Who Will Win the British Open 2019? Experts Picks, Latest Odds for Royal Portrush

The final major of the season gets underway on Thursday as The Open returns to Northern Ireland for the first time since 1951.

Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka are the two pre-tournament favorites to win at Portrush this weekend, but The Open is typically a difficult tournament to predict.

The fact the field features the best players in the world and that the event hasn't been held at Royal Portrush in 68 years make the task even harder this year.

The Dunluce Links Course, which has been extensively renovated since Portrush was added to The Open rota back in 2014, poses a series of tricky challenges.

From large stretches of rough, to menacing bunkers and narrow greens, the course offers little respite over its 18 holes.

If McIlroy and Koepka are favorites to lift the Claret Jug, Tiger Woods is one of the big question marks ahead of the tournament. The 43-year-old hasn't played since the U.S. Open last month, when he shot 69 in the final round at Pebble Beach.

The 15-time major winner, however, has sought to minimize concerns over his form, suggesting he was simply managing his body.

"The break is always great for my golf, especially now," Woods told reporters on Sunday. "I told you guys last year I wouldn't be playing as much this year and it's going to turn out that way.

"I do the same thing. I start from the green back. I putt, chip, pitch, short irons, mid-irons, long irons, long irons, woods. And then I eventually play. Nothing has changed. The only difference is that certain days I can do more than others."

Here's what the experts expect from the 148th edition of The Open.

Tiger Woods, The Open
Tiger Woods of the United States walks on a green during a practice round prior to the 148th Open Championship held on the Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush Golf Club on July 16 in Portrush, United Kingdom. Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Mark Schlabach—ESPN

Along with Rory McIlroy, Brooks Koepka is the pre-tournament favorite and Schlabach believes the world number one will be the man to beat this week.

"At this point, it almost seems like a bigger story if Koepka doesn't win a major. He has won four of the past nine majors and finished runner-up twice. And how's this for an advantage: His caddie, Ricky Elliott, is a native of Portrush and played the old Dunluce course as a junior. That can only help Koepka."

Kyle Porter—CBS Sport

Tiger Woods' decision to take a break from golf after last month's U.S. Open has been a major talking point, but Porter believes the gamble could pay off.

"Tiger almost never plays the week before a major, especially an Open," he wrote. "But he also rarely takes off the entirety of time between majors. It is the lesser of two evils, I suppose. Play and wear yourself down in front of the grueling task of conquering a monster like Portrush. Don't play and run the risk of losing two percent of your flow from the year.

Doug Ferguson—Golf Channel

Unlike Porter, Ferguson believes the way Woods has managed his time on the golf course is a sign he might be entering the winter of his career.

"The inactivity is another reminder that Woods is managing his health as much as his game," he wrote. "What to expect at the final major of the year? Anything."

Joe Kearney—BBC

Like Ferguson, Kearney suggests Woods' triumph at The Masters was a brilliant anomaly, rather than a sign of things to come.

"When he donned the green jacket at Augusta, dewy-eyed fans the world over dared to dream that he could indeed match Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 major titles," he said.

"Now, whisper it, the fear is that this is a farewell tour - a chance to see [Frank] Sinatra pack out Vegas, churning out the greatest hits after the voice has gone."

Sir Nick Faldo—Six-time major winner

Rory McIlroy might have the support of the local crowd but Faldo, who won The Open in 1987, 1990 and 1992, believes the pressure could get to the Northern Irishman if he doesn't start well.

"If Rory can get his nose in front and get the support of the crowd, he loves that, but you're not 100 per cent sure of him if he twangs a couple of drives offline," he told The Times. "The rough is going to be brutal and then there's the luck of the draw."

Eamon LynchGolf Week

Like Faldo, Lynch believes the pressure on McIlroy's shoulders could hamper the four-time major winner.

"No one will be surprised if he [McIlroy] wins," he wrote. "But the scrutiny and weight of expectation that McIlroy will shoulder this week is even more onerous than what he experiences every year at Augusta National. Producing his best under these circumstances will be a stout challenge."

Latest odds

  • Rory McIlroy 8/1
  • Brooks Koepka 10/1
  • Dustin Johnson 14/1
  • Jon Rahm 14/1
  • Tiger Woods 14/1
  • Justin Rose 20/1
  • Francesco Molinari 22/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 25/1
  • Xander Schauffele 25/1
Who Will Win the British Open 2019? Experts Picks, Latest Odds for Royal Portrush | Sports