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The Open Championship: 72-hole match betting preview

Original article published 17 October 2022

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The battles within the battle to become the champion golfer of the year are certainly mouth-watering ahead of the historic 150th Open Championship at the Old Course in St. Andrews.

When it comes to bet365’s 72-hole match up options there are a few key statistics that should guide your thinking. We find these trends not just from the last decade or so of Open Championships and links golf, but from the more recent Opens at St. Andrews.

Zach Johnson prevailed in a playoff over Louis Oosthuizen and Marc Leishman in 2015, Oosthuizen was a dominant winner in 2010 while Tiger Woods schooled the field in 2005 and 2000.

On all four occasions the winner was inside the top 10 for the week in driving accuracy, and short of Johnson, driving distance was also a huge factor in the more recent past at the Old Course.

Getting further into the minutia it turns out scrambling has been pivotal at not just St. Andrews, but most Open Championships of the past decade and by association, putts inside 10-feet need your attention.

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While the above are perhaps the most critical factors, as is almost always the case on the PGA TOUR, we can’t overlook Strokes Gained: Approach and with 14 par 4s on the Old Course it behooves us to keep an eye on par-4 scoring as well.

With all that in mind, let’s break down the numbers for some of the match ups to see if an edge can be found.

Collin Morikawa 5/6 vs. Will Zalatoris 5/6

Season Head-to-Head (11 common tournaments): Morikawa 4, Zalatoris 6, Tie 1.

The defending champion Morikawa produced the rare feat of winning on Open Championship debut at Royal St. Georges a year ago while Zalatoris sadly had to withdraw mid-tournament with a bad back. The two return for a second crack at the Claret Jug having gone close to victory at the recent U.S. Open.

Morikawa rode a final round 66 to a T5 finish while Zalatoris was runner up, his sixth finish inside the top eight in just nine major appearances.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA TOUR)

Driving Accuracy: Morikawa 36th; Zalatoris 183rd
Driving Distance: Morikawa 94th; Zalatoris 17th
Scrambling: Morikawa 81st; Zalatoris 128th
Putting Inside 10-feet: Morikawa 120th; Zalatoris 172nd
Strokes Gained: Approach: Morikawa 4th; Zalatoris 1st
Par 4 Scoring: Morikawa 27th; Zalatoris 49th

The defending champion Collin Morikawa gets the nod in four of our six key stats including a significant advantage in driving accuracy (Zalatoris does rank 11th on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee though, with Morikawa 34th).

Xander Schauffele 4/5 vs. Jordan Spieth 10/11

Season Head-to-Head (14 common tournaments): Schauffele 8, Spieth 2, Tie 4.

Schauffele enters The Open as the hottest hand in golf having won the Travelers Championship and the Genesis Scottish Open in his last two starts and he’s owned Spieth in common tournaments this year with an 8-2-4 record.

In four previous Open Championships Schauffele has one runner up, and nothing worse than a T41.

But Spieth is the 2017 Open champion who in eight previous Open starts has never finished worse than T44 and has four top 10s. The 21st Group reports Spieth has averaged more than 2.5 Strokes Gained: Total per round on links-style courses since 2015.

It was in 2015 where Spieth came to St. Andrews chasing the calendar grand slam having won the Masters and U.S. Open but he fell a shot short of a playoff.

Driving Accuracy: Schauffele 69th; Spieth 141st
Driving Distance: Schauffele 35th; Spieth 15th
Scrambling: Schauffele 71st; Spieth 28th
Putting Inside 10-feet: Schauffele 59th; Spieth 170th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Schauffele 9th; Spieth 41st
Par 4 Scoring: Schauffele 2nd; Spieth 10th

The numbers and current form give the edge to Schauffele here but beware Spieth at an Open Championship. Don’t be afraid to pick with your gut.

Matt Fitzpatrick 4/5 vs. Shane Lowry 10/11

Season Head-to-Head (10 common tournaments): Fitzpatrick 5, Lowry 4, Tie 1.

At a cursory glance one would expect recent U.S. Open champion Fitzpatrick to be the obvious choice but the Irish outsider represents the value here.

Lowry may have shot 87-81 at St. Andrews back in 2015 to miss the cut by a mile but he has since won the Open in 2019 and was T12 defending the title last year. The two are very comparable statistically but Lowry has the slight edge in our key stats.

Still not convinced? Let’s let Fitzpatrick’s own words guide you heading into a week where low scores are expected…

“I've kind of grown out of enjoying links (golf). I enjoy the challenge of it when it's windy and it's hard and you've got to grind. But if it's still and calm, I don't particularly enjoy playing,” Fitzpatrick said.

“I just prefer… when you've got to dig in and just grind out a score, whether it's level-par, 2-under, 5-over, whatever it is.”

