2019 British Open predictions: Expert picks and odds for Royal Portrush course, Tiger Woods

Who are you picking to win the 2019 Open Championship? That's what everyone wants to know this time of year, and rarely has the decision at the top been more difficult with such a strong field featuring generational talent going head-to-head at Royal Portrush in what is now suddenly the final major of the year. Our three CBS Sports experts have their picks, and if you keep on reading, you'll be able to find out exactly who they think will win along with their surprise predictions and score projections.

All eyes are on Rory McIlroy, who is looking to win his fifth major in his home nation of Northern Ireland at a course where he once famously shot a 61 as a youngster. That has not left the minds of the locals -- or Rory's supporters -- and there should be no surprise that he enters this week as the 8-1 favorite.

McIlroy has two major top 10s this year and 10 over last five years but no victories in the biggest events of the year since going back-to-back at The Open and PGA Championship back in 2014. Arguably playing some of the best golf of his life, perhaps this is the time McIlroy puts it all together.

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With The Open Championship now standing as the final major of the golf season, it will be interesting to see how the field adjusts to a do-or-die atmosphere at Royal Portrush. Narrowing this field down to a champion and top finishers is a tough task, but we here at CBS Sports are certainly up to it.

2019 Open Championship predictions

Kyle Porter, golf writer

Winner -- Rory McIlroy (8-1): I'm a sucker for this story, I admit it. There are plenty of compelling, converging trends including the fact that McIlroy is having an all-time great statistical season and that he has four-straight top 10s at Opens. But the most compelling of all is Rory winning an Open at Royal Portrush in his home country to cap off what has been maybe the best season he's had since 2014.

Sleeper -- Sergio Garcia (80-1): I'd been going with Kuchar here, but his odds have dropped to 30-1 so I'll go Garcia instead. Look, I get that he's only made one of his last eight major cuts, but Garcia -- who has 10 top 10s at The Open in his career -- at 80-1 is preposterous! 

Top 10 lock -- Brooks Koepka (10-1): He's finished in the top two in six of his last nine majors. The top two!

Top 5 in order: Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth

Surprise prediction: Dustin Johnson will play poorly and flirt with the cut line. D.J. has not been great at Opens in recent years and just hasn't been that sharp at all since the PGA Championship. He comes in with the second-best odds at 10-1, but I cannot possibly fade that number any harder than I am ahead of Portrush.

Tiger Woods prediction: I think Tiger will contend because I think rust means less here than it does at, say, Bethpage Black. Also, he seems healthier than he did going into the PGA Championship. He played 36 on Sunday and Monday, and his genius will take over at some point. He won't win -- two majors in a year is too much to ask for even him -- but he's not going to miss another major cut either.

Lowest round: 65 (-6)
Winning score: 270 (-14)
Winner's Sunday score: 70 (-1)

Chip Patterson, writer

Winner -- Jon Rahm (18-1): Say it with me now: he's got all -- the -- shots. Rahm loves links golf and the versatility of his game provides him an array of choices hitting into greens. There's a confidence that Rahm has displayed recently that comes from significant work on the mental side of the game, and I think his ability to keep his cool amidst calamity will be necessary in order to break through with his first major championship. 

Sleeper -- Matt Wallace (60-1): Normally we should be favorite older players at The Open Championship, but I think Royal Portrush's absence from the regular rotation eliminates some of the experience edge that veterans have at more traditional Open courses like St. Andrews. With a green light on the under-30 movement, I'm taking one of the hottest rising stars on the European Tour. Wallace has already shown this year he can hang with golf's best fields, finishing T3 at the PGA Championship, T6 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T12 at the US Open.  

Top 10 lock -- Rory McIlroy (8-1): McIlroy records a top-10 finish in nearly half of the major championships he plays in, so there is no reason to expect anything different as he arrives at a track where he holds the course record of 61. He's been particularly elite at The Open with three top-five finishes and a win in his last four starts. 

Top 5 in order: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Adam Scott, Matt Wallace, Rory McIlroy

Surprise prediction: Bernd Wiesberger holds at least a share of the 18-hole or 36-hole lead. Wiesberger has been on quite a heater recently, winning in Denmark in May, carding a top-10 in the Belgium Knockout in June and starting July with a runner-up at the Irish Open and a win at the Scottish Open. Continuing that success against a tougher field across 72 holes is a tall order, but I think he can keep this form rolling an early score or two prior to the weekend.

Tiger Woods prediction: I think Tiger is almost certainly a lock to finish in the top 20 or top 25, but only because of the advantages he has in the mental side of the game. Last year at Carnoustie, the expectations weren't high and no one was really thinking he might be in the mix after a pair of 71s on Thursday and Friday. But after grinding through that he emerged while others fell by the wayside and still had a shot to win on the back nine on Sunday. Similarly, I think that while he won't every really be in contention to win, he will have a good leaderboard finish after 72 holes, potentially up in the top 10.  

Lowest round: 65 (-6)
Winning score: 272 (-12)
Winner's Sunday score: 68 (-3)

Adam Silverstein, editor

Winner -- Justin Rose (20-1): Look, Rory McIlroy is the trendy pick. I get it. He's the favorite. This is his country. He holds the course record. That's a lot working in his favor. It's also a lot of pressure. Rose did struggle at the Masters this year, but he posted a T3 at that other Open and had four top 20 finishes (including a T2) at the 2018 majors. He's due for his first major championship since 2013, and this is a great course for him to lock up.

Sleeper -- Jordan Spieth (40-1): Am I allowed to pick Spieth here? It feels wrong to consider him a sleeper at any major, but we've arrived at that point despite his T3 finish at the PGA Championship a couple months ago. It's not so much that I think Spieth is going to break through this season in this event ... I just can't not take him at such long odds at a course that a least has some sympathy for miscues.

Top 10 lock -- Rory McIlroy (8-1): This is a no-doubter for me. McIlroy might win the whole damn thing, so to me there's no question whatsoever he will be in the top 10 by the time the final putt drops. Not only will McIlroy likely be in contention all four days, he has a propensity for sneaking in the backdoor with top-10 major finishes as of late. Don't believe me? He's had two top 10 finishes in majors every year since 2014, when he won The Open and PGA Championship back-to-back. Of majors in which McIlroy has not been cut since 2014, he has finished in the top 10 ...wait for it ...13 of 18 times. That's 72.2 percent!

Top 5 in order: Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott

Surprise prediction: Tony Finau is in contention entering the weekend. It's not so much that Finau being in contention at a major is a surprise, but he's attempting to break out of a funk after finishing T64 at the PGA Championship and getting cut at the U.S. Open. Finau finished T9 at The Open last year and has actually never finished outside the top 27 in his four appearances at the event. That bodes well for this week.

Tiger Woods prediction: Just as he has often the past two years, Woods will start slow and eventually climb his way into contention. The game is back and the mentality never left. Considering how few events he has played this season, I don't worry too much about his health as he knows he can take time off after The Open. I see a top 10 or top 15 finish for Woods with one round that makes us believe he may actually win this thing.

Lowest round: 64 (-7)
Winning score: 270 (-14)
Winner's Sunday score: 67 (-4)

So who will win The Open Championship, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now and see the projected Open leaderboard from the model that's nailed two straight golf majors to find out.    

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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