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The Open Championship Preview/Tips

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After what can only be described as one of the most disappointing weeks to date for me last week, I am very much looking forward to the start of the 142nd Open Championship. Last week we saw two of our selections, Branden Grace (50/1) in the Scottish Open lose to Phil Mickelson in a play off, only to then later on suffer the same result in America as Zach Johnson lost out in the John Deere Classic, in a play off against Jordan Spieth and David Hearn, Spieth the eventual winner. This is nothing short of devastating and it’s a memory I want to erase very quickly, and I hope the Open does just that this week. Let’s look at what we can expect this week at the Open Championsip, hosted by Muirfield.

All the players will now have arrived in Scotland for this years third major championship, and all will be hoping to give their best showing at a course that will provide a great challenge for everyone concerned. The last time the Open was held here at Muirfield was in 2002, when South African and current Open holder Ernie Els was victorious. Els’ has an illustrious record in the Open Championship, with his two wins (2002, 2012) as well as 3 top 5’s and a further two top 10’s in between, and all the signs suggest he could go well again this year. Not only has Els got a terrific record and the Open, and this course, but he is also comes into the week off the back of some great form, including a great win at the BMW International Open. He did miss the cut last week in the Scottish Open, but this shouldn’t be a problem for ” The Big Easy” who came T52 in the same event last year before being crowned Open Champion at Royal Lytham & St Annes. In short at 33/1 (Coral) it’s pretty difficult to ignore a player of Els’ stature, in an event he clearly loves and he’s definitely one to consider looking at the top of the market.

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The market leaders for the event are pretty much as expected, with the obvious favourite being none other than Tiger Woods, who comes in at a top price of 10/1 (PaddyPower & Ladbrokes) followed by a cluster of three players at 20/1, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson. After the two previous majors this year were won by Scott and Rose, this was to be expected, with Mickelson edging his way in after a great win at the Scottish Open last week. Maybe somewhat surprisingly for some World No. 2 Rory McIlroy  has slipped out of favour in terms of betting and is available to back at 28/1 for most however this probably doesn’t come as such a shock, as Rory has yet to show signs of consistent form so far this season and he will need to find his best this week to conquer Muirfield. With two strong major champions this year, and a four win year for Tiger so far, it’s added to value lower down in the market, and I’m happy to exploit that. Let’s look at what players will have to deal with in order to oppose the big four, and why players might look a big price before the off.

The Course: Muirfield, 7,245 yards, Par 71. As previously mentioned Muirfield hosted the 2002 Open Championship, however since then there have been some amendments made to the course itself, with a little over 200 yards being added, in order to allow extra pin positions. For all changes made click on this link to explore the layout http://www.muirfield.org.uk/the-course.aspx.  This is the first time the new layout will be put to the test, and it should provide a suitable challenge for all players taking part in this years Open. Looking at stats it’s hard to pinpoint one main thing that stands out, although Driving Accuracy has been touted as more important than ever. The rough is set to provide a stern test for any of the players missing the fairways off the tee, so it may be something to bear in mind when looking a potential winner of the event. History suggests that this can be overcome however and things like Putting and Greens in Regulation are again thrown into the spotlight. Ernie Els ranked 72nd in Putting last year to combat that argument, but did finish atop the Greens in Regulation statistic so it’s a hard event to decipher. In my opinion it’s best to look at players with an all round solid game, whilst they may not excel in any one area, they should have some good experiences on links golf courses and hopefully a good history in the Open Championship itself. With the weather looking looking calm for the week it could be easier to score, and this may not favour the players, who may rise above others in tough conditions, so again bare that in mind when your looking at when and why players performed well.

Defending Champion: Ernie Els. Most of what’s needed to be said about Ernie Els has been said already, and this is just a section to reiterate the point. Last year Els snatched the Claret Jug from Adam Scott’s grasp as Scott failed to finish well enough, after Els posted a clubhouse lead at -7. Scott bogeyed the last four holes on his way to a final round 75 and Els after posting a 68 walked away with both hands on the trophy. This is a key part of Ernie’s game, he never gives in, which he again showed at the previous major, the U.S Open at Merion. I loved this quote from him this year as he looks set to defend his title “I don’t want to give back the Jug. I’m going to give it back to Mr. Dawson, but I’m going to hang on to one ear of it.”  This for me sums up Els perfectly and he’s got to be fancied to feature yet again this time around. The extra yards added to the course won’t phase “The Big Easy” and I cannot see reasons to rule him out.

The Open Championship often throws up a surprise winner, especially when looking at the likes of Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton, however Muirfield itself has hosted the event fifteen times in it’s history and the roll of honour is quite extraordinary. The likes of Ernie Els, Henry Cotton, Nick Faldo and Tom Watson are Open winners at Muirfield, so you’d tend to think that it will in fact be a class player that wins this time around, and less of a surprise compared to past editions of the event, and this is something I’ve kept in mind when making my selections.

