2022 Open Championship expert picks and preview: Cameron Smith the perfect fit for St Andrews
Our golf handicapper Bryan Nicholson looks ahead to the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews as some of the best players on the planet tee-it-up at the famous old course - can Rory McIlroy win his first major for eight years, will Shane Lowry repeat his 2019 success or can Australian Cameron Smith add his name to the famous Claret Jug?
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Welcome to the home of golf. ST. Andrews, I mean, but you're in the right place for golf betting. The old course takes centre stage for the Open Championship 2022 and I'm not sure we see enough of the place where it all began on the biggest stage.
This is only the third time since 2010 that the Open Championship scene will be set at the iconic ST. Andrews track. Tiger Woods (+5000) skipped the US Open to make sure he is fit to tee it up at his “favorite place” in golf.
Louis Oosthuizen was victorious here back in 2010 - © Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports
Louis Oosthuizen had success here winning the Open Championship at ST. Andrews in 2010 and Zach Johnson tasted victory over Marc Leishman and Louis again in a playoff at the Old Course in 2015. What did the two of those events have in common? Wind, and lots of it. In fact, both events enjoyed (or not) a break in play due to high winds - too high, with balls blowing and moving on various greens.
ST. Andrews’ two sets of nines loop in and out away from and towards the clubhouse, and if you happen to get the back nine playing into the wind, best of luck. Or the outward nine for that matter. The trek into the high breezes can be exhausting and as an example we can look at Rory McIlroy’s contrasting opening two rounds in the 2010 Open championship here where the Irishman shot 63 – 80.
Open Championship 2022 Betting Markets
Rory McIlroy impressed at Brookline in the US Open - © Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
It’s Rory McIlroy (+1000) that now leads the Open Championship betting after another good major finish at Brookline which propelled him back to the no. 2 spot in the world golf rankings. There will be a specific type of golf to be played on the links in Fife and it won’t necessarily be factored into the market. Mattew Fitzpatrick is +2000 fifth favorite in the betting following his US Open victory. Defending British Open Champion Collin Morikawa is priced up alongside him at +1800.
Tell me the key course metrics for our Open Championship Picks
© H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY NETWORK
Note: We’ve weighed up the ST. Andrews course for the key metrics we will be profiling players for ahead of the Open Championship golf 2022. Ratings are scored from 1 – 3, with three meaning there’s a significant premium on that attribute.
What are we looking for with our ST. Andrews picks? With wide fairways, generous landing areas and huge undulating greens, big hitters who are accurate with the long irons and more than solid ball strikers will be the target profile. Some short par 4s can be taken advantage of on the links. Strong wind pedigree and links experience is a major bonus. Fairway bunkers at the home of golf are automatic one stroke penalties so avoiding them as much as possible is a must throughout the week. A good touch with the flatstick will be required.
1. Driving distance (3) 2. Irons (3) 3. Lag Putting (3) 4. Wind play (3) 5. Holing out (1) 6. Mentality (3) 7. Scrambling (2)
What are the important course characteristics to note for our Open Championship Picks at St. Andrews?
The Old Course at ST. Andrews is a wide-open links with huge greens and automatic penalty pot bunkering, mainly on fairways but also around greens. It’s a par 72 playing in excess of 7,300 yards. The track comprises some “double green” complexes which host two flagsticks for different holes. When the wind blows it’s a beast, when it’s benign it’s easily tamed.
- Generous landing areas
- Huge greens
- Penal pot bunkering
- Strong winds
- Gorse / heather for the very errant.
- Famous road hole 17th and drivable par 4 18th Greens on the Old Course are a mix of Bent / fescue, and the rough is a combination of Fescue, Rye, and Gorse.
Open Championship 2022 Picks
St Andrews should suit Englishman Tommy Fleetwood - © John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Each player for our Open Championship picks has a course fit rating borne from the course fit model which lets us know how many strokes per round a player is expected to pick up vs a neutral course for them of a similar rating.
