Golf betting guide: Available markets for the British Open and other tournaments

Rory McIlroy hits a tee shot at Bay Hill.
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Ricky Dimon

Golf

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Golf may not be as popular as basketball, baseball, American football or soccer, but it should not be forgotten by the betting public. There is plenty of value to be found on the links, and one of bettors’ favorite tournaments on which to take action is taking place this week. It’s the British Open, which is being held this year at Royal St George’s in England.

Let’s discuss some of the common golf markets before getting into more British Open specifics.

Golf betting markets

Futures

Futures probably draw the most interest when it comes to golf. It’s easy to see why. This sport is unique in that there aren’t really one-on-one, head-to-head matchups (the WGC-Match Play Championship is one exception). Although there is a market for arbitrary matchups between certain players on certain days to see who can go lower, they aren’t actually playing against each other like two players would in a tennis tournament. Thus golf betting is driven mostly by futures. Odds for most tournaments will be posted by sportsbooks a few days before they begin (generally Thursday is the starting day, with very few exceptions outside of the aforementioned Match Play Championship). For the four majors, those odds are generally posted many months in advance.

The most popular futures bets, as you might expect, are on outright tournament winners. Pre-tournament, favorites to win are generally in the +800 to +1100 range. Yes, it’s that hard to win a golf tournament even for the best players in the world. Maybe if someone is totally dominating the tour at the time of an event and the rest of the field at that particular event isn’t overly strong, you could find a favorite at +700 or so. But that is rare and it has to be said most likely wouldn’t offer a lot of value.

Of course, you don’t have to go big by betting someone to win an entire tournament. There are also markets for finishing in the top 10, the top 20, and making the cut. Someone who is +1200 to win a title, for example, could be +150 to finish in the top 10 and -170 to place in the top 20. Cuts happen after two of the four rounds at traditional tournaments are complete. Generally speaking, two-thirds of the field advances to compete on the two ensuing weekend rounds. Title favorites could be as low as -1000 to make the cut.

Over/Under

The total for an individual golfer’s score is another betting option. Such a market is most often offered for opening Thursday rounds, especially at the four majors. It’s a simple concept, similar to game totals in other sports. Will a player shoot over or under their quota? If the over/under for a golfer’s round is 69.5 and they shoot 70 or worse, an over bet cashes; 69 or better gets the win for under tickets.

Head-to-head

As mentioned above, some books will pit two golfers against each other in a figurative but not necessarily literal head-to-head matchup and you can bet on which one will post a better score on a particular day. The official name is two-ball betting. Three-ball betting is the same concept, one you will often find for the first two rounds of majors when competitors are playing in groups of three.

The British Open

With the Masters, PGA Championship, and US Open having come and gone, players are now jumping across the pond for the fourth and final major of the year. It’s the British Open, which is back for the first time since 2019 after being cancelled by the Covid-19 pandemic last summer. Shane Lowry is still the defending champion (or “the champion golfer of the year” as they say) since he lifted the Claret Jug two years ago. It was an emotional triumph for Lowry, an Irishman who got the job done in front of the home crowd at Royal Portrush. Will England produce a homegrown winner in 2021? The host nation could certainly use some sporting success this weekend following England’s heartbreaking Euro 2020 final loss to Italy on Sunday.

The Claret Jug is not expected to come home, however. Among Englishmen, Paul Casey and Matthew Fitzpatrick are the top favorites at +3000. That puts them tied for tenth overall among the title contenders. US Open winner Jon Rahm is an overwhelming favorite at +800; nobody else has better than +1800 odds (Xander Schauffele). Coming in next are Brooks Koepka (+1850), Rory McIlroy (+1900), Jordan Spieth (+2050) and Justin Thomas (+2050).

Jon Rahm tees off on the second hole during the Final round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament at Sherwood Country Club.

Rahm is also +188 to finish in the top five and -110 to place in the top ten. DeChambeau and Schauffele is +350 to turn in a top five result and +175 to be a part of the top ten.

For the British Open and the rest of the majors, there are other markets such as the leader from a certain country. For example, Schauffele, Koepka and Thomas are +900 co-favorites to be the low man from the USA. Rahm is a +480 top choice to be the low European; McIlroy is a +550 favorite to be the best from Britain or Ireland; Casey, Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton and Lee Westwood are all between +500 and +600 to be the No. 1 Englishman.

Pickswise is the home of free expert Golf Picks and Predictions. Our outright PGA expert picks go live every Tuesday, so be sure check out our golf picks, best bets, and analysis for the British Open when they are published. We will also have our 2021 British Open 3-ball picks and our best golf prop bets for each round of the 2021 British Open.

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