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Open Championship preview

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It’s Open week, and to top it off, I will be attending the event on Saturday and Sunday! I am really looking forward to attending my first ever golf major, and I am expecting it to be a brilliant tournament.

First up though, I will as ever, be trying to find the winner this week, something I have struggled with of late. This week is probably the toughest of the year to predict, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I said about the U.S Open!

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The 2014 Open Championship is being held at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England and is often referred to as just, Hoylake. Tiger Woods famously won here, when the course last hosted the event in 2006, using a driver just once in four rounds. This is not a long course at, 7,312 yards, so players will be able to plot around this par 72 layout.

Scoring will be completely dependent on the weather this week, but with Tiger Woods winning with a, -18 total  in 2006, you would fancy a decent number under par will win. Winning scores in this event vary from +3 to -19 since 2000, and in the last five years has varied from -2 to -16. I think it’s fair to assume under par will win this time around, but strong winds, that were non-existent in 2o06 could affect the score dramatically if they occur.

Form on links courses, and in particular in the Open Championship is the most obvious thing to look at this week, but some other factors I will take into account. Due to Woods winning here with irons off the tee almost the whole way round, good accuracy with long irons will be important, and those that scramble and putt successfully will also feature.

Who played well here in 2006?

Tiger Woods won, we all know that, but who else in the field this week performed well at this course, eight years ago. Chris DiMarco finished two shots behind Woods, but will not be competing this year, so the next nearest challenger was two-time Open champion, Ernie Els.

Els who finished on -13, one shot better than fellow major winner Jim Furyk, performed well on this course, just like he does most of the time he tees it up on the links. He had not long been back from a knee injury that week, and although he’s not in the best of form currently, he will undoubtedly be in high spirits once again.

Furyk however has been in great form of late, and has done everything but win in the last year or so. Although he’s not won since 2010, he will always have to be respected, especially in courses he’s performed well at in the past.

Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia both finished in the top-10 that week too, finishing T8 and T5 respectively, and sandwiched between the two in 7th was two-time major winner, and recent PGA Tour winner, Angel Cabrera.

You could make a solid case for each of the aforementioned players again this week, and these are the odds they come in at. Adam Scott (18/1), Tiger Woods (25/1), Sergio Garcia (28/1), Angel Cabrera (70/1), Jim Furyk (80/1) and last but by no means least, Ernie Els at 100/1.

I wouldn’t put you off any of these players, but it’s a case of whether the price is right and most look on the short side.

Market Leaders:

Justin Rose 14/1

Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy 18/1

Martin Kaymer 22/1

Tiger Woods 25/1

This really is the toughest week so far in terms of predicting the winner, in my opinion but I will try my very best to find the one and cheer them on as best I can on Sunday!

Rickie Fowler 40/1 (General*) 1pt e/w: I umm’d and ahh’d, and then ahh’d and umm’d and then well.. Whatever. Point is it took me a long time to decide whether to pick, Rickie Fowler to win the Open Championship this week, mainly due to this price.

At 40/1, Fowler doesn’t look big at all, he still only has one win on the PGA Tour, something that surprises a lot of people, but I am confident he will win a major in his career.

Since making his major debut, at the 2008 U.S Open (where he finished T60), Fowler has top-5s in three of the four major championships, including the Open.

Back in 2011 he finished T5 at the Open, and played extremely well in some difficult conditions, and his apparent love for links golf begun. That T5 finish came a year after finishing T14 in the Open a year prior, and he followed both up with a T31 finish in 2012. He missed the cut for the first time in an Open Championship last year, but I truly believe he will put that behind him and perform very well this week.

So far in 2014, Fowler has posted top-5s in both major championships, finishing T4 in the Masters and T2 in the U.S Open. This takes some doing, and only the very best consistently perform like that in major championships, so for me he clearly has the pedigree.

He played the Scottish Open last week, and finished like a train on Sunday, shooting 68-65 on the weekend, which was good enough for a T8 finish. Had it of not been for a silly bogey on the last, he would have finished in the group of players at -10 and T4.

The biggest negative for me in regards to Fowler is that he always seems to have a bad hole, at the wrong time. He responds well most of the time, and again that attitude just makes me believe he will bag a major, but it’s something that clearly needs to be rectified.

He has been working with Butch Harmon for a while now, and while it looks like he’s had a few teething problems since joining up with Harmon, his swing seems to hold up when it really matters, in these big events.

I would hate not to be on if and when he wins a major, and for me the Open Championship looks like his best chance.

