There’s a bit of a divide in opinion between the Brits and the Americans as to which is golf’s premier tournament, but for the traditionalists it is hard to see past the oldest major on the calendar: the Open Championship, or the British Open as those overseas like to call it.
Some of the sport’s most iconic moments have unfolded in the quest for the Claret Jug, from the shootout between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson in 1977 (or Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson’s 12 months ago for that matter) to Tiger Woods’ emotional victory in 2006 a matter of days after his father had passed away. The Open is etched into golfing legacy, and always will be.
So it’s the one they all want to win, regardless of nationality, and the 2017 edition looks set to be a classic.
The host venue is Royal Birkdale, which last welcomed an Open Championship to Merseyside in 2008. Then Padraig Harrington won in a score of +3, which tells you something about how difficult this track plays when the wind is up.
It’s a short test and one that will reward patience. There aren’t birdie opportunities on every hole at Birkdale, and instead playing it safe and taking par is often a better strategy on many of the holes. The young guns might be exciting to watch, but their aggressive style might not work so well in Southport.
As such, backing older, wiser and more experienced heads could well be the way to go this week.
If we’re looking to back players who tick as many boxes as possible this week then an each way flutter on Justin Rose is smart at around 22/1.
Here we have a former major winner (the US Open in 2013), an Olympic gold medallist and a player that has recorded a top-five finish in each of golf’s four major championships.
He has shown just enough form this season to be considered a threat, with a second place at The Masters after that edge-of-the-seat duel with Sergio Garcia franked by a top-five at the Irish Open in his last start.
Rose fits the age profile of an Open champion now his 36, and his precise ball striking should serve him well at Royal Birkdale. And how could we forget – this course is where it all began, with Rose finishing tied for fourth as an amateur here back in 2008.
Top 10 Finish
Rather than go down the each way route, some punters will instead opt for the straightforward Top Ten Finish market.
We’re looking for a consistent sort that tends to perform well in all conditions, and few can lay a claim to that quite like Matt Kuchar (5/1).
He is accurate off the tee, and even when his ball-striking does go awry he ranks highly in the Scrambling stat, which shows he is able to get up and down from even the tightest spots. It’s no wonder why Kuchar is one of the world’s finest in the Bogey Avoidance category.
He’s finished no lower than 16th in each of his last five starts, and has a pair of Open top-20s to his name.
Top 20 Finish
The Open Championship has been a rich breeding ground for the veterans of the game, and there is every indication that as old dogs go Steve Stricker (7/2) has plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
The 50-year-old may spend the bulk of his time on the Champions Tour these days, but he still finds time to show the young guns a thing or two. He’s finished tied for 16th in both majors so far this term, and was outstanding in recording a top five in the John Deere Classic at the weekend.
Add into the mix a top-five in this tournament at Royal Troon 12 months ago and you have a recipe for another great performance from the golden oldie.
First Round Leader
There is no obvious draw bias at this year’s Open Championship – not according to the weather forecast anyway – but we always favour the early starters in this market on a level playing field.
Rain is forecast on Wednesday, which should soften the course in time for Thursday morning’s first tee. So conditions could be at their best early doors, with a fresh manicured track for the players to enjoy. Let’s post a decent total and get back to the clubhouse, that’s what the early starters will be thinking.
There are some players out early on Thursday for whom, if their game clicks, could post a low total even in tough conditions. Guys like Branden Grace (55/1), Ian Poulter (70/1), Byeong Hun An (100/1) and Alexander Levy (150/1) are in good touch and will enjoy a nice and early alarm call on Thursday morning.