Key Stat Ranks (PGA TOUR)

Driving Accuracy: Fitzpatrick 46th; Lowry 58th
Driving Distance: Fitzpatrick 75th; Lowry 123rd
Scrambling: Fitzpatrick 3rd; Lowry 2nd
Putting Inside 10-feet: Fitzpatrick 46th; Lowry 41st
Strokes Gained: Approach: Fitzpatrick 25th; Lowry 8th
Par 4 Scoring: Fitzpatrick 49th; Lowry 22nd

The edge goes to the former Open champion Lowry despite the recent breakthrough at Brookline for Fitzpatrick who talked his own chances down early in the week. Take the value.

Justin Thomas 8/11 vs. Cameron Smith 1/1

Season Head-to-Head (10 common tournaments): Thomas 5, Smith 5.

Thomas won his second PGA Championship back in May while Smith has two wins this season, one of those at the prestigious PLAYERS Championship.

Smith put up a sneaky T10 at the Genesis Scottish Open last week while Thomas missed the cut but leveraged that result to his advantage by playing early practice rounds at the Old Course with Tiger Woods.

“[I’ve been picking Tiger’s brain] a little bit. I understand he is going to be a little withholding of some information but I’m trying to needle him and get as much out of him as I can. He’s done pretty well around this place,” Thomas said.

“I’ve never had probably a more productive missed cut than the Scottish Open because it’s been nice to come out here and prep the last two days.”

Neither player has been a factor at The Open before with their career best results coming in 2019 where Thomas was T11 and Smith T20.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA TOUR)

Driving Accuracy: Thomas 168th; Smith 142nd
Driving Distance: Thomas 14th; Smith 47th
Scrambling: Thomas 9th; Smith 103rd
Putting Inside 10-feet: Thomas 84th; Smith 26th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Thomas 6th; Smith 5th
Par 4 Scoring: Thomas 1st; Smith 10th

We see this as a great chance to swallow up some value and take the young Australian who has an early Thursday tee time. Smith’s scrambling number above looks scary but it’s misleading… he’s a wizard around the greens and grew up playing imaginative golf shots.

Tommy Fleetwood 4/5 vs. Tyrrell Hatton 10/11

Season Head-to-Head (10 common PGA TOUR tournaments): Fleetwood 4, Hatton 6.

If you’re looking to pit a couple of Englishmen against each other, here’s your chance. Fleetwood showed some form last week with a T4 at the Genesis Scottish Open and after missing his first three Open cuts he’s finished 27-12-2-33 since.

Hatton has been an enigma at The Open since missing the cut at St. Andrews in 2010 as an amateur. In eight Opens as a professional he’s missed the cut another five times (including in 2015 at St. Andrews) but also has a T5 in 2016 and a T6 in 2019.

The key to this match up might simply be the massive difference between the two in scrambling.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA TOUR)

Driving Accuracy: Fleetwood 122nd; Hatton 181st
Driving Distance: Fleetwood 116th; Hatton 80th
Scrambling: Fleetwood 16th; Hatton 196th
Putting Inside 10-feet: Fleetwood 34th; Hatton 18th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Fleetwood 80th; Hatton 112th
Par 4 Scoring: Fleetwood 75th; Hatton 159th

The key stats lean to Fleetwood in this all-English battle.

Jon Rahm 5/6 vs. Scottie Scheffler 5/6

Season Head-to-Head (10 common tournaments): Rahm 4, Scheffler 6.

Former world No. 1 Rahm against current world No. 1 Scheffler is pretty enticing. Scheffler is the Masters champion, one of four wins this season while Rahm has a win at the Mexico Open this season.

Both men could easily be holding a Claret Jug by the end of the week with Scheffler a runner up at the U.S. Open and Rahm built for links golf.

Scheffler was T8 on Open Championship debut last year while Rahm has been 11th and third in his last two Open starts.

Key Stat Ranks (PGA TOUR)

Driving Accuracy: Rahm 55th; Scheffler 107th
Driving Distance: Rahm 1st; Scheffler 18th
Scrambling: Rahm 171st; Scheffler 118th
Putting Inside 10-feet: Rahm 47th; Scheffler 155th
Strokes Gained: Approach: Rahm 28th; Scheffler 7th
Par 4 Scoring: Rahm 10th; Scheffler 4th

This really is a toss of the coin situation. It will likely come down to putting for these two, so given his advantage inside 10-feet, we like Rahm.


Max Homa 10/11 vs. Joaquin Niemann 4/5

Hideki Matsuyama 5/6 vs. Viktor Hovland 5/6

Louis Oosthuizen 4/5 vs. Tony Finau 10/11

Dustin Johnson 4/5 vs. Brooks Koepka 10/11

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