It’s major week and it’s the turn of the Open Championship. The Open is the oldest of the four majors and the only one to be hosted outside of the US. For the second year in a row we are in Scotland and this time, Royal Troon plays host.
Troon last hosted the event in 2004 where Todd Hamilton held off Ernie Els to win his first and only major.
The Course (Royal Troon GC)
Par 71, 7190 yards
Troon is your classic links test and it may well be a tale of two 9’s for most players. Any wind (or lack of) will dictate the scoring around the course, however the back 9 should prove far more difficult.
The front-9 has the iconic 8th Hole which is the 123-yard par-3, also known as “Postage Stamp.
This is the shortest par-3 in major history but it must be respected. It played over par here back in 2004 and it is often advised to just aim for the middle of the green.
The back-9 also has some difficult holes of its own. In fact the 11th Hole also known as “Railway” is traditionally the most difficult on the course. If you can make par on this 482 yard, par-4 you should take it and run. Anything par or better should see you gain strokes on the field. To put into context how difficult this hole is, Jack Nicklaus made a 10 here once.
With all this said and done Troon is a typical links test. The usual factors, most notably weather will come into play this week.
Dustin Johnson (9/1)
Johnson is in the form of his life and with the major duck now off his back he is a worthy favourite. It would take a brave man to say he can’t win this week. In this event he has missed just one cut and has four top-12’s in seven starts. It is hard to see him winning three events in a row given the quality around him but he has the game to do just that.
Whilst I will not be backing him at 9/1 I would argue he is almost good value given his form and suitability to the event.
Jason Day (9/1)
Until Johnson came along and spoiled his party, Day looked head and shoulders above the rest. Given his current form and his 4th last year it is obvious why he is one of the favourites.
What puts me off Day is his performances in Open’s prior to last year. Yes he is almost a different player now but he was contending in majors before last year, but never at the Open.
Rory McIlroy (10/1)
42 (Low Amateur)-47-3-25-60-MC-Win
Rory has looked on top for form since winning the Irish Open, apart from at Oakmont where he missed the cut. A missed cut can be forgiven at such a tough venue however and he will be confident of winning this week.
McIlroy won the 2014 Open but I still believe he is much better in birdie-fest events. Todd Hamilton He does have a 3rd place and a 25th to go along with his win but I will still look elsewhere. I have no interest in backing him at 10/1, given his up and down record in the event.
Jordan Spieth (12/1)
44, 36, 4
Of the four, Spieth’s current form is the least inspiring, which is reflected in his odds. The thing I like about Spieth is that each year he has improved at this event.
Spieth has the game to compete anywhere and given he finished 3rd at the Bridgestone two weeks ago, he should have the bit between his teeth.
None of the “Big 4” had even turned professional when the event was played here back in 2004. Despite this, they all have good Open experiences to draw on. McIlroy is the only one of the four to win an Open but all four have finished inside the top-4 at least once.
I am actually going to look beyond all four of them for value but it is highly likely at least one of them will be involved come Sunday.
Who has history at Royal Troon?
The following players played here in 2004 and/or 1997:
- Adam Scott (42nd)
- Sergio Garcia (MC)
- Phil Mickelson (3rd 2004, 24th 1997)
- Louis Oosthuizen (MC)
- Lee Westwood (4th 2004, 10th 1997)
- Zach Johnson (MC)
- Jim Furyk (MC 2004, 4th 1997)
- Paul Casey (20th)
- Graeme McDowell (MC)
- Ernie Els (2nd 2004, 10th 1997)
- Nicolas Colsaerts (MC)
- Luke Donald (MC)
- Padraig Harrington (MC 2004, 5th 1997)
- Vijay Singh (20th 2004, 38th 1997)
- Colin Montgomerie (25th 2004, 24th 1997)
- Paul Lawrie (MC)
- David Howell (MC 2004, MC 1997)
- Miguel Angel Jimenez (47th)
- Justin Leonard (16th 2004, Won 1997)
- Rod Pampling (27th)
- Darren Clarke (11th 2004, 2nd 1997)
- John Daly (MC)
- Mark O’Meara (30th 2004, 38th 1997)
- Ben Curtis (MC)
- Mark Calcavecchia (11th 2004, 10th 1997)
- Sandy Lyle (73rd)
- Todd Hamilton (Won)
This isn’t to say I am going to back an old-timer because of their course form. It is however interesting to see how those still active week in-week out have fared here.
Also players who were just starting their careers in 2004 and return this year may well draw on their previous experiences here. Adam Scott making the cut here 12 years ago for example is promising in itself.
On the other hand, Sergio Garcia missing the cut here doesn’t bother me, it was 12 years ago and he has developed since. If anything these players just have 2/4 competitive rounds under their belt here that others don’t.
