With The Open Championship now just weeks away, gambling fans across the globe will be swapping footballs for golf balls in preparation for the season’s third major. This summer’s tournament will return to the Royal Liverpool Golf Club for the first time since 2006. The champion that year, Tiger Woods, will be right among the favourites to win this year’s Open, as he looks to edge closer to Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major titles.
So, who should we be looking out for when 156 of the world’s best players tee off at this year’s Open Championship on July 17 in Liverpool, and who will be worth a cheeky each-way bet with Betfair.
Rory McIlroy 12/1
Despite coming off the back of a fairly dismal 2013, Rory McIlroy has found himself heading into each of this year’s major tournaments among the favourites. The world number seven has been in much better form this year but is still yet to get back to winning ways, without a European or PGA Tour title since 2012.
So far this year, McIlroy finished tied for eighth in the Masters and 23rd in the U.S. Open. After missing the cut in last year’s Open, McIlroy will be determined to make sure he not only makes it through to the weekend, but also that he is still very much in contention for the title by the time the business end of the tournament comes around. The two-time major winner’s best finish at the Open came in 2010 when he finished tied for third.
Adam Scott 16/1
It’s been quite a couple of years for the popular Australian. Adam Scott started 2013 by winning his first major title by clinching the Masters at Augusta, before earning a top-five finish at both The Open and the PGA Championship. 2014 has been another whirlwind year for Scott as he tied-ninth at the U.S. Open before finally replacing Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings.
With Woods now preparing to play his first major of the year since returning from injury, Scott knows that his reign as king will be under real threat over the next few months. A strong showing in Liverpool would only further strengthen Scott’s case to be called the world’s best player and on current form it’s far from hard to envisage the Aussie lifting the championship when the dust has settled.
Tiger Woods 17/1
The three-time Open champion is heading into this year’s tournament in raw shape after a back injury forced him to miss both The Masters and U.S. Open, but there is cause for optimism as the 14-time major winner recently made his return to the course. While Tiger’s return didn’t go as planned – missing the cut at the Congressional Country Club – the American did insist he was feeling positive ahead of The Open despite his struggles. With no more competitive tournaments on Woods’ schedule between now and the start of The Open, it’s fair to say Tiger isn’t heading into the tournament with any real momentum behind him. But as ever with Woods, it would be a brave soul to completely rule out the former world number one of going on and winning his first proper tournament since returning from injury.
Henrik Stenson 16/1
In terms of form, Henrik Stenson will head to The Open right up there with the best. On the back of last year’s unprecedented double, in which the Swede won the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup, Stenson will no doubt be desperate to make the next step and become a major winner.
In what was a sensational 2013, the 38-year old recorded career-best finishes of second and third at The Open and the PGA Championship respectively. After a superb four rounds of golf Muirfield last year, Stenson couldn’t quite do enough to prevent Phil Mickelson from romping his way to the famous Claret Jug. That experience is likely to benefit Stenson this year, though, and the Swedish star remains an excellent betting prospect as he heads into this month’s tournament.
Justin Rose 20/1
The world number eight was always considered to be one of those world class players who might never win a major. Last year’s U.S. Open changed all that, though, as Rose booked his place among the game’s elite by clinching his maiden major in what was a sensational performance at Merion to pip Phil Mickelson by two shots.
The Englishman will head to Liverpool on the back of an impressive playoff victory to win the Quicken Loans National title – his first of the year. His current form, as well as his solid top-15 finishes in the Masters and the U.S. Open means Rose is being tipped by a lot of Betfair fans to be in the mix for this year’s Open title in his home country.
Phil Mickelson 28/1
Defending champion Phil Mickelson starts this year’s Open on the back of some off-course issues that have restricted his playing time over the past couple of months. The lefty’s price of around 28/1 with Betfair has been lengthened by his disappointing season so far. As well as not winning a tournament in 2014, Mickelson’s record in the two majors so far this year is unlikely to give betting fans that much confidence heading into Royal Liverpool. In contrast, Mickelson went into last year’s Open on the back of a second place finish at the U.S. Open and a fairly successful season up until that point.
The five-time major winner should have arguably won more during his career but Tiger Woods went a long way to stealing his compatriot’s thunder by winning everything instead. But there isn’t another player on the Tour who can boast as consistent a record as Mickelson can when it comes to the major tournaments. So, while you may not fancy the American to defend his title this month, Mickelson looks a very good each-way bet.
