The Open: A Punter’s Guide

The Open Championship is back at St. Andrews and back to the home of golf: the Old Course. It comes back here every five years, Louis Oosthuizen romped home with a seven shot victory margin back in 2010.

The golfing landscape has changed a bit since then, though. Jordan Spieth happened, Rory McIlroy established himself. Players have come and gone, some of the old boys remain; two time Old Course winner (2000 & 2005) Tiger Woods looks like he might be coming back into form. Landscape aside, though, lets plough on with this week’s eagerly anticipated analysis of the main runners and riders.

Can Fowler go one better than last year's second place?
Can Fowler go one better than last year’s second place?
This post will concentrate on my favourite ten picks, a second post  detailing the chances of five outsiders with higher odds will follow. The list will be in descending order, with my favourite pick at no. 1. The order is a balance between a player’s chances and their odds.

Odds displayed are from the betfair exchange and obviously subject to change. You can’t bet EW on the exchange, only to win. Instead you can back a player to get top 5, or top 10. Top 5 pays roughly a 1/3 of that of the odds to win.

Top 10 picks are as follows:

1. Rickie Fowler – 20/1
Second to just McIlory last year I fancy Fowler might go one better this year. He’ll be full of confidence after a win at the Scottish Open last week added to his taking home of the “5th major”, a.k.a. The Players Championship in May. He went six under through the last six holes to make the play-off there. Recent history is on Fowler’s side as each of the last four winners of The Open have played at the Scottish Open the week before. Missed the cut at Chambers Bay at the U.S. Open after a first round 80 something but that’s been the only blip in a real up turn in fortunes since a poor start to the year. 20/1 looks generous.

2. Tommy Fleetwood – 89/1
Who? you ask. 24 year old Fleetwood has a brilliant chance to turn himself into a household name this week. He’s got a fantastic record in Scotland. On his most recent visit to St Andrews he shot a joint course record 62 in last year’s edition of the Alfred Dunhill Links, where he ended up finishing second after a Sunday 68. The Englishman grew up playing links golf while his only European Tour victory came in Scotland.

He played well at the Scottish Open last week before a poor final round saw him finish in a tie for 10th, 4 shots behind Fowler. Played well at Chambers Bay a few weeks ago (T27); surely worth an EW bet at the very least.

3. Jordan Spieth – 7/1
Tough not to put him young Spieth higher but 7/1 seems quite short given the predictable unpredictability of The Open. Coming into the week with white hot form after a career best Saturday 61 at the John Deere Classic set up a victory in a Sunday play-off last week. He followed up his Masters procession with a clutch victory at the U.S. Open. A win this week will send the best putter in the game to world #1 and keep those grand slam hopes very much alive. Some have questioned his Open prep, though, with no other high ranking player teeing it up in what was a classically poor John Deere field the week before.

4. Dustin Johnson – 13/1
Finished 12th last year and has a good Open Championship record. He’s a walking ATM machine and always seems to turn up for the majors. After a mysterious spell on the sidelines last year, DJ has bounced back and currently sits at world #4 after a so far strong season which includes a WGC win in a world class field at Doral. The softer set up after recent rain should suit 6 ft 5 Johnson.

5. Hideki Matsuyama – 43/1

23 year old Matsuyama performs wherever he goes
23 year old Matsuyama performs wherever he goes
Staggering odds for the 23 year old from Japan. The most highly rated Asian golfer for a generation has eight top 10’s from 17 events this season (only Spieth has more) and is widely regarded as one of the best ball strikers on tour. 43/1 looks quite generous as, like Johnson, the softer set up should really play into his hands given his limited links golf experience.

6. Paul Casey – 43/1
37 year old Casey finished 3rd here in 2010 and that’s pretty much the thinking behind a fairly high placing on this list. That and the fact he at last looks back to his best after a rough few years with injury. Looking at the 2010 placings, it suits the high hitter, which Casey certainly is. Has had a good season with a bunch of top 10’s, including a 6th at The Masters and more recently a 2nd place finish at The Travelers, where Bubba Watson cruised to a win on his home course. Holds the course record 62 alongside Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, George Coetzee and Victor Dubuisson.

7. Henrik Stenson – 24/1
The towering Swede finished 3rd alongside Casey here in 2010 and 2nd at the event in 2013. He’s long overdue a major win, especially after finishes of 14th, 4th, 39th and 3rd at least season’s big ones. When he’s on, he’s on. Joint lead the U.S. Open going in to the weekend before fading away but loves the St Andrews track so should go well.

8. Bernd Wiesberger – 99/1
Quite surprised at just how long Austrian Wiesberger is this week. Made his way into a play-off in a top quality Irish Open field before winning the French Open a couple of weeks ago at a inland links course. Didn’t bother teeing it up in Scotland last week so he’s clearly comfortable with his game heading into this week. The 28 year old was 14th at the Dunhill Links last year, a performance which included a weekend 67-68 over the Old Course. I’d have put him in at no. 5 if he had a little more major championship experience.

9. Louis Oosthuizen – 23/1

Oosthuizen cruised to his  victory here in 2010
Oosthuizen cruised to his victory here in 2010
Almost left the little South African off of the list in favour of Shane Lowry but given his slightly stronger showing at the U.S. Open, and his tendency to play his best stuff in the majors, the 32 year old grabs spot #9 here. With the exception of a 19th place at Augusta, he’s barely been outside the top 10 in the big events this season. The current world #17 won his only major here back in 2010, will that prove a help or a hindrance? You’d have to think the previous, wouldn’t you?

10. Branden Grace – 49/1
Again, Shane Lowry was unlucky to miss out, but Grace probably has a better all round game. He won the Alfred Dunhill Links in 2012 (albeit thanks to a 60 on the Thursday) but has performed fairly consistently all year and pushed Spieth all the way at the U.S. Open last month.

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