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Photo Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

After a seemingly endless run of mid-to-lower tier PGA Tour events, we are blessed this week with the final major championship of 2021. The best players in the world will convene at Royal St. George’s in South East England to compete for the title of “Champion Golfer of the Year.”

Let’s see where the value lies as we dive headfirst into our 2021 Open Championship picks and predictions for what will unfold at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.

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Winning a major championship is always special, but this year’s Open winner will have some added historical significance because the Open was not played in 2020. Before last year, the most recent time when the Open was not contested was from 1940-1945 during World War II.

2021 Open Championship Picks and Predictions

Open Picks
VALUE PICK: PATRICK REED TOP 20 (+145)
LONG SHOT PICK: LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN TOP 5 (+500)
PICK TO WIN THE 2021 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: COLLIN MORIKAWA (+2500)

The 2021 Open field will be tested severely by Royal St. George’s (known colloquially as Sandwich). This links is currently rated 33rd in the world by Golf Magazine, a spot behind the brutally difficult Carnoustie and ahead of renowned rota tracks such as Royal Birkdale, Royal Lytham & St. Annes and Royal Liverpool.

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This course has hosted 14 prior Open Championships dating back to 1894. Historical greats won many of the Opens contested at Royal St. George’s before World War II: Harry Vardon (twice), Walter Hagen (twice), and Henry Cotton all hoisted the Claret Jug here. But the two most recent winners at this venue, Ben Curtis and Darren Clarke, were just guys before they won here and went back to being just guys afterward. As such, it might pay to look past the heavy chalk picks for value and for a champion.

VALUE PICK: PATRICK REED TOP 20 (+145)

For a while, my focus writing this column was to showcase a variety of players. It’s not easy writing something new about a player three weeks after selecting him as a value pick or a long shot or a winner. You may have noticed that the lives of most touring professional golfers lack the flavor, turbulence and tribulations of the average American major league athlete. When you are trying to fill column inches, bland repetitive success doesn’t feed the bulldog.

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Yeah, well, forget that. Patrick Reed just cashes checks and excels at major championships. Reed has missed one cut in his last seven starts, in which time he has four top 20 finishes (two of them were top 10’s). Reed has finished in the top 20 in the past six major championships. It’s hard to say why he is touted to return more than even money to finish in the top 20 in this tournament. Sometimes it’s best not to ask questions. Just cash the ticket on Sunday night.

LONG SHOT PICK: LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN TOP 5 (+500)

Louis Oosthuizen has turned into a bit of a punch line lately. He had one hand on the Wanamaker Trophy at Kiawah in March before sliding to a 73 on Sunday and finishing tied for second with Brooks Koepka behind Phil Mickelson. Oosthuizen followed that heartbreak up with perhaps a worse late collapse at the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June. Needing only a par/birdie finish to eventually secure a playoff with Jon Rahm, Oosthuizen hit a dreadful tee shot into a penalty area on the 71st hole, dooming him to another runner-up finish.

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Here’s the thing, though: You don’t have to bet Oosthuizen to win to make money on him. It bears noting that Oosthuizen’s only major championship was an Open. His name is on the jug. He has some comfort in this setting.

Most recently, he has finished second twice in the past two majors. Did he suddenly forget how to hit the ball straight? Did his terrific wedge game suddenly leave him? Is he suddenly going to shrink under major championship pressure? No, no and no. So maybe he can’t win…who cares. A top five returns five to one. Take it and run.

PICK TO WIN THE 2021 OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP: COLLIN MORIKAWA (+2500)

Collin Morikawa is not a good putter. The golfing gods – with the lone exception of one Eldrick Woods – never give one man every tool that every professional golfer really needs. Phil Mickelson has won six majors.

If he had hit more fairways or made more short putts, he would easily have some double-digit number of wins. John Daly has two majors. Daly hit it further and putted it better than basically all of his contemporaries. How shall we put this? He had temperament issues.

Justin Thomas has more golf talent in his thumbnail than the average touring professional has in his entire body. Thomas has won one major. Finishing is a skill, and in the big picture, it’s a skill Thomas has not displayed.

So, Morikawa. Our man is 172nd on the PGA Tour in putting in the 2020-2021 season. In a related story, Morikawa is currently fourth in the Official World Golf Ranking. FOURTH!

Only Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Thomas are ahead of him…and when you consider that only the top 125 PGA Tour professionals retain their playing status every year, Morikawa is one of the worst putters on the Tour. It’s absurd that Morikawa can be ranked this way while kicking strokes away on the greens every week.

Whatever. Morikawa finished tied for fourth at Torrey Pines in June and lost the Memorial Tournament in a playoff to Patrick Cantlay two weeks earlier to finish second alone. His putting didn’t kill him in either of those starts. Morikawa also finished in a nine-man pig pile tying for eighth at Kiawah in May.

Bottom line: Morikawa absolutely stripes the vast majority of his drives, irons and wedges. If he has an average putting week, he’ll be in contention on Sunday. If he has a good putting week, he’ll win the tournament by four shots. These odds are disrespectful, and Morikawa is apt to illustrate the book’s stupidity come Sunday.

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