Lee Westwood on the other hand finished 4th and 10th here on two starts and is in great form of late. Could this be where he breaks his major duck?
With all this in mind here are my picks for the 2016 Open Championship.
Adam Scott 25/1 (General)
Scott is fantastic at major championships and particularly good in the Open, so I want him on board at 25/1. Since Scott missed his last cut at the Open in 2009 his form reads 27-25-2-3-5-10.
This is a ridiculous record and that 2nd in 2012 most definitely should have been a win. He had a four-shot lead with four holes to go but bogeyed the last four to hand Ernie Els the Claret Jug.
He learned from that mistake and went on to win the 2013 Masters and has contended in every major since. He has top-20’s in each major since, proving his major pedigree.
There was no repeat heroics at Augusta this year despite his excellent form leading into the event, eventually finishing T42. He did finish T18 at the U.S. Open a month ago however and was also 10th at the Bridgestone two weeks ago so is in good form.
Twice a winner this season at the Honda Classic and the WGC – Cadillac Championship (both in Florida) he will be as buoyant as ever about his chances.
I can’t ignore his rich vein of form in this event in recent years and given he made the cut here (42nd) some 12 years ago I think it is fair to say he has every chance.
Phil Mickelson 45/1 (General)
Mickelson has enjoyed an excellent season which is missing just one thing at the moment – a win!
He can change that here and I believe he is slightly overpriced given he is still very capable of hanging with the best. Despite his advancing years, Lefty has played some of the best golf of his career this season and deserves a win.
The 2013 Open champion hasn’t won this year but he does have five top-5’s in 18 events on the PGA Tour including two runner-up finishes.
He finished 2nd at both Pebble Beach and the St.Jude Classic and also has top-5s at the Career Builder Challenge (his first event of the season), the WGC- Cadillac and the Wells Fargo.
There is an obvious concern. In the previous two majors of the season, he has missed the cut at both. Mickelson does however love both the event and this course and therefore I believe he can put it right in the majors this week.
In 1997 he finished 24th and in 2004 he finished 3rd so he likes Royal Troon. Add to that his two wins in Scotland at the Scottish Open and this very event in 2013 and he looks good value to me.
Although it looks as though time might be running out for him to complete that elusive Grand Slam, I think Troon gives him a shot at a sixth major victory this week.
Lee Westwood 50/1 (General)
After much deliberation I have bitten the bullet and backed Westwood this week.
It is well documented how Westwood has failed to get the job done in a major but that can change here.
His old pal Darren Clarke won the 2011 Open Championship aged 42, Westwood has just turned 43.
Like his mate, Clarke went close in majors whilst winning regularly elsewhere (22 professional wins) and hopefully lightning will strike twice.
Westwood has had the better career of the two outside of that Open Championship win (42 professional wins) although I am sure he would give 20 of those wins back just to win at Troon this week.
It is not like I am just hoping and praying either, I do believe he has a legitimate chance here. In two starts at this course Westwood has finished 4th and 10th and he is in good current form to boot.
He finished 2nd at the Masters for the second time in his career behind Danny Willett and was in the penultimate group of the U.S. Open also. He shot a round of 80 (+10) on the last day at Oakmont to finish T32.
The Englishman from Worksop picked himself up however to finish 11th at the Open de France two weeks ago and will go again this week.
Westwood has finished inside the top-3 in three of his last seven Opens, again adding to his chances. He has struggled since finishing T3 in 2013 (49th in 2014, MC in 2015) but he will enjoy returning to Troon. He also finished T3 at Turnberry in 2009, which is just 40 minutes away from here.
Given his form so far in 2016 and his two top-10’s here, I cannot ignore the chance of fairy-tale ending this week – something he deserves.
Another incentive is making the Ryder Cup team in September and he won’t want to rely on a favour from Clarke.
Chris Wood 100/1 (Coral)
I picked Wood to win the Scottish Open last week, however he withdrew citing a neck injury. I am hoping this was a formality to be ready for this week, as his Twitter timeline suggests.
Ignoring his withdrawal last week, which I will treat as a precautionary action, he is in mighty fine form.
We know Wood is a top links player and loves the Open Championship, so at three-figures I wanted him on-side.
In five starts at the Open Championship Wood has finished 5-3-MC-64-23. His T5 finish came on debut when finishing as low amateur at Birkdale but he proved that was no fluke as he finished 3rd at Turnberry a year later.
He was bang in contention at Turnberry (just down the road from Troon) and had it of not been for a 210-yard 9-iron he would have at least made the play-off. His approach shot into 18 took a hard bounce and went through the green as I am assume adrenaline took over. He told BBC Sport that week “‘I’ve never hit a nine iron 210 yards in my life,”. “There’s nothing I could have done about it. It went miles.”
