Ahead of the British Open at St. Andrews, the loudest chatter has surrounded the favorites—Jordan Spieth, Louis Oosthuizen, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, etc. But several players not on the tip of your tongue are primed for a big week at the Home of Golf.
Call them underdogs, sleepers, dark horses, longshots—whatever. We’ve weeded through the 156-man field to bring you the best of the rest. And in the case that you have an inkling for placing bets, we’ve included odds from GolfOdds.com.
Shane Lowry 50/1
The Irishman played in his first major championship at St. Andrews in 2010—having equaled Nick Faldo’s Sunningdale course record of 62 in qualifying—and wound up T37 in a respectable debut at the Home of Golf. Lowry finished T9 at Royal Liverpool last year after a final-round 65 and opened last week’s Scottish Open with back-to-back 66s. He played as steady as anyone at Chambers Bay, finishing T9, and seems to thrive on tough courses. At last year’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Lowry’s round of 70 at St. Andrews led to a T6 finish in the event also held at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie.
Lowry’s strategy at St. Andrews is an interesting one, but confidence is always key. As he told the Irish Examiner: “You need to be cautiously aggressive, I suppose, in tournaments like the Open. I know the course well enough that I know how to play it, know you need to par a few holes like 17 and four and a few others, and the rest of the holes if you put it in position off the tee you have got a chance.”
Branden Grace 40/1
It’s slightly unfair to call Grace an underdog, especially after he contended at Chambers Bay—but the odds are what they are. In his last three starts at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, Grace has shot rounds of 69, 68 and 67 at St. Andrews and won the event in 2012. En route to his T4 at the U.S. Open last month, Grace was third in GIR percentage (79.17) and T4 in three-putt avoidance (4.71 percent)—a solid combination on a difficult golf course.
Also, let’s not downplay his relationship with Oosthuizen, winner of the 2010 British Open at St. Andrews. The two spent some time on the course together Monday, with some advice certainly being passed along.
Luke Donald 80/1
The former world No. 1 has experienced a sort of resurgence as of late, with T7 finishes at both the Travelers Championship and the Scottish Open. Four rounds in the 60s at Gullane GC are encouraging, and Donald has the ball striking capabilities and links golf experience to contend at St. Andrews. He finished T5 in two Opens—2009 at Turnberry and 2012 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes—and won the Scottish Open in 2011 at Castle Stuart. The 37-year-old may never win a major, but his experience should equal a top finish this week at St. Andrews.
Francesco Molinari 100/1
On the PGA Tour, where Molinari has played 13 events so far this season, he ranks first in driving accuracy (78.52 percent) and second in GIR percentage (72.49 percent). That’s a wicked combination, but Molinari’s putter has been the issue in the past. On the European Tour, he finished T6 at the French Open, fifth at the BMW PGA Championship and T2 at the Spanish Open in May. The Italian finished T9 at the 2013 British Open, T15 last year at Royal Liverpool and lost in a playoff at the 2012 Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. With a hint of luck on the greens at St. Andrews, where he shot 68 in last year’s Dunhill Links, we may see Molinari on the yellow leaderboard late Sunday.