check then he should have a good shot at contending.
Corey Conners: Corey Conners is once again an appealing sleeper due to his skill off the tee (6th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, 17th in Driving Accuracy), a solid approach game and a tendency to show up at majors. He finished 15th at last year’s British Open and as long as he can keep it together around the greens then he should see some success.
Tony Finau: I don’t usually like listing Tony Finau as a favorite in majors but the British Open is an exception. Finau has played fantastic at British Opens throughout his career… He’s never missed a cut there, he has an average finishing position of 14.4 at British Opens (15th place finish last year, 3rd place finish in 2019) and his game is pretty decent across the board right now with the exception of his putting. He’s clearly comfortable playing links golf so if he can figure out his putting for a week then expect his trend of success at British Opens to continue.
Seamus Power: Power has hit the majors scene hard and fast. In his first 3 majors now he’s posted 12th, 9th, and 27th place finishes… That’s playing your best on golf’s largest stages. This will be his first shot at the British Open and not a ton of strengths or weaknesses stick out regarding his game. If he can continue to play well rounded golf in majors on relatively home turf (he was born in Waterford, Ireland) then Power could become quite the pay day.
Cameron Young: Cameron Young is a massive long shot but he does rank second in the field in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee (our category of highest importance this week) and he finished 3rd at this year’s PGA Championship. He’s young and this will be his first British Open appearance but if he can actually finish second in the field in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee at St. Andrews and dial in his approach game just a smidge then he could shock the world.
Ryan Fox: This is a “riding the hot hand” long shot pick. Fox has been absolutely tearing up the European Tour this season posting 7 top 10s and 5 top 3 finishes (1 victory) since February. He finished second at the Irish Open last week and he’s yet to make a breakthrough at a major championship. At +10000 odds it feels foolish not to sprinkle some change on the New Zealand native to turn the golf world on its head.
Chris Kirk: This pick is a combination of Kirk’s stats aligning beautifully with our formula for this week as well as his 5th place finish at the PGA Championship this year. He’s masterful around the green, he’s in the upper tier of the field in regards to Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and he’s 9th on tour in Strokes Gained: Tee To Green. His putting needs some improvement but if he can keep the momentum rolling from Southern Hills last May then he could make bettors quite happy at +27000 odds.
Wait And See
Justin Thomas: I love JT and his game does align decently with this golf course but for some reason British Opens have been the bane of his existence throughout his career. He’s struggled with accuracy off the tee lately and his putting has stalled a bit. He’s obviously one of the best players in the world and his elite ball striking/quality game around the greens will always keep him in the conversation. That said, I’d like to see how he plays on Thursday (and most likely Friday) before I feel comfortable placing units on him at St. Andrews.
Patrick Cantlay: Cantlay finally posted a decent finish at a major at the US Open last month, somewhat breaking a year long slump at majors, but I’m still not totally sold that the monkey is entirely off of his back. He’s never won a major, he’s probably the best player on tour not to have won a major and it’s not like he’s had a bad season this year whatsoever. He’s well above average in virtually every statistical category coming into this week and he really doesn’t have any weaknesses specific to St. Andrews other than his head game. We’ll be monitoring him closely on Thursday and if he looks settled in then don’t be surprised if we take a chance on him.
Jordan Spieth: Spieth plays great in British Opens but I’m not sold that his game is back to major championship form. I think it’s the weird half practice swing he does before every shot now? Apparently it helps him visualize his shot better but it just screams indecision and/or lack of confidence to me. Spieth has played well around the greens lately and he seems to enjoy links golf quite a bit so we’ll be keeping an eye on him Thursday but right now we’re skeptical.
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