Much of this preview has been spent talking about a select few players, and also what happened at Muirfield in 2002 and Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 2012. In my selections I will give a more detailed view as to why I’m picking each player and look deeply into each individuals chances. I really want to get this major right, after falling just shy in the last two attempts. In both the Masters and the U.S Open we had great chances of winning, with Brandt Snedeker sharing the 54-hole lead with Angel Cabrera and Charl Schwartzel starting just one back of Phil Mickelson heading into the final round at the U.S Open. With all this in mind here are the players I’ve chosen to break my major duck and bring you as much profit as possible in this years Open Championship.

Ernie Els 33/1 (Coral 1-5) 28/1 (Bet365 & PaddyPower 1-7) 3pts e/w: I’ve spent 50% or more of this preview already talking about this man, and I cannot leave him out. With two wins, five top 5’s and two further top 10s since 2000 is Els one of the best Open Championship players? Yes he is. Of course you have Tiger Woods who has four wins in the event, but apart from him, Els is top of that list, in terms of players that can compete this week. Both Tom Watson (five wins) and Nick Faldo (3 wins) are in the field this week, but it’s going to be more than a reach for them to win this week, whereas Els can definitely get another major win under his belt. To me although Tiger has four wins already this year, Els comes in better prepared for this event, with his recent win and good performance at Merion. In contrast Woods had a very disappointing week at Merion and has since rested what has been cited as an elbow injury, so it’s difficult to tell what shape he comes into this week in. On paper the only thing going against Els this week is his missed cut last week at the Scottish Open, but I never expected him to go well there, and it doesn’t concern me in the slightest ahead of this week. He’s already won at Muirfield and has the game to win pretty much any tournament you can think of, so this is far from beyond him and at 33/1 he looks to be great value, especially when looking above him in the market. It will be tough to not only defend his title, but go back to back at the same venue, but for me Els is one of the select few players who can do that and I’m confident he will be involved come the weekend. The Open tends to favour the experienced player and Ernie Els is the epitome of experienced golfers and I cannot looks past him. Els is my top selection for the week.

Brandt Snedeker 40/1 (PaddyPower 1-7) 2pts e/w: Yes Snedeker again, for a third major in a row! Brandt Snedeker is player that I’m obviously refusing to lose faith in, and his price keeps on sucking me back in. Up until recently Snedeker had actually dropped out of my Open plans altogether, and there was only one tournament left for him to change that. The AT&T National, and there you have it, he finished T8, and showed some great signs that again restored the faith. He looks primed for a major win, and looks as if it’s a case of when not if, and I really do give him a great chance here at Muirfield. He has already got a win this season, at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and that win is another significant part in him being part of my plans this week. Pebble Beach is a links golf course, and he played it absolutely perfectly, dealing with the pressure of being a firm favourite very well. It’s been made public knowledge that Snedeker suffers from a disorder called “low bone turnover” which explains his recurring rib injury and coincides with his poor form. He said he was battling through the pain when he won at Pebble Beach, and hopefully now with his new course of medication, the worst is behind him. His T8 last time out is very encouraging, and it was then key to look at his past form in the Open Championship, which gives off mixed vibes. Although Snedeker has played the Open championship just four times, he has missed three cuts, but most recently, and in my eyes most importantly finished T3 in 2012. This was the start of Snedeker’s rise in the world golf, and has since then won the FedEx cup play off event, the Tour Championship, which coincidently saw him win the 2012 FedEx Cup earning him $10m , before winning again early this year at Pebble Beach. He began 2013 with three top-3 finishes and if he can find anything close to that form here, coupled with last years Open finish he’s going to be a very interesting bet this week. Even with his injuries and Justin Rose and Adam Scott’s major wins he has still stayed in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings (8th) and that just highlights his tremendous consistency. At 40/1 to me you’re betting on whether he’s fully fit going into the week, if he is he has the perfect game for Muirfield, placing 3oth in Driving Accuracy, 16th in Strokes-Gained Putting and 16th in Greens in Regulation, so he fits the all round game. A fully fit Brandt Snedeker features at the weekend for me, and I cannot see him being too far away come Sunday.

Dustin Johnson 45/1 (PaddyPower 1-7) 2pts e/w: Much like Snedeker, this will be the third major in a row that I’ve picked Dustin Johnson, and I am a firm believer that he will win a major very soon, and when he does more will follow. Johnson has had a rough time of it in majors so far in his career, with three legitimate chances of winning one so far in his career. He came T2 in this event in 2011, three shots behind eventual winner Darren Clarke,which was partly down to Johnson shooting +2 (72)  in the final round, his only round over par all week. Then came his chance at the U.S Open, in 2010, where he went into the final round with a three-shot cushion, only to surrender that with a poor start to his round, then came heartbreak as later that year in the PGA Championship Johnson finished with a bogey, which was thought to be good enough to make the play off with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer, only to find out he had been given a 2-shot penalty on after grounding his club in a “bunker” on the 18th. Dustin felt very hard done by as he though he was playing from a normal area, only to find out later on he was actually in a hazard. Enough of the past why am I picking Dustin this week? Well he can definitely play links golf, he is a two time winner at Pebble Beach, as well as three very good showings in the Open Championship itself. After missing the cut in 2009, Dustin has posted finishes of T14, T2 and T9 and I can certainly see him playing well again this time around. With his length off the tee, his accuracy is always going to come into the question, but with the suggested benign conditions this week, this could be Johnson’s best chance of winning an Open Championship and I really hope he can do it. He is a player that deserves a major win, much like Adam Scott. He already has six PGA Tour victories in a relatively short career and I’m sure he will continue to build on that in the future. Dustin Johnson completes the trio of player that I’ve picked in the last two majors and I’m hoping the perseverance pays off.

