Sleeper Picks: The Open Championship

Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+300 for a Top 20) and (+450 for Top South African) … Pick your pleasure or jump on both. Of the dozen from his homeland in the field, only Louis Oosthuizen is presented at shorter odds, but you’d win an argument that Bezuidenhout is the hottest of ’em all. In fact, of all golfers from the entire continent of Africa, he’s totaled the most Official World Golf Ranking points (47.02) in 2022. Oosthuizen has managed only 16.82. In the last two months, Bezuidenhout has connected for a co-runner-up (John Deere) among four top 20s. He’s T5 on the PGA TOUR in proximity to the hole, T29 in Strokes Gained: Putting, fifth in scrambling and first in proximity from the sand, the last of which rarely within our focus but it doesn’t hurt in case he finds any of the 112 bunkers on the Old Course. The 28-year-old also is no stranger to big stages. He’s combined 7-for-10 in majors, including a payday (T53) at Royal St. George’s last year.

Haotong Li (+400 for a Top 20) … After an extended tailspin, he’s back on the rise, and quickly at that. It was at the Royal Birkdale in 2017 when he closed with 63 to finish third in what was his Open debut. That would have tied the all-time record for lowest score in a major if Branden Grace hadn’t broken it by one the day before. The vault resulted in Li into the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking (to 63rd) for the first time. Six months later, he rose to a career-best 32nd with a win in Dubai, his second career DP World Tour title. Then, two years ago this week, he slipped outside the top 100 and hasn’t cracked it again. The low point came last December when he sat 542nd. A runner-up finish at the Volvo China Open (the tournament where he connected for his first DPWT win in 2016) ensued, as have five more top 20s, including an emotional third career victory at the BMW International Open just three weeks ago. Currently 139th in the OWGR and with powerful momentum in tow.

Chris Kirk (+550 for a Top 20) … Granted, St. Andrews is in a league of its own, but the 37-year-old has recorded six top 20s in the last five months. The set includes challenging venues like PGA National (T7), Bay Hill (T5) and Southern Hills (T5). He finished 71st at The Renaissance Club on Sunday, but he’s acclimatized with four warm rounds after a three-week break. Among the best tee to green, so the objective is to simplify and plug that skill set into this equation that demands avoiding trouble.

Sebastian Munoz (+450 for a Top 20) … This is a respectful value for a guy who’s 0-for-2 at The Open. No doubt that it reflects house protection given his series of exceptional performances on all kind of tests, including a T14 at the US Open just four weeks ago. The Colombian cut his teeth in the winds presented at the University of North Texas, and now with several PGA TOUR seasons under his belt, he’s fine-tuning his game to pop at a moment’s notice. That includes a pair of opening 60s en route to third-place finishes in the last eight months. That score isn’t out there at St. Andrews, but it will reward the kind of confidence and balance that he’s carried throughout.

Keita Nakajima (+1400 for a Top 20) … The twice-qualified phenom from Japan still hasn’t turned pro – perhaps this fall – so he arrived for his Open debut as the long-standing world’s top-ranked amateur. Yet, he’s played primarily professional events over the last two years, and even won one on the Japan Golf Tour last September. He was a Sleeper for the Masters (at +750 for a Top 20) and missed the cut, but there’s three times the argument that the better play is now, anyway. First, the kickback for a Top 20 at St. Andrews is almost double what it was at Augusta National. Second, while amateurs tend not to make much noise at The Open, the last time one finished inside the top 20 was, you guessed it, at St. Andrews in 2015, when, count ’em, three recorded top 15s – Jordan Niebrugge ( T6), Ashley Chesters (T12), Ollie Schniederjans (T12) – and that doesn’t even include Paul Dunne (T30), who shared the 54-hole lead. And third, while modest, the 22-year-old Nakajima is another three months experienced.

Odds were sourced on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. For live odds, visit BetMGM.

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