GOLF GURU Louis Ross (@LouisRoss67) picks out the best value betting opportunities from The Open.
The Open | Thursday-Sunday | Sky Sports 1
156 starters will compete for the 145th Open Championship – yes, you and I are trying our best to find the champion golfer of the year from a field of 156. I hope the information and opinion here will help point you in the right direction.
The Open Championship is often likened to that other paragon of tradition, the US Masters. Unlike Augusta – where half the field aren’t capable of making the cut and the winner is often reasonably well fancied – The Open tends to be much more competitive.
That element of competition is not just down to the quality of the field but other factors that you cannot hope to quantify. The weather, the draw and to be brutally honest when it comes to links golf, just some good old fashioned luck.
Luck is a factor in any sport. It generally evens itself out as they say but in a four day event, there often isn’t time for that.
Shots that pitch on the green and end six-feet from the pin on your bog standard PGA course can be six-inches left of where they need to be and roll 100 feet away. It is incredibly easy for a pitch that deserves to end in a birdie resulting in a double bogey.
I guarantee that no matter who you back, there will be that moment when your man gets absolutely shafted by a gust of wind or a bad bounce.
Links golf is viewed by many traditionalists as the purest form of the game. That is up for debate but what links does do is level the playing field. Length off the tee is no real advantage on any Open course, but particularly on a Par 71 of just over 7,000 yards.
Make-Up Of An Open Champion
Have a look at recent champions – three of the last five were aged 40 or over. Amateurs and young players have regularly threatened the top of the leaderboard and like Justin Rose at 18 finished in the top-five.
Tom Watson came within a whisker of winning at the age of 59. A year earlier, Greg Norman had his last great hurrah on the way to a third-placed finish aged 53.
There is no identikit winner of the world’s oldest Major. There is also no other tournament where I would recommend in-play betting as much as a pre-tournament pick.
Knowing how the course is likely to play is a huge advantage as bookmakers always react, in my opinion, too quickly to players picking up shots. Picking up three or four shots on the opening nine can give the impression that Player A is in a much better position than Player B who is sat in the clubhouse on level par.
I see Troon playing very differently on each nine. That is an advantage to be used and I will be tweeting about it during play. I will be more than happy if I see a couple of lesser-known names getting a quick start. That can add a point or two to pre-tournament picks.
The outward nine here will certainly present the best birdie chances. The first four in particular offer drivable par 4s and I would not be at all surprised to see some players pick up four shots here.
Holes 5 to 9 feature a par-3, a 601-yard reachable par-5, the third easiest hole on the course the par-4 seventh and then Troon’s trademark – the par-3 eighth is known as The Postage Stamp.
Just 123-yards but when you see the size of the green, it’s name will become clear. Go into one of the cavernous bunkers surrounding the flat surface and like Tiger in 2004 you will be lucky to escape with a six. This hole messes with your head; like the 12th at Augusta or the 17th at Sawgrass. It is so much less than it looks but even the best tremble when they approach.
Holes 10 to 12 are the three hardest and will gouge many a hopefuls scorecard. Anyone that can play 13 to 18 in par will be happy, although the par-5 16th is the easiest hole on the course. Still, hit a loose shot and a certain four becomes a six or worse.
At the head of the market, the big three has all of a sudden become a big four. I will be quite open with you at this point – if you have backed any of the market leaders, I could not disagree with you. At their best, each of them could run away with any tournament. This elite is separated by incredibly small margins.
Jason Day (9/1 Bet365) has played some of the most brilliant and consistent golf I have ever seen in the last 12 months. He has gone off the boil very slightly but that is only to be expected – nobody can play like that for too long. Day’s ‘off the boil’ still had him well in contention over the last two Sundays.
I backed Rory McIlroy (10/1 Ladbrokes) earlier in the year for this but he has been incredibly inconsistent and his US Open performance verged on the bizarre. What’s put me off McIlroy has been his long absences.
Fully recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of St Andrews last year, his win at the Irish Open recently was followed up by one ‘appearance’ at Oakmont and then nothing. He has played less than anyone of note in 2016. I don’t see that as anything but a disadvantage for Rory.
He will be fresh no doubt but he’s hardly been in the kind of form that would inspire you to believe in his chances this week or allow him to take yet another holiday. The guy has faults in his game and he needs to be actually out on the golf course to fix them.
Jordan Spieth (12/1 Ladbrokes) is possibly the value bet of the four. As big as 12/1, you would have struggled to get 7s just a few weeks ago.
Jordan is an incredibly talented player. His long game does not compare to his three big rivals but apart from Tiger in his prime, Spieth is by a distance the best putter I have ever seen.
That gets Spieth so many wins and the only reason I can see for his current price is how inconsistent he has been off the tee. He is likely to handle conditions better than Day and his ability to vary the flight of the ball could be a big advantage here.
I would be all over Jordan if I had not been floored by the play of Dustin Johnson (9/1 Bet365) recently.