Rickie Fowler 50/1 (PaddyPower 1-7) 2pts e/w: Rickie Fowler is another player that I am a massive fan of, and I firmly believe a major is within his capabilities, especially a British Open. Fowler had a good chance to win the Masters early on this year, but one bad round cost him the opportunity to mount a challenge, and that’s often a story of his game. He is prone to a mistake, whether it be down to being over aggressive or just a lapse in concentration he does tend to throw in a costly error, and if he can go four rounds without that, he could challenge in most events. His T3 at Augusta doesn’t quite highlight how well he did actually play in parts, and he backed that week up, with a T10 finish at the U.S Open, again proving he has the pedigree to challenge on the big stage. If the wind gets up Fowler will fancy his chances as much as any, after his strong performance in such conditions at the Open Championship back in 2011, where he eventually finished T5. Apart from that T5 in 2011, Fowler has also T14 the year before in 2010 and T31 last year so he can certainly negotiate the links type courses, and I wouldn’t like to rule him out this week. Much like D.Johnson and Snedeker I think it’s a matter of when not if, that he will win his major and he should come into this week full of confidence. Since his T10 at Merion in the U.S Open, Fowler has two top-25 finishes, firstly his T13 at the Travelers Championship, as well a T21 at the AT&T National, so he certainly isn’t out of form at present. At 50/1 he is worth keeping in mind and I hope he can continue his good form in this event.

Nicolas Colsaerts 66/1 (PaddyPower 1-7) 1.5pts e/w: I’m going to start Colsaerts’ section with a bit of a moan, that I will try my best to justify for you. Had Colsaerts of stayed on the European Tour this year I’d almost stick my neck on the line and say he would of won an event by now, with his best chances passed up to play in America. He has only made three performances on the European Tour excluding majors and WGC’s and that for me is a decision that has not worked out for the Belgian bomber. He came T8 last week in Scotland, T24 at Wentworth and T9 at the Volvo Golf Champions, all good results. Had he of played the Volvo China Open (Defending Champion) the Alstrom De France (good record) he may of come away with another victory to his name, instead he picked to plow away on the PGA Tour. Don’t get me wrong, he had to take the opportunity to play in the States, he’s not at the start of his career and is now most probably at the peak of his game, so he took the opportunity given, but for me he could of split his time better. Having said this he did finish T8 at the Zurich Classic, his only top-10 of the year and 21st in the AT&T National so he’s had a couple of good weeks, I  just think he should take advantage of his European experience and compete over this side of the pond to stand a better chance of winning. He finished T10 at the U.S Open, that result and the way he played in Scotland has really made me take notice of his form and you pair that with his Open Championship performance last year and you’ve got another solid pick. He has only made the Open field twice, the first time he missed the cut back in 2004, but his T7 last year is enough to show that he has improved greatly since then. If he can find the fairway regularly this week, possibly by avoiding the Driver then I think he’ll stand in good stead for a chance this week. At 66/1 he seems fairly priced and his recent form has convinced me to take a chance.

Chris Wood 150/1 (WilliamHill 1-7) 1pt e/w: Chris Wood is a player that may just of achieved more than what he has to date if it wasn’t for injuries, and I still think he can go on and fulfil his potential. Wood has a superb record at the Open Championship, playing three times, finishing T5 as an amateur in 2008, then a year later 3rd as a pro, and then missed the cut in 2010 and has not played since. Since those three attempts Wood has become a winner, and this can only boost his confidence coming into this week. He got his first professional win in August 2012, winning the Thailand Open on the Asian Tour, he followed this up with another victory in January of this year at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters, where he eagled the last hole to avoid a three-way play-off with George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia. So with two wins under his belt since his fine showings at this event, Wood seems in better shape this time around to compete, providing he can comfortably play four rounds. The worst nightmare for any betting man is to see there player play through an injury, and ultimately not compete and I’m hoping this is not the case at Muirfield this week. He did make the cut at the Scottish Open last week, and finished T57 after a poor final round 76.  I’m not too concerned about his fitness as I think he’d want to come into the week fully fit, and if he his fully fit 150/1 on this guy may just be the pick of the value.

Total points staked this week:

Profit/Loss for 2013: + 102.65

I cannot help but feel hard done by at the moment, two play off losses this past weekend really has deflated the mood, as that would of taken us to a great tally this season. The main disappointment so far however has been the majors, coming so close, yet so far, and I’m hoping my luck can finally change here at Muirfield. The players above should give us a great run, and I find it hard to see them all failing to challenge, in fact I expect a strong challenge from most. This could be a great week, and if all else fails at least it will be a fantastic week of golf. Enjoy the Open Championship this week and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8