Open Championship Betting Preview

Courtesy: myophoto

Courtesy: myophoto

Ernie Els is at Muirfield Golf Links in Scotland for the third major of the year, as he looks to defend his title at the 142nd Open Championship.
 
2013 Open Championship Fact Sheet

  • Course: Muirfield Golf Links
  • Location: East Lothian, Scotland
  • Yardage: 7,192 yards, par 71
  • Defending Champion: Ernie Els
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Adam Scott and Graeme McDowell

TV Schedule:

  • Thursday – 4:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Friday – 4:00 AM to 3:00 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Saturday – 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM ET (ESPN)
  • Sunday – 6:00 AM to 1:30 PM ET (ESPN)

Key Storyline(s) This Week
 
As always when coming into a major, there are many storylines at play, so let’s take a quick look at a few of them:

  • Tiger Woods’ pursuit of a 15th major: Here we are again, still five years removed from the last time that Woods won a major at the 2008 U.S. Open, and all eyes are going to be on him. He says the elbow he injured at the PLAYERS Championship is pretty much 100%, so that shouldn’t be an issue this week.
  • Another major breakthrough?: Adam Scott and Justin Rose both won their first majors this year, long after we had expected them to. Will it happen again at Muirfield? Players like Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker are all looking for that win.
  • Phil Mickelson: After winning the Scottish Open last week, he says that he thinks he has a better idea of links golf than ever before. Considering his track record, that’s not really saying much, but hey, he’s confident this week. He’s still looking for his first Open.
  • English winner?: Rose, Westwood, Donald and Ian Poulter make up arguably the strongest contingent that English golf has produced in a long while. All four are in the top-20 of the Official World Golf Rankings, and all of them, save for Rose, are looking for their long awaited first major championship. Keep in mind that the last English winner of the Open was Nick Faldo, way back in 1992, right here at Muirfield.

Muirfield Golf Links
 
Muirfield is one of the game’s most historic landmarks, having been around since the late 1800’s, and is a favourite of many of the players who are competing this week. Be prepared to hear the word “fair” quite a bit this week, as most of the guys seem to think that the course is the most fair of the current courses in the Open rota, thanks to the lack of blind shots. One little quirk about the course is that the front nine is played in a clockwise direction, while the back nine intersects with the front in a counter-clockwise direction, meaning that the players will typically have a completely different wind direction coming at them off of the North Sea on every hole. This can make it very difficult for the players if they don’t adjust, as it’s not something that they ever see.
 
The rest of the course is a typical links course in that it will play very dry and hard, so few Mickelson-esque flops will be attempted this week. It’s all about keeping it low, and utilizing the massive undulations in both the fairways and on the greens to the player’s advantage. It’s often said that playing links golf is more about what you avoid than what you hit, and that’s certainly the case at Muirfield. If the players are a little offline and carom from the fairway and into a deep hazard, say the fescue or one of the 150 bunkers on the course, life is going to be very difficult. One other thing to note about the track is the amount of quality winners it has produced. Fifteen Opens have been held here in the past, and this is the list of players who have come away victorious:

  • 1892: Harold Hilton
  • 1896: Harry Vardon
  • 1901: James Braid
  • 1906: James Braid
  • 1912: Ted Ray
  • 1929: Walter Hagen
  • 1935: Alf Perry
  • 1948: Henry Cotton
  • 1959: Gary Player
  • 1966: Jack Nicklaus
  • 1972: Lee Trevino
  • 1980: Tom Watson
  • 1987: Nick Faldo
  • 1992: Nick Faldo
  • 2002: Ernie Els

Of the thirteen players on that list, only two (Ray and Perry) are not in the World Golf Hall of Fame. So, keep that in mind when placing your wagers this week.
 
Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Tiger Woods: I’m not sure if we can believe Woods when he says that his elbow is fine, but when we last saw him, he was of the opinion that he was going to be ready for the Open, so that’s really all we have to go on. The last time the Open was here in 2002, he had a chance to win going into the weekend, but ballooned with an 81 on Saturday in some of the worst conditions to ever hit a golf course. That round is still his highest score as a professional to date, but the other three rounds were solid. Keep in mind that this is someone who has still won four times on the PGA Tour this season.
  • Phil Mickelson: I honestly never thought I’d see the day again where Mickelson would be listed as the number two favourite going into the Open, but that’s what a win on a links course will do for you. He’s supremely confident with where he is right now, but it’s hard to put a lot of faith in the guy considering he’s only finished in the top-10 at this tournament twice in nineteen starts, plus it’s very difficult to win in back-to-back weeks. I hope he’s in the hunt all week, but I just don’t see it.
  • Justin Rose: Rose first came onto the scene in 1998 at the Open as an amateur at Royal Birkdale when he holed out from the rough on 18 to finish tied for fourth. Since then, he hasn’t finished inside the top-10 in any Open, which is weird considering how remarkably consistent he usually is. Since the win at Merion, he’s only played once, finishing in a tie for 13th at the Travelers.
  • Adam Scott: Scott struggled in his two most recent outings at the AT&T National and the U.S. Open, and much like Rose, he hasn’t had the best run at the Open in the past. Two top-10’s including last year when he blew up on Sunday and gave the tournament to Els. He’s too good to gloss over, but I really don’t like his chances here based on what I’ve seen in the last few weeks.
  • Graeme McDowell: McDowell’s last seven tournaments read like this: three wins and four missed cuts. He’s one of the most popular picks out there this week, which usually means I’m going to stay away and fade the consensus, but I do think he’s worth a look if you can get him at 25-1. His game is perfectly suited for Muirfield.

Suggested Plays
 
Tiger Woods (Best Odds 10-1 at bwin)
Those of you who read these previews on a regular basis know that I very rarely take the favourite, but I’m not passing up 10-1 odds on Woods this week, which is now widely available online. Yeah, he’s had two rough tournaments in a row, but he’s the most talented player in the field, and like I said above, the 81 here in 2002 came in awful conditions. The other three rounds were solid, especially the final round 65 that got him to within six of Els. I think he breaks the major drought here this week.
 
Sergio Garcia (Best Odds 33-1 at Ladbrokes)
Yes, another major and another mention of Garcia by me in the betting preview, but don’t completely dismiss this. Historically, Garcia has played the best at the Open compared to the other majors, with seven career top-10 finishes, including a T8 here at Muirfield in 2002. Also, it may have been a while ago, but Garcia did win the British Amateur Championship at Muirfield back in 1998 as an 18-year old. He’s still on a run of good form, having finished tied for seventh in his last start in Germany. If he’s going to win a major, the Open is likely his best chance.
 
Lee Westwood (Best Odds 33-1 at Ladbrokes)
The golf world was abuzz this morning with the news that Westwood had apparently hired Sean Foley to be his new coach, and with Foley’s success with Woods and Rose, it makes sense. He’s had some success in the event before, and there’s no doubt that he’s a good enough ball striker to contend in any tournament. It’s the short game and the putter that usually cause him grief, but I like his chances this week, certainly more than the other Englishmen in the field.
 
Charl Schwartzel (Best Odds 44-1 at 32Red)
In eight events at the Open, Schwartzel has been cut five times, but most of those came when he wasn’t one of the best players in the world. Remember, he was in a spot to win the U.S. Open a few weeks ago until a disastrous final round 78. Getting a player of his caliber at 44-1 is a steal.
 
Matteo Manassero (Best Odds 91-1 at 32Red)
Manassero hasn’t been playing great since he won the BMW PGA at Wentworth back in May, but there’s no reason for him to be at this kind of a number. He’s a great putter who doesn’t usually get too wayward off the tee. Of course, that may not matter if he kicks off a hill and into a bunker, but still he shouldn’t be going directly there. He’s played in two Opens, missing the cut in 2011, but taking home low amateur honours back in 2009 with a T13 finish.
 
Graham DeLaet (Best Odds 244-1 at 32Red)
DeLaet is having a great year on the PGA Tour and will be making his first major appearance this week at Muirfield. Usually that’s a sign to stay away, but I’m going on talent and form here, as few players have had a better couple of months than him. He’s a great driver of the golf ball, but the putter usually stands in his way. At 244-1 though, there isn’t much better value in the field this week.
 
Other Notes

  • It’s probably the last time we’ll ever see Nick Faldo tee it up in competition, so get a good glimpse of him while you can. The two-time winner at Muirfield just loves the place, so that’s why he’s going out there this week. He hasn’t played in a tournament in three years.
  • I know some people are hoping for Woods and Garcia to be paired together on the weekend, but how about the potential for Woods to play with Faldo based on Sir Nick’s recent comments? That would be a lovely bit of fun.
  • Really hoping Billy Horschel makes the cut this week, and not just for prime GIF making either. On Sunday, he’s slated to wear the cardigan and tie combo, rarely used these days and last seen worn by Ryan Moore.

Enjoy the Open, everyone.

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