Golf betting: Open Championship Tips - Fowler the man to beat but can Marc UnLeish his recent good form at Birkdale?


Open Championship Overview

We were oh so close to a huge bink for Shinkwin and this column in Scotland, and Callum moves onto Royal Birkdale for his consolation prize after a disastrous final hole and subsequent playoff defeat. Birkdale will host the Open Championship in 2017. The last time the rotation hit Southport in Liverpool, it was Irishman Padraig Harrington - 67.00 - who was last man standing. Harrington is the only man from GB or Ireland to hold the Open trophy aloft at Birkdale in nine editions there. The others are huge name Aussies and Americans including one Arnold Palmer.

I say 'last man standing', as in 2008, high (20mph plus) winds and heavy rain were a prominent feature during the week. Scoring backed that up with +3 ending as the winning total. Harrington held off both Ian Poulter - 81.00 - and Henrik Stenson down the stretch. Coincidentally both Harrington and Poults are peaking form-wise right now, continuing their good form and contending at some stage in Scotland, bagging eventual top tens. Henrik Stenson - 26.00 - who admits a strong liking for the Birkdale track - will of course defend, but Henrik said himself on Sunday that he's been struggling with his ball striking, which is a prerequisite at Birkdale.

A theme of rising English stars has hit Birkdale in the last two renewals there. Justin Rose holed out for birdie on the last in 1998 to record a T4 finish and take the silver medal as an amateur. It was compatriot Chris Wood who repeated the feat taking low amateur honours with a top five finish in the 2008 Open Championship here. Both will have good vibes on their return and Justin - 19.00 - is coming off a T4 in Ireland. Chris however has been nursing a minor injury.

 

Open Championship: One to watch

As well as Open Championships in 1998 and 2008, Birkdale has seen action as host to the 2005 Amateur Championship and a number of the field teed it up that week, including Aussie Marc Leishman - 46.00 - who I really like here, despite a few competitive weeks off. Leish talked positively about the upcoming track in a recent interview and the world no. 34 comes here with progressive form of T27 - T17 - T5, with the 27th place being at the US Open. He was also 15th at Memorial the week prior and players on tour were rumoured to be talking up his game. The Aussie is a wind and links specialist and loves firm and fast conditions. He is also a big game player owning previous T5 and runner up finishes at The Open. He also has a Masters top 5 under his belt. In fact, nearly all his best finishes come on the toughest tracks if you look at the OWGR.

 

Open Championship front-runners

There will be a lot of differing opinions this week about who should hold favouritism and for me, three players stick out from the market leaders. There was a quote from Eddie Pepperell on Twitter and he actually pinpointed these same three players: "In conditions forecasted, and around Birkdale, have to look towards the guys who control flight well. Players like Fleetwood, Fowler, Sergio".

Having dropped Stenson from the portfolio given his own comments re his game, and eliminated Rose due to his high ball flight, I was left with these three from the top. Rickie Fowler reinforced my opinion he should be market leader (and indeed he is alongside DJ with Unibet at 15.00) after listening to his post round Interview in Scotland. He says his prep is going well and his tee to green game is in great shape. 

The reason he didn't contend was, according to him, the greens. He struggled with the breaks and mentioned he was looking forward to seeing the surfaces at Birkdale. Rickie has all the shots and ball flight control needed for Links golf which he showed when winning the Scottish Open at Gullane. Of course, the American was T2 at the Open Championship in 2014 and has won the Players Championship where ball striking is a prerequisite. He ranks 10th in ball striking on the PGA Tour in '17.


Talking about ball striking and Players Championship winners, arguably the best wind player of them all - Sergio Garcia - 17.00 - ranks 2nd in ball striking on the PGA Tour in 2017. Sergio will be bidding to win his 2nd major of the year at Birkdale and having come so close to Open Championship success in the past with 2nd and T2 finishes in 2007 and 2014, maybe this is the one he wants most. Garcia's control of ball flight from tee to green could be huge at Birkdale, especially if the wind blows hard. Sergio comes off the back of a runner up finish in Germany last time out.

Tommy Fleetwood - 26.00 - is another ball striking supremo who goes under the fairway finder tag. The local man used to sneak in and play this course as a young lad and he is golf's in form man right now, leading the Race to Dubai. The world no. 14 has a form line of 4 - T6 - 1 - T10 with the win coming in the prestigious Open De France. He ranks 12th in fairways, 2nd in Greens in Reg and 4th in stroke average on the European Tour in 2017. Fill your boots.

 

The Course - Royal Birkdale: par 70, 7156 yards

Ball striking will be the key at Royal Birkdale this week on what is described as a tough but fair test of golf. The track can be got in benign conditions but it is one of the most brutal on the rotation if the elements don't behave. Relatively "flat" but tight fairways surrounded by "gigantic sand dunes" laden with tall fescue, gorse and other nasties is the theme on a wide Open venue. Penal pot bunkers lie in wait throughout the course. There is a massive premium on hitting the short grass from the tees at Birkdale. Camillo Villegas shot the low round of the tournament here in 2008 with a 65 (-5). Early forecast doesn't look overly brutal but that can always be taken with a pinch of salt.

 

They said...

“It’s got the real classic links feel to it. It’s not tricked up; it’s just a solid, tough test, fair. You hit good shots, you get rewarded. The place is not tricked up in any way, shape or form.” - Graeme McDowell

"Toughest course I've ever played" - Trevor Immelman 

“The big thing about Birkdale is that it’s surrounded by those dunes and long grass. It’s actually pretty hard to scramble if you hit it wildly, unlike Troon or some of those other courses where you can hit it out in the car park. Birkdale, if you hit it wildly, it’s pretty penal." - Johnny Miller (former course winner)


 

Open Championship Live Outsiders

Richie Ramsay and Andrew "Beef" Johnson are going to feature somewhere in my personal staking portfolio but it's Soren Kjeldsen - 126.0 - that must get a mention in this column at the price. Soren is another wind lover and bounced back into some form at the Scottish with a top 10. Kjeldsen makes no secret of his liking for playing in the wind and gave a masterclass of all the shots required when taking down the Irish Open in tough conditions at Royal County Down in 2015. He owns a stellar record at the often windy ball striker and shot maker's paradise that is Valderrama. Kjeldsen was top 10 in The Open last year and also bagged a top 10 at the Alfred Dunhill Links. Soren doesn't shy away in the big ones and added a top seven finish in last year's Masters during a great two-year resurgence. The Dane is 26th on average in driving accuracy across the last two seasons in Europe. The scrambling wizard is all about the short game.