It’s July (how did that happen already?) and that means that golf punters have not one but two majors to look forward. The PGA Championship follows at the end of the month, but right now our attention is focused on the biggest and (whisper it) the best of them all The Open Championship.
Steeped in history dating back almost 150 years, The Open is the quintessential Links-style major: ferocious winds and devilish hazards meshing with jaw-dropping scenery and landscapes of the Scottish Highlands. Whether you’re a huge golf fan or not, there should be plenty to enjoy from Thursday onwards.
Zach Johnson is the defending champion after prevailing in a heart-stopping play-off with Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen at St Andrews last year, although the 2016 renewal has moved on to Royal Troon, which is ensconced in the heart of the South Ayrshire coastline.
So we can expect three things at The Open this week: strong winds, rain and outstanding golf!
Who’s Going to Win It?
That’s the million-pound question (or £1,175,000 given that’s the winners’ prize money). We can make a case for any of the ‘big four’ of Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, any number of the midfield in Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer or Branden Grace, or even a longer-priced pick such as Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel or Bubba Watson. It is a minefield, and one punters would do well to avoid.
If pushed, it would be Johnson who took our fancy at 9/1. Quite simply he is playing better golf than anyone else on the planet right now, has the ‘no major’ monkey off his back following a win at the US Open in June, and has a decent Open Championship pedigree which includes a host of prior top-10 finishes. If you are looking for a portfolio of a winner, that is surely it.
But for our money, punters are betting off seeking their fortune in the myriad of other betting markets that are available.
Top Ten Finish
Charl Schwartzel (6/1)
The easy-going South African is a former major winner, has two top-10s (seventh at The Open 2014 and the US Open of 2015) and two top-20s (15th at The Open 2013 and 16th at the US Open 2016) in recent majors to call upon, and comes here on the back of a pair of top-20 finishes in his last two outings: the US Open and the WGC Bridgestone Invitational. That’s the portfolio of a hot contender right there.
Patrick Reed (6/1)
Another player with fine Links golf credentials is Patrick Reed. The American finished sixth in the AT&T Pebble Beach event played at the coastal course of the same name, and in the top-20 of the US Open and Open Championship in 2015. A finish of tenth in last week’s Scottish Open at a similarly gusty Castle Stuart is a handy angle in.
Top Twenty Finish
Chris Wood (4/1)
Wood was a really strong fancy for that Scottish Open crown a week ago, but frustratingly pulled out with a neck injury with an hour left before the start. But he assures us it was a precautionary measure, rather than anything untoward, so we can expect the 100/1 shot to put a decent shift in up at Royal Troon. Two top-5 returns in The Open, accompanied by five other top-20 finishes in Links-based events, are indicative of this young man’s talents; a win at the BMW PGA Championship in June rubber stamps it.
Padraig Harrington (11/2)
It’s great to see this wily old campaigner hitting some form at last, and with a top-20 return at Castle Stuart under his belt this two-time Open Championship winner isn’t far from our thoughts. Perhaps he lacks the game these days to mount a title challenge, but he has the nous and knowhow to gatecrash the top 20.
Winning Nationality – American (13/8)
The last six Open Championship winners at Royal Troon have all been American; need we say more? This selection opens up our pool of potential winners to include the likes of Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler and Phil Mickelson, to name just nine potential winners from the United States.
Top Englishman – Andy Sullivan (9/1)
The likes of Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Justin Rose and even Wood might like to argue, but of all the English hopes heading into this event it is Sullivan who looks in the best shape. A fine sixth place finish at the Scottish Open is indicative of his abilities in these conditions, as is a top-25 return from the US open in June; a highly satisfactory result for the man from Nuneaton. He is a three-time tour event winner and boasts the precision hitting any player with aspirations of winning here will need.
First Round 3-Balls
Betting on the 3-ball markets are notorious for generating profit; particularly these opening two rounds when the trios are selected almost at random. Below is a four-fold with plenty of legs:
- Alex Noren to beat Kevin Chappell and Steven Bowditch
- Andy Sullivan to beat James Hahn and Satoshi Kodaira
- Chris Wood to beat Mark O’Meara and Yusaku Miyazato
- Callum Shinkwin to beat Zander Lombard and Ryan Evans
- Pays at 20/1!
We’re taking Noren, Sullivan and Shinkwin because they all finished in the top ten at the Scottish Open last weekend – invaluable match practice heading into the main event here – while Wood should comfortably see off Japanese amateur Miyazato and 59-year-old O’Meara.