145th Open Championship Preview

145th Open Championship
Royal Troon Golf Club
14-17 July 2016

Introduction

This Open is an intriguing prospect to me with more serious contenders than usual as the battle to be golf’s post-Tiger Alpha-dog resumes.

The Open is this year played on my least favoured among the courses in the modern rotation. Royal Troon is dull, unimaginative (the postage stamp hole aside) and completely lacking charisma.

The description of George Peper, the original creator of the World’s Top100 courses, is more concise than mine: "Six dull holes, six interesting holes, six dull holes." I think he was being generous!

Anyway, I’ve been asked to find some betting value for loyal OnThePunt users. So, here goes.

Longshot Winners & American Dominance

The bookmakers would have us believe this is a four-horse race with: Rory, Jason, Jordan & Dustin all priced shorter than 11/1 (12.00) and nobody else even close.

However, last year’s Open Championship again reminded us that longshots can win this Major. And they do, often! Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink, Todd Hamilton & Ben Curtis have all been longshot Open winners since 2003.

Zach Johnson last year was 80/1 – 125/1 with bookmakers pre-event and Royal Troon, notably, has thrown up only longshot winners in recent iterations - all of them American. The past three were:

Mark Calcavecchia (1989);
Justin Leonard (1997) and;
Todd Hamilton (2004).

In fact, Americans have won all Royal Troon Opens since 1950!

This suggests that Troon is less of an obstacle to US-raised players than other Open venues. Second in those three most recent Troon Opens were, respectively: Greg Norman, Darren Clarke & Ernie Els, great links players, all of them. Nobody on the planet would have been surprised had all three results been reversed, yet those unheralded americans prevailed!

The Course & The Weather

So, what of this Troon track? It’s a heavily bunkered, out-and-back, traditional Scottish links. It’s exposed to the wind, has the usual penal rough in places and is barely long enough at 7,064yds to challenge players. No clues there for unheralded American success!

It’s the 2nd easiest of the courses in the Open rotation; only St Andrews is easier; americans have won four of the past five there, by the way.

The long-range weather forecast tells us that it’ll likely be rain-free after Thursday, the temperature comfortable enough at around 16 degrees and the wind at a modest 11mph. This brings more americans into contention than the icy, rainy or windy weather from which Opens can suffer.

However, Scottish weather can play havoc with a player’s mind and his chances (eg bad weather Thursday afternoon & Friday morning), so re-check that forecast closer to tee-off before outlaying your hard-earned!

Provided that forecast holds, and given the overwhelming US win history at Troon, along with predicted benign conditions, I’m tipping another american winner this year and, of course, he’s a longshot.

Top of the Bookmaker Market

9.00 Jason Day
10.00 Dustin Johnson
11.00 Rory Mcilroy
12.00 Jordan Spieth
23.00 Branden Grace & Adam Scott
29.00 Sergio Garcia & Rickie Fowler
Less than 50’s Stenson, Rose, Oosthuizen & Lowry
Around 50’s Kaymer, Westwood, Mickelson & Willett.

Potting the Favourites

Jason Day has been the best player in the world for the past year, with 7 wins in top company, and looks the most likely winner among the four faves, though he’s only once finished better than 30th in five Open starts. For that reason alone he cannot be recommended at 8/1.

Dustin Johnson is probably now a far more dangerous animal, with that Major monkey off his back, and is a worthy 2nd fave here. Impossible though for me to recommend a player at 9/1 who has a long track record of blowing Majors when the heat is on.

Rory McIlroy has seemed incapable of concentrating hard enough to string four good rounds together this year and is perhaps priced about right, but given that absence of sustained focus he simply can’t be recommended at 10/1.

Jordan Spieth is clearly a notch below his stellar 2015 form and can’t be recommended at his odds of 11/1. Like Rory he has a disappointingly low output of just one win since January.

Adam Scott has a wonderful 15xTop10’s in Majors, including that one win. He’ll be thereabouts, I suspect, but he cannot be recommended as short is 22/1. In any Major, to be honest.

There’s been a lot of buzz about Branden Grace’s upward career trajectory, especially with three Major Top5’s in the past year or so, but he’s never finished better than 20th in an Open Championship and 22/1 about him is no more appetising than it is for Scotty.

Tips

Clearly my top selection had to be an American who is not one of the favourites; it’s Patrick Reed who’s widely available at 67.00. He’s behind only Dustin Johnson for Top10’s on Tour this season, performed exceptionally well (unbeaten in a losing team) as a rookie in the 2014 Ryder Cup, in Scotland, and played well while re-acclimating in the Scottish Open.

25-y-o Reed hasn’t won for the past 18 months but had four runners-up during that stretch, so he hasn’t been far away. An Open win this week would continue the strong trend in recent years of youth challenging, and often beating, experience in the Majors. He’s already the youngest ever winner of a WGC event and a Major is all that’s required to round out an exceptional cv at a young age.

My recommended Top20 bet is Richard Sterne who has been steadily returning to form in 2016 after a slow recovery from a back / hip injury. At age 34 it’s not too late to repair a terrible Major record (no Top10’s) and, though I cannot see him contending for victory, he is good enough if healthy to snag a Top20 at a value price – anything better than 9/1 (10.00).

My equal top longshot is 23-y-o up-and-coming Argentine, Emiliano Grillo.

Talk about career trajectory! From 4th in the Western Amateur in 2011 into a solid 1st pro year in 2012 that included a 5th in Perth, to Top10’s at Gleneagles & the Italian Open in 2013, then Top10’s in Dubai & the BMW International and a win in his home Argentine Open in 2014, progressing on to consecutive wins: the WebCom tour Championship & the Frys.com Open late in 2015 - followed by a 4th in the European Tour’s Dubai Tour finale.

Progression indeed! Playing more or less exclusively at the top level in 2016, his most meritorious results thus far have been: 17th at The Masters, 11th at Memorial & 14th at WGC Bridgestone. I see no reason why he can’t continue his super progress and finish at least Top20 here. Grab anything better than 13/2 (7.50) for a Top20!

For those seeking a value Top10 bet, and to extend my ‘american theme’, I recommend the uniquely talented Bubba Watson at anything better than 5/1 (6.00). He’s shown nothing in his previous Open starts; Troon surely offers him his best opportunity to date.

Cheers and good luck with your golf punting!

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