After a very exciting Scottish Open last week, all eyes turn to St Andrews for the third major championship of the season – the Open Championship which as is always the case when the year ends in a 0 or a 5 comes from the home of golf – the Old Course at St Andrews.
Rory McIlroy took Hoylake apart 12 months ago to win the famous Claret Jug but a recent football injury has denied him the opportunity to come and defend his title which leaves Jordan Spieth as the 7/1 favourite to land the title with Ladbrokes.
The Old Course at St Andrews is a classic links course. It has its detractors and those believe the course is sometimes too easy for a tournament of this stature and players of this ability and if the wind doesn’t blow then that is very true but it is still an iconic course and it will be great to see the best in the game play it again.
As for the course details the Old Course is a par 72 which measures a shade over 7300 yards. It is a quirky course because it actually has 14 par 4s rather than the usual 10 on a par 72 layout so par 4 scoring will be key this week. The other key is to stay out of the 112 pot bunkers around the course. Very rarely will going in one of them not cost you a shot.
With regards a profile for playing the course the previous winners suggests you need to get the ball out there. The more bunkers you can take out of play off the tee the better but with greens doubled up with each other from holes 2-16 you need to have a good short game because invariably second shots will end up a fair way from the pin at times.
Jordan Spieth is the favourite for the tournament this week but if you’re backing him at 7/1 you will have to ignore a largely ordinary Open record where in two outings he is yet to crack the top 30. Clearly he’s a better player right now and there is no better putter in the game. If he controls his golf ball on the path to the greens there is no reason why leg three of the Spieth Slam can’t be achieved.
In terms of the betting the biggest danger to Jordan Spieth is Dustin Johnson and while he has the power to fly most of the danger around here I’m not sure about his short game and I’m certainly not convinced with his temperament. He could prove me wrong but what happened at Chambers Bay has to have hurt and he hasn’t played since.
I would say a bigger threat to Spieth this week is Rickie Fowler. The American was second in this tournament last year and he just won the Scottish Open. He went fairly well in the Irish Open earlier in the year too so it is clear Fowler enjoys the challenges that links golf will bring. Fowler is in good form having landed the Players Championship earlier in the year and in truth the only thing I don’t like about the popular American this week is his price.
Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Louis Oosthuizen are all 25/1 or lower in the outright market. You could argue that Oosthuizen is the defending champion in effect having won the last Open here and he could go well again, he certainly has the profile to go well again but being alongside Woods for the first two rounds might not be ideal. Stenson is a monster on par 4s and could also go well but he doesn’t quite seem to be on absolute top form to me. Justin Rose has a poor record in this championship and is easier to pass over.
There are two bets I like this week from what I would call the main contenders. The first one is Adam Scott. The Australian has finished in the top five of the last three renewals of this fine tournament so links golf is kind to him. He has Tiger Woods’ old caddie on the bag and he won twice around here with the great man which helps. Scott’s putting has let him down this year but on slower greens where putting from long distance is going to be key I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the broomstick he uses hots up. If it does he could well add a Claret Jug to go alongside his Green Jacket.
Paul Casey hasn’t won a major championship but we’ve seen in majors and big events like WGCs, matchplays and Ryder Cups that he is a man for the big occasion. I don’t recall him going into a major with the form he is in right now. He has lost two playoffs on the PGA Tour so he’s doing little wrong at the minute. He is experienced around this track and has a good links record. All eyes are on the likes of Rose and Luke Donald as Englishmen who could win but Paul Casey could well upstage them both on golf’s biggest stage.
Back A.Scott to win Open Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Ladbrokes (1/4 1-6)
Back P.Casey to win Open Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfred (1/4 1-6)