Big statement alert. DJ has driven the ball better than I have ever seen anyone off the tee in the last six weeks or so. His short game and putting have gone to another level.
I wrote in an earlier Major preview that although I could not bring myself to pick him, if he ever did win a Major he would probably win a few more fairly quickly. DJ is a powerhouse but he’s added a finesse to his game that I did not know was there.
That US Open victory at Oakmont and all the drama that went with it has made the big guy look a foot taller. His follow up at Firestone a fortnight ago was even more impressive. Five shots off the lead towards the end of Round 3, I backed him at odds of 30/1. To be honest, he won it with some ease.
Helped by a rare Jason Day collapse on the back nine, Dustin has a new found backbone and aggression in his play. Remember DJ led at St Andrews last year until asked to perform in unplayable conditions.
There is no secret in the fact that the value in DJ has gone and I don’t expect many of you to plunge in at 9/1 but if you are patient and there are a few good scores early on, you may get something closer to 12s – now that would be value.
I think DJ will win. It’s that simple and I would probably still back him at shorter than 9/1 (Bet365). You may get the idea I’m quite keen on my pick this week.
Best Of The Rest
A note of caution. I was almost as confident last week in the next man on my list. Branden Grace (30/1 Bet365) was an incredibly confident choice at the Scottish Open.
It is doing no favour to me by saying that after 12 holes of the 3rd Round I was feeling quite smug. Grace was a shot off the lead, playing near perfect links golf and looking like the best 12/1 bet I had ever made.
Not quite so smug six holes and five bogies later. I still cannot explain what happened to Grace after that – from -10 to a finish of -4 on Sunday. But I have been keen on Grace for this since last year’s US Open.
The South African has won many tournaments in his own country on links-style courses and there is also an element of that in Qatar where he took his second victory in January. I still think there is some value in his 30/1 price and I am going to stick with my man.
Patrick Reed (70/1 888) is a man that I have said many times this year is a step away from winning. His closing pair of 67s at Castle Stuart was incredibly encouraging.
Americans always win at Royal Troon – there’s not been a non-American winner since 1950. There are many opportunities this weekend amongst the ranks of those from the other side of the pond but few would have the qualities of Reed.
We often consider how a player would react if he had a chance on the back nine on Sunday. Think back to the Ryder Cup and Reed has balls – big ones.
He may not be a Major champion but famously told the world that he was a top-five in the world player. That was at a point where he wasn’t ranked in the top-50 let alone five.
He’s a confident man is Patrick. I kind of like him after thinking exactly the opposite for a long time.
Danny Lee (125/1 Ladbrokes) has appeared here quite a few times often letting us down. My timing with this guy has never been great but I do like him.
There is a theme with all of my picks this week. I like watching them. I rate them. There is no way I can bombard you with stats. We don’t play links very often and there has to be a little bit of faith in any bet you or I make this week.
So why do I like the Kiwi? Do I want to back a more talented player like Bubba at 80/1 that absolutely hates this type of game and confesses that it makes him angry? Or a guy who grew up playing golf in rugged New Zealand and was within two shots of winning the Scottish Open last week at 110/1?
Lee is superb value especially where eight places (Paddy Power) are on offer.
Scott Piercy (125/1 BetVictor) is playing some fantastic golf right now. He has had some huge chances recently and is another player in the kind of form that cannot be ignored.
Piercy is always a First Round Leader option as he can get very hot very quickly. If someone is going to go five or six under on the opening nine holes, I would not be surprised were it the guy who has just finished runner-up in both the US Open and WGC Bridgestone.
This time last year, Piercy was winning the Barbasol Championship back on his native PGA Tour. Only his second Open but at such a big price, I cannot resist.
My final pick in outright markets will go to the BMW champion Chris Wood (100/1 888). Top-five finishes as a youngster in the 2008 and 2009 Opens, Wood won at Wentworth last month in the kind of windy conditions he will find here.
Full of confidence right now, I tipped him to win last week where upon he pulled out at the last moment. A small neck injury, that withdrawal was more a precaution. I get the impression that he thinks there is potentially a big week in store for him.
My First Round Leader tips will be very dependent on weather and draw and I will tweet those on Wednesday. A shout out to @casual_mark72 who bagged a 66/1 runner up with Tyrell Hatton last week a week after a 66/1 winner. Outstanding. Have a look at his TL for his tips this week.
The Open – Dustin Johnson to win (9/1 Bet365)
The Open – Branden Grace to win (30/1 each-way Bet365)
The Open – Patrick Reed to win (70/1 each-way 888)
The Open – Danny Lee to win (125/1 each-way Ladbrokes)
The Open – Chris Wood to win (100/1 each-way 888)
The Open – Scott Piercy (125/1 each-way BetVictor)
Eight Paid Places At Paddy Power
Madcap Irish firm Paddy Power are paying eight each-way places at this week’s Open. SkyBet, Coral, William Hill and Betfair are all offering seven places with the majority of other firms standing by the standard six.