Attempting to pick an outright winner in a major PGA tournament is the flashy wager to make, but I often have more long-term profitability betting the full tournament head-to-head market. This week for the British Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews, I am really leaning on recent form and ball-striking as two factors for backing players.
Here are three head-to-head wagers I like for the British Open:
Rory McIlroy (-130) vs. Jon Rahm
I don’t want to say Rahm is in a bit of a slump ... but he may be in a bit of a slump. Now for most, a slump is a string of missed cuts, stats that are bleeding red and highly inconsistent data. For Rahm, a slump is still a good floor. He won the Mexico Open in May but that was a very weak field and he should have won. However, outside of that, Rahm has been, for lack of a better word, underwhelming.
In February, Rahm strung together five straight tournaments losing strokes around the green and three straight losing strokes with his putter. He has since corrected that, gaining strokes on his short game in six of his last seven events. Unfortunately for him, his ball-striking is now subpar. Typically one of the best ball strikers on tour — and after gaining significant strokes (eight, 12, 10, nine, etc.) in the early months of the year — Rahm has been neutral or just barely gained strokes in five of his last eight tournaments. Looking at the last 20 rounds, McIlroy has been the much better ball-striker and just the better overall tee-to-green player. Since missing the cut in the Valero Texas Open in April, McIlroy has had seven straight top-20 finishes, four of which have been top five, including runner-up at The Masters. Right now, McIlroy is the better player.
Xander Schauffele (-120) vs. Jon Rahm
If I’m talking about the better player right now, is there anyone hotter than Schauffele? Yes, I’m going for the complete fade of Rahm. If I’m ranking ball-striking high on my list of data points, both McIlroy and Schauffele are top five since April. It’s partially the ball-striking that has led to Schauffele's back-to-back wins in the Travelers Championship and the Scottish Open last week. Aside from that, Schauffele’s around-the-green game has been stellar, gaining strokes in five of his last six events. With ball-striking plus recent form, I like Schauffele in this matchup.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (-120) vs. Shane Lowry
Fitzpatrick is a player I love to wager on. Every tournament I find a way to back him. I like him this week for the top 20, top 10 and outright market, but I also like him in a matchup against Lowry. When betting in any sport, you want to look for consistency, and Fitzpatrick is a model of that. This year, Fitz has played in 14 events and has finished top 20 in 11 of them, with only three missed cuts. He is a top-20 machine, but of those 11 top 20s, nine were in the top 10. Fitzpatrick is great off the tee, good around the green, and a solid putter. He is a complete player, which is why he consistently produces strong results.
Lowry for me is a big hit or miss. He sometimes loses off the tee, sometimes loses with his irons, sometimes can’t putt. It’s the consistency vs. inconsistency that I am backing. Looking at Lowry in majors, he finished 23rd in the PGA Championship and missed the cut in the U.S. Open. I’ll wager on consistency.