Lee Westwood 70/1 (StanJames*) 1pt e/w: Yes I have gone for the “nearly man” for the second time this year, in major championships but I am still convinced he will win one before his career is all said and done. Others that have been expected to win one haven’t, like Colin Montgomerie (who by the way won his second senior major in a row last night), but Westwood is right up there with the best in the world, and he loves the Open Championship.

He has finished inside the top-10 on four occasions, and three of those finishes also saw him finish in the top-5. He first came to prominence in this event, in 1997 when he finished T10 and since then has performed better on multiple occasions. He re-announced himself on this stage in 2004, finishing 4th, and has once again improved further.. In 2009 he added to his impressive tally finishing 3rd, a year before his career-best 2nd place in 2010. Most recently he finished T3 last year, and when he started the final day two shots clear, it looked like his best chance of breaking the duck.

It wasn’t to be however, things went South very quickly for Westwood, and his +4 round saw him drop into that tie for 3rd and once again he will feel very disappointed with his finish.

I would rather focus on the positives though, and there’s enough for me to take a chance on him at 70/1.

Whilst he’s not in the form of his life this season, in amongst some poor finishes he has some very big results. He has a win at The Championship, on the European Tour, and also a top-10 at the Masters and the Players Championship, three results that should not be overlooked.

He loves this event, and I am sure he can up his game here at Hoylake, despite some negatives so far this season. He finished T31 here in 2006, so whilst it was not a spectacular four days, he did at least shoot opening and closing rounds of 69, and eventually finished on a -3 total.

There’s no doubting he will need to be at his very best, especially on and around the greens, to win here but he’s a big-time player and he loves this stage.

Ernie Els 100/1 (StanJames*) 0.5pt e/w: First of all, by his own admissions Ernie Els is not having a great season so far, but with an Open Championship and a links course to look forward to, I am sure he will be happy enough this week.

Els has won two Open Championships, and in addition to that has a further 11 top-10s. Those 11 top-10s include; three runner-up finishes and two 3rd place finishes, and then every finish between 4th and 10th!  He simply loves links golf, and he proved that once again last week.

Ok, he only finished 41st last week, hardly eye-catching, but his final round 66 was he lowest round of the year so far, and he will be confident enough to carry that into next week.

There are so many more positives then negatives for Els this week, that at 100/1 he is very hard to ignore. He won his 2nd Open Championship, just two years ago so he’s hardly over the hill and I fully expect him to compete like the champion he is, again this week.

He finished 3rd at this course in 2006, and that was after he suffered a knee injury, so with what seems like a clean bill of health and a final round of 66 last week under his belt, he will be ready to go here, once again.

Of course his form is a concern, it has been off, but he’s shown good signs of late and his seems very upbeat on his blog, which he posts on his own website.

Not many people can play links golf better than this man, and with a bit of confidence behind him, I really do think he’ll be in the mix over the weekend.

Chris Wood 200/1 (Coral, SpreadEx, StanJames) 0.25pts e/w: Apart from last week’s missed cut, at the Scottish Open, Chris Wood has been in great form this season and is also another fan of links golf.

“Woody” as he commonly known in the golfing circuit has two top-5 finishes in the Open Championship, back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. In 2008, Wood finished T5 in this event as an amateur and followed that success with a T3 finish a year later, after turning pro. This is not easy to do, and as a result I am sure he is on a few people’s radar this week.

Admittedly he has missed the cut (2010) and finished T64 (2013) in his last two showings at the Open, but he should be able to better those here.

Wood has four top-10s this year, and despite the fact I am disappointed he missed the cut this week, I think there has been an overreaction to that in his price this week, and 200/1 is very fair. If he can get off to a good start, I envisage him sticking around for the weekend, and putting pressure on those in and around the lead.

He is a competent links player, as he has proved – not only with his two top-5s in past Open’s, but also strong performances in both the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship and the Scottish Open in the past couple of years.

It’s hard to tell whether he’s ready to win a major, considering he still only has one European Tour victory to his name, but at the price I am willing to find out.

I am desperate for a bit more luck this week, as once again we narrowly missed out on a very good week with both Stephen Gallacher and Robert Karlsson (both 50/1 shots) going very well in the Scottish Open. Justin Rose executed his final round to perfection, and therefore gave no one behind much hope.

Once again, I am very much looking forward to attending this event and I will try my best to post updates via my Twitter – @TJacobsGolf over the weekend.

*Betfair Sportsbook are paying 8 places

Bet365, PaddyPower and William Hill are all paying 7 places

So if your selections are available at the right odds for you, at these bookies then it’s best to go there and take advantage of the extra places. Apart from those, every other firm is paying 6 places.

I may return tomorrow with one more selection as a couple of players just missed out.

Best of luck with your bets this week!