Dustin Johnson 33/1
Another very tempting each-way bet could be American Dustin Johnson. The world number 15 has had a solid year so far without ever really shining. His fourth place finish at the U.S. Open showed Johnson is getting closer and closer to winning a major. It seems now that it’ll be when rather than if the big hitting 30-year old can step up and win a major.
In an Open which doesn’t have any really obvious favourite, Johnson is one of a number of players who will be heading to Royal Liverpool with the belief they can earn an upset victory.
Bubba Watson 45/1
Despite his relatively long odds, Bubba Watson will arrive at Hoylake as a major contender for the Open championship having recently added a green jacket to his collection with a second Masters title earlier this year. In doing so, Watson became only one of 17 players to win multiple Masters titles in a career.
While Watson has finished runner-up at the US PGA Championship in 2010 and fifth in the US Open in 2007, the American’s best performance at the Open Championship is far less impressive with a tie for 23rd place in 2012 his highest finish so far. His big-hitting loose style may not be suited to links golf but Watson could still be a genuine contender in Liverpool this month and at a price of 45/1 with Betfair, he may well be worth backing.
Thomas Bjorn 47/1
Three years ago, Thomas Bjorn came very close to shocking the world by winning The Open only to come up short and finish fourth. The experienced 43-year old has twice finished tied for second place at The Open, in what is his most successful major tournament. The Dane may be the wrong side of 40 but he certainly isn’t showing any signs of slowing down when it comes to the big tournaments. After finishing eighth in April’s Masters, Bjorn was forced to miss the U.S. Open with injury, but the world number 23-year old is fully fit heading into The Open and could be another outsider to shock a few people this month.
Luke Donald 51/1
Luke Donald’s best chance of winning a major may well have come back in 2011 when he dominated everything except the four majors. While the Englishman is always a relatively decent bet to remain in the running when it comes to the final round of the majors, Donald has so far failed to hold his challenge throughout the duration of a full weekend. Missing the cut at both the Masters and the U.S. Open certainly hasn’t helped bolster Donald’s case to be labelled as a genuine contender in The Open but with that said, the world number five still has everything needed to win a major.
The Long Shot
Miguel Ángel Jimenez 85/1
There aren’t many more popular players on the Tour than Miguel Angel Jimenez. The Spaniard has remained a consistent presence at The Open since making his debut at the tournament in 1991. A tie for third in 2001 remains Jimenez’ best finish at the tournament, with his tie for ninth in 2012 his best finish at The Open in recent years. Despite being 50-years old, Jimenez has, if anything, improved with age and after a brilliant fourth place finish at this year’s Masters, Jimenez picked up his first title of the year when winning the Spanish Open in May after a playoff. It certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the grizzled veteran couldn’t be in the mix come the final round on Sunday.
Hunter Mahan 100/1
Hunter Mahan has been somewhat hit or miss at The Open during his career, as three missed cuts have come between two top-10 finishes this year. The world number 42 isn’t heading into this year’s Open in the greatest form, but this would be an ideal stage for Mahan to prove he is still the same player he was in 2012, when reaching a career-high fourth in the world rankings.
With the Ryder Cup coming up later this year, Mahan knows that a strong showing in Liverpool this month could be a huge boost to his slim chances of making this year’s U.S.A team for a third time. The 32-year old has been written off by nearly everyone after a non-descript season so far, but Mahan has the game that suits The Open and he could be well worth a cheeky bet this month. If he plays to the best of his ability this month in Liverpool, Mahan may well find himself in with a chance of finishing inside the top-10 and surprising a lot of people.
K J Choi 150/1
South Korean veteran K J Choi has always been one of Asian golf’s trailblazers. His third place finish in 2004’s Masters remains his highest-finish at a major, with his tie for eighth in 2007 his best placing at The Open. While the 44-year old has regularly made the weekend of the tournament, Choi hasn’t managed to finish in and around the top of the leaderboard at The Open since 2007. While he hasn’t won a major, Choi has won big tournaments in his career and even won the Players Championship in 2011. With over 40 weeks inside the top-10, Choi has regularly mixed it with the best players in the world throughout his career and could well be a worthy each-way bet for the competition.
by Dalt Reede