Our golf scribe takes a look at this week's European Tour event, the Open Championship, being played at Royal Troon.
The Open Championship is my favourite tournament in golf, bar none. Forget the Masters and Augusta – this is real golf. The sternest tests on the toughest links courses the world has to offer. It also helps being able to watch it without sleepwalking into work come Monday morning.
It is also a tournament where short-priced winners are the exception rather than the norm and age can be an advantage rather than a hindrance. It takes a different type to win an Open. Think Todd Hamilton – the champion last time The Open visited Royal Troon.
Fortunately for those who are willing to delve a little deeper, there are certain factors that make it easier to pick a winner at the year’s third major. Age certainly comes into play – where three of the last five winners have been in their 40s.
Previous form at The Open is another strong indicator. Ten of the last 11 winners had finished at least sixth and seven of the last 11 had finished inside the top-three.
Finally, a win in the calendar year prior to the tournament is another barrier to entry. Only four winners this century – Ben Curtis, Stewart Cink, Ernie Els and Zach Johnson – hadn’t won on either the PGA Tour or the European Tour in the 12 months prior to winning the Open.
That should narrow things down a bit. So let’s get to it, why don’t we?
2015 Zach Johnson -15 (playoff) | 2014 Rory McIlroy -17 | 2013 Phil Mickelson -3 | 2012 Ernie Els -7 | 2011 Darren Clarke -7
Dustin Johnson 9/1 | Jason Day 9/1 | Rory McIlroy 10/1 | Jordan Spieth 11/1 | Adam Scott 22/1 | Sergio Garcia 25/1
By the numbers
35 – Seven of the last 10 winners have been aged 35 or above. Experience.
5 – Five of the last six winners warmed up at the Scottish Open. Form.
6 – The last six winners at Royal Troon have all been from America. USA.
Scott Piercy (100/1 Win & 20/1 Place)
Had it not been done in by flooding, Piercy would’ve had my money for the Greenbrier Classic. He’s in the form of his life at the moment and it surprises me he can be as long as 100/1 for the win. He comes here fresh off a runner-up finish in both the US Open and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and if he holds that form he will contend. One drawback is his lone appearance in the Open, where he missed the cut in 2013. However, at the age of 37 and hailing from America, he ticks the right boxes, despite the obvious lack of event form.
Jim Furyk (80/1 Win & 20/1 Place)
There are few players in the field that tick more boxes than Furyk. The ideal fit is someone who had a previous top 6 in an Open, is 35 or over, in the world’s top 30, had a top 10 already in a major this year and is an American with a win to his name in 2016. His only shortcoming is in that final category, which is surely only down to injury. However, in seven tournaments since his return he’s missed the cut just once and placed in five of the other six, including a T2 at the US Open. Somewhat under the radar, he’s made the top five in five of his last nine majors and had a top 15 in two others. Definite place chance, with the potential to bag the whole lot.
Chris Wood (100/1 Win & 20/1 Place)
The more digging I’ve done, the more I like the look of Chris Wood. It’s been quite a year for English golf and there’s no reason why he can’t follow Danny Willett’s lead and claim his first major title. It might surprise you to know that Wood has two top five finishes at the Open Championship and finished 23rd in both this year’s U.S. Open and last year’s Open Championship. I wouldn’t go too hard at Wood, if only because he missed last week’s Scottish Open with a neck injury. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to like about the world’s 22nd-ranked player. He’s been one of the best players in Europe this year (fifth in the Race to Dubai rankings), he’s first in the field GIR percentage over the last 12 weeks, he has a win, two Top-12’s and a 23rd at the U.S. Open in his last four tournaments and he’s quality on links-style courses. Cash in, folks.
Branden Grace (28/1 Win & 56/10 Place)
Marc Leishman (80/1 Win & 16/1 Place)
Russell Knox (100/1 Win & 20/1 Place)
Dustin Johnson (9/1 Win & 18/10 Place)
I firmly believe Dustin Johnson should be favourite coming into this tournament. On form, he’s the best player in the world and as such should be the shortest price. Those detractors who don’t think he can win back-to-back majors, forget both Jordan Spieth (2015) and Rory McIlroy (2014) have both done it in recent times. DJ is in the form of his life and has a penchant for links golf. In brutal conditions at Royal St. George’s in 2011 he finished second behind Darren Clarke, undone by his usual mental fragility. He followed that up with T9 at Royal Lytham 12 months later, was second after 36 holes at Muirfield in 2013, was third with a round to play at Hoylake in 2014 and took the 36-hole lead at St. Andrews last year before collapsing to T49. He’s a different player now, though, and must have a massive chance.