Cameron Smith (+2500) stands out as a perfect fit for our Open Championship Picks at ST. Andrews. The world no. 7 has added 20 yards off the tee this year and his less than accurate driving will be forgiven somewhat on these fairways on the coast of Fife. Always excelling in the short game department, rating 10.0, and in windy conditions on this exact type test having grown up on the Australian Sandbelt, Cameron is also sitting 3rd in strokes gained approach in 2022. The course fit model churns out a high 9.25 course fit rating for the Aussie meaning he is expected to pick up 5 shots on the field over 72 holes at ST. Andrews and his quest for the Claret Jug, following on from his near miss on the Green Jacket at Augusta.
Tommy Fleetwood (+4000) with a rating of 8.7 for course fit owns several low rounds at ST. Andrews including a closing 64 for a top five finish in the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2019. He loves links golf and is one of the best ball strikers in the wind. In fact, he held the low round record at the Old Course with a 62 for a few years. Tommy is showing signs of a return to form and his progressive 71-70-69-67 for a top 5 finish at the US PGA has him on our Open Championship 2022 picks radar. Fleetwood ranks 22nd in strokes gained total on the PGA Tour this season.
Bryson Dechambeau is a player we earmarked for this test and even with a lack of playing time after some injury troubles, at +5000 he is worth getting onside. He has a course fit rating of 8.78 for ST. Andrews. Ranking no.1 on the PGA Tour in driving distance though, I can envisage what he could do to ST. Andrews especially if the conditions are benign. Generous fairways and large greens play into Bryson’s hands, and he really has an opportunity to overpower this track with the par 5s and a few shorter par 4s. He’ll be able to fly a lot of the troublesome fairway pot bunkers that others can’t and that is a real advantage here.
Tony Finau +5000 with a profile rating of 9.28 is one of the top guys on the course-fit-o meter and ST. Andrews will play into his hands for the Open championship in 2022 in a similar way to Bryson and negate his weaknesses somewhat. Short putting is Tony’s nemesis where he’s ranked 171st in putting inside 10 feet. Links greens usually negate these putting weakness. On the other hand, Finau is 15th on tour in strokes gained tee to green and he is progressing into top form with t2,2 and t4 finishes on the PGA Tour in recent weeks. Before the US Open, he had a progressive form rating of 9.53 from our model.
Give me a 2022 Open Championship longshot Bet
Victor Perez comes here after winning the Dutch Open - © John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Victor Perez at +12500 has a neutral course fit rating of 8.02 but sometimes the key data doesn’t tell all. This is where some strong qualitative subjective analysis can come into play and as a Frenchman who has spent a lot of time living in Dundee, he has a sneaky liking for links golf.
Perez has shown this by taking down the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the DP World Tour, and with two rounds being played on the ST. Andrews Old course itself I think we saw what power hitting and strong iron play can do here. ST. Andrews with its wide landing areas and large greens also negates some weaknesses in the Frenchman’s game such as chipping - he’s outside the top 100 on the DP World Tour in Strokes gained: around the green.
Victor has recently added another DP World Tour title to his belt winning the Dutch Open and like Tony Finau, if we exclude the US Open, which is a brutal test, he was building nice momentum with a high progressive form rating of 9.46.
Can Shane Lowry bag his second Claret Jug?
Shane Lowry is looking for his second Open Championship having won in 2019 -© Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports
With a course fit rating of 8.83 for Shane Lowry +2500, ST. Andrews is up there but it may not be the links of choice for him in terms of gaining an edge on the elite in the field. In saying that, if it blows hard it won’t matter. Shano will be looking to down a few more pints of Guinness from the Claret Jug come Sunday night.
It was a disappointing US Open for the Irishman who has been in great form of late with a top 3 finish in the Masters followed by another top 3 finish at Harbour Town. Before the US Open, he also rated a standout 9.27 on the progressive form model. Lowry owns a Total Driving efficiency score of 8.85 and rates 10 for scrambling – two key stats in the wind. It wouldn’t surprise to see him downing those pints from the Open Championship Jug once more.