The British Open is a very unique tournament and interesting for PGA bettors. It is unlike any of the other major championships – it’s played on another continent, the weather can be especially brutal, the courses are often links style, and so on. Because the tournament is so different from most, handicappers have to pay close attention to the betting lines and make big adjustments to be ready for the tournament. Whenever you have to make big adjustments, though, you are very vulnerable to falling into traps and buying into myths that might sound good but don’t actually hold up under the scrutiny of closer inspection. Here are four very common British Open myths that just aren’t true – or at least aren’t true enough for a smart bettor to base their betting decisions on:
It favors Europeans – There is a common misconception that it is a good idea to bet the European golfers in the British Open – especially those from the U.K. because they are familiar with the courses, the style of play, and the climate. The truth is, though, that European golfers have not fared particularly well in this tournament over the years. In fact, it is the Americans that have shined in disproportionate numbers in recent years. From 1995 to 2011, 11 of the 17 winners of the tournament were Americans. Two more were from South Africa. That leaves just four winners from Europe. Padraig Harrington, from Ireland, won it twice, and Paul Lawrie of Scotland and Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland each had one win. That means that no mainland Europeans won, and that U.K. golfers won at a far lower than expected rate given their general strength and their familiarity with the style of play. Part of the explanation for that has to be that the pressure on the local golfers is particularly intense because this is the only major played close to home.
It’s a tournament for the experienced player – Links golf can be brutally difficult, and when that is combined with the nasty weather it can be totally overwhelming for golfers who are not particularly experienced with the style of play or the climate. While that makes sense intuitively, it just hasn’t proven to be true all the time. Louis Oosthuizen had only played the tournament three times – and had never made the cut – before his win. Todd Hamilton had played the tournament three times in 13 years – with just one cut made – before he won. Ben Curtis was playing in his first ever major. John Daly won in just his fourth British Open appearance. In short, while experience in the tournament obviously can’t be viewed as a bad thing, it’s not always a prerequisite for success in the event.
It favors links specialists – If bettors read a tournament preview any year that the event is being played on a links course – which is most years – you will almost certainly read of guys who have an advantage because they are links specialists. The fact of the matter is, though, that there really is no such thing as a professional links specialist. Ninety percent of all links courses in the world are in Great Britain, so it is rare to ever see a tournament on links style courses anywhere else. On the European Tour there will occasionally be a links style event, but they are far and away the minority. No golfer could make a living by being a links specialist in pro golf because there aren’t nearly enough events for them to make a living in. Even guys who grew up on a links style course won’t have played on it nearly as much once they turned pro, and they have had to adapt their game significantly so that they can earn enough money on other courses to earn the right to play at the British Open on a links course.
Big hitters aren’t rewarded – There is a big perception that winning the British Open doesn’t favor golfers who pound the ball. The tight fairways and brutal rough require golfers to be particularly accurate on this course, and pot bunkers and other nasty hazards make ball placement especially important in the fairways. The common logic is that big hitters aren’t always accurate hitters, so they can get in far too much trouble when they spray the ball around. That makes sense, but it hasn’t always proven to actually be true. Tiger Woods has never been accused of being the most accurate guy off the tee, but he can crush it. He has three wins at the Open. No one hits it harder and more recklessly than John Daly and he has a win. Ernie Els and David Duval are big hitters as well, and Oosthuizen has never lacked for distance or excelled at accuracy. In short, there is absolutely no reason to be afraid of a big hitter who isn’t always accurate as long as you have other good reasons to like him in the tournament – good form, strong rough and sand play, excellent putting, and so on.