He has won three times in the last three years, since that week at Turnberry and should he be fully fit I really rate his chances. In his last five events he has finished 11-23-6-1-54, The win came at the BMW PGA Championship a big event in itself, whilst the 23rd was at Oakmont in the U.S. Open.
Wood is 2/2 in cuts made in the majors this season (T42 & T23) and I expect him to be 3/3 by the end of the week.
I will as ever be including my four bets in my line-ups but here are my best of the rest.
If you put the four players above to start your line-up you can average $7,350 over the next two spots.
Dustin Johnson ($12,000)
No explanation required, the guy is on fire right now and has an excellent record in this event.
Whilst picking DJ leaves you with an average salary of just $7,600 it is worth having him in a line-up. There are solid options in the $7k-$8k range that can make up the rest of your line-up
Sergio Garcia ($10,000)
After the big four and Adam Scott the next man up is Garcia. I love Garcia’s chances this week despite not betting him and he loves the Open Championship.
If he is going to win a major to cap off his illustrious career, the Open looks to be his best chance. He has twice finished runner-up in this event (2007 & 2014) and has a further six top-10’s.
He has only missed the cut once in an Open Championship (2012) since missing the weekend here in 2004 and he has been in the top-10 in three of the last six Opens.
After picking Sergio you would have an average salary of $8k left to spend on five guys. You can make a really solid line-up if he is your top pick which makes a lot of sense.
Branden Grace ($9,700)
Whilst he looks a great fit this week, Grace does only have one top-20 in the Open Championship (T20 2015) in five attempts.
He looks to of propelled to another level however, finishing MC-T4-T20-T3 in last year’s majors and as a result looks a smart pick.
Grace finished 29th in the Scottish Open last week meaning he has finished 29-10-5 on his last three starts. The two starts prior to last week were the WGC – Bridgestone Invitational and the U.S. Open.
You can go with a Garcia/Grace 1-2 and still average $7,575 a player over the next four spots.
Martin Kaymer ($8,400)
After Grace I don’t like a whole lot of the players before we delve into the sub 8k range, with Kaymer an exception.
The German is a solid links player, who has won two major titles and should be respected.
He has made the weekend at both the Masters and the U.S. Open already this season and finished a promising 13th last week.
His last five events read 13-5-37-7-5, so he is playing great golf again.
Russell Knox ($7,600)
Knox missed the cut in his first Open Championship last year but will look to make up for that here at Troon.
The Scotsman has finished inside the top-10 five times in 22 starts this season including runner-up finishes in the Irish Open and the RBC Heritage.
Knox finished T10 last week at the Scottish Open in front of a home crowd, so he can deal with the home pressures and looks to thrive in the environment.
He has improved and won a WGC since missing the cut at St. Andrews last year so I expect him to fare a lot better this week.
Graeme McDowell ($7,500)
McDowell has had an up and down season this year, but has finished in the top-10 on five occasions. This means 50% of the time that he makes the weekend (10/18 cuts) he cracks the top-10.
One of those top-10’s came at the Scottish Open last week, which is perfect preparation.
Add to this his T18 finish at the U.S. Open where he played pretty solidly all week and the Northern Irishman looks a good value play.
Ernie Els ($7,300)
A great value play this week, the wily veteran has finished 2nd and 10th at this course and finished 5th on his last start.
This was his only top-10 of the season though so far so don’t expect fireworks.
I do believe the South African can still finish inside the top-20 at a course he loves.
He has slowed up at the Open in recent years, missing three of his last six cuts but he did win the Claret Jug in that span too (2012).
Nicolas Colsaerts ($7,200)
The Belgian is on fire this season so can definitely perform admirably this week.
He missed the cut here in 2004 but is much improved these days and three 3rd place finishes in his last seven starts.
One of those 3rd place finishes came last week at the Scottish Open, perfect preparation for this week.
Colsaerts does also have a top-10 finish at the Open, finishing T7 in 2012
Alex Noren ($6,900)
Last week’s Scottish Open winner is a fine links player and has finished 9th and 19th in this event when he has made the weekend.
He is great value at $6,900 and surely wouldn’t have been this price if the salaries came out today.
Padraig Harrington ($6,800)
The two-time Open winner is in decent form and will look forward to returning to Troon.
He finished 21st at the Scottish Open last week and was 30th in France a week before.
A 5th place finish at this course in 97′ gives slight optimism. He has Bob Rotella – his mind coach with him this week and seems positive.
Matteo Manassero ($6,200)
Two top-19s in the Open including a T13 when the Low Amateur in 2009 give hope.
He has returned to form in recent weeks and looks a value play.
The T3 finish last week in the Scottish Open got him a spot here and what a time to return to form.