The Open Championship is the oldest major in the world and is even more special this year as it is being played on the Old Course at St Andrews, the home of golf. However, the championship will be devalued if as expected Rory McIlroy does not play. He injured his ankle playing football with some friends but it beggars belief that he was doing something physical two weeks ahead of the biggest golf tournament for five years. The mate responsible for crocking the world number one must feel awful.
St Andrews has generous fairways and favours the big hitters. Its main defences in still conditions are the cavernous bunkers and huge double greens. The course is a par 72 but there are only two par 5s and two par 3s. The challenge is totally different if the wind blows which it often does. The draw could be significant as the Open does not have a two-tee system. From hour to hour the course can change in terms of degree of difficulty so the draw is crucial. A player can be unlucky on the first two days but conversely can play in the best of the weather on Thursday and Friday.
There have been 28 Opens at St Andrews and eight since 1970. Recent course winners include some of the greats and Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have won two Opens on the Old Course. In the absence of McIlroy Jordan Spieth is in a stronger position to keep the calendar year Grand Slam dream alive. He is trying to become just the second player to win the first three majors of the season and the first ever to win all four in the same year. Class could compensate for lack of experience of the Old Course and links golf in general.
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This looks a two-horse race between Adam Scott and Jason Day and the former has the better links golf form and experience. Scott blew a great chance of winning the Open in 2012 but responded by winning the US Masters the following season. Day has contended in several majors but not got in the mix in the British Open and Scot can outscore his compatriot and fellow Australians over 72 holes. The former was last seen struggling with vertigo at the US Open but the east coast of Scotland is unlikely to inflame the condition and Scott could be the bigger danger.
Hideki Matsuyama has dominated this market in recent majors but Byeong-Hun An is now a viable alternative. He won the BMW Championship at Wentworth in May which attracts the strongest field in Europe outside the Open. An’s game is suited to St Andrews so he looks to have more in his favour than Matsuyama and could become the next Asian to win a major. He certainly has the temperament and ability to contend in this year’s Open and delight millions of golf fans back home.
(without Britain and Ireland)
Sergio Garcia has had some near misses in the Open and is still trying to win that elusive first major. He was philosophical about finishing second behind McIlroy at Hoylake last year. He did northing wrong except to come up against the best player in the world on top of his game. Garcia looks a good bet to be the top player from Continental Europe but winning his first major again looks beyond him. El Nino can win top European honours but he is not ready to become El Hombre in the context of major championship golf.
Top US Player
Dustin Johnson is a back-up bet to be top US player if Jordan Spieth can’t handle the pressure of the situation and demands of the course. He came close to winning the US Open on a links type layout and finished tied 14th in the 2010 Open at the home of golf. Johnson heads the charts for driving distance on the US PGA Tour and big hitting is a plus at St Andrews playing into generous fairways even on adjacent holes. He had a sabbatical from the game for six months to address some personal issues and winning the Open at St Andrews would be the ideal antidote.
Miguel-Angel Jimenez is the most youthful senior playing in the Open and the latest to win a regular event away from the Seniors circuit. Most of the other senior contenders are ceremonial former winners having a last hurrah but the Spanish veteran is still competitive on the younger man’s Tour. He has the fitness and ability to outscore the rest of over-50s at St Andrews where making the cut could be enough to win this market.
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European odds can be found at British bookmakers William Hill
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