European Tour: The Open Championship Preview

Golfer admires his shot

Damien Kayat previews the 2018 edition of The Open Championship set to take place at the Championship Course in Carnoustie between 19 and 22 July. 

The untamed beauty that is links golf reaches its romantic conclusion with this week’s staging of the 147th Open Championship. Organized by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, the first edition of the Open was staged in 1860 and was won by Willie Park. Since then the event has come to hold a special place in the heart of the collective golfing consciousness.

This year’s event has a tough act to follow after the last two editions. 2016 saw Henrik Stenson overcome Phil Mickelson in a battle at Royal Troon that was evocative of 1977’s dual between Watson and Nicklaus at Turnberry. American Jordan Spieth defied then defied belief last year with a recovery that cemented his status as a modern great of the game.

The Open Championship | 19 - 22 July | Championship Course, Carnoustie, Scotland

Carnoustie- or Carnasty as it is affectionately known- is widely considered the toughest test on the Open roster. The course is a long one- over 7,400 yards with only two par 5’s. It also features narrow fairways and an uncanny amount of out of bounds areas. It also has extremely punitive rough and sadistic pot bunkers. And just you ask Jean Van de Velde about the burns that surreptitiously sneak up on an errant drive. This will be the seventh edition at this course, with Padraig Harrington winning the event in 2007. Just one look at the previous champions gives you an indication of the pedigree of this course. Gary Player, Ben Hogan and Tom Watson have all tasted Open Championship success on the treacherous Carnoustie plains.

Wind will obviously play an important role this week and the gusts are predicted to wreak havoc at various points. Players with earlier tee times over the first few days may benefit from more benign conditions. It has been an unusually dry season in Scotland, and the fairways are said to be super firm. Less bombastic drivers such as Padraig Harrington and Brandt Snedeker have reportedly been driving well over 400 yards in preparation for the event. So you can look at that one of two ways. A smaller hitter such as Francisco Molinari may be able to go toe to toe with the bigger hitters due to his accuracy. Or perhaps the massive drivers will be able to make a farce of some of the holes. Time will only tell whether brawn or brains prevail this week.

Dustin Johnson leads the markets this week, perhaps unsurprisingly given his prodigious length and tenuous hold on the Number One Ranking. Rory McIlroy will be hoping to bounce back after a recent slump while defending champion Jordan Spieth as well as Ricky Fowler also lead the markets. Masters champion Patrick Reed and US Open Champion Brooks Koepka will be looking to double up for the year while European hopes will also rest on the likes of Rose and Fleetwood. Francisco Molinari has probably been the hottest golfer on the planet while sleeper options include Mark Leishman and Alex Noren. And there’s always the spectre of Tiger Woods looming over all.

Past Winners
2017: Jordan Spieth (-12)
2016: Henrik Stenson (-20)
2015: Zach Johnson (-15)*playoff
2014: Rory McIlroy (-17)
2013: Phil Mickelson (-3)

To Win Outright:
Dustin Johnson 12/1 | Rory McIlroy 16/1 | Justin Rose 16/1 | Ricky Fowler 18/1 | Jordan Spieth 20/1

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Value Bets

Mark Leishman- To Win (50/1), 6 Places (10/1), 10 Places (5/1)
Mark Leishman is one of the guys that regularly filters under the radar, despite a host of strong performances in major events. He picked up two big PGA Tour victories last season and just recently finished runner-up at Colonial. Leishmann also has three top six finishes in his last four Open Championships. That included a runner-up finish in a three-man playoff to Zach Johnson in 2015. He will be hoping to go one better than St Andrews at Carnoustie and he looks exceptional value at 50/1.

Matt Kuchar- To Win (75/1), Places (15/1), 10 Places (15/2)
It’s perhaps not surprising that ‘Kuuuuch’ sits at 75/1 given his rather lacklustre season thus far. He hasn’t been abysmal, but his usual wave of persistent top 10 finishes has abandoned him. He had a top five in Phoenix and a top 10 in Houston, but generally he has featured in and around the 30 mark of most events. A top 20 at the Players does show his ability. While he was cut in Scotland, I just feel it makes his price all the more appealing. Kuchar finished in a painful runner-up spot against Spieth last season and highlighted his ability to play links golf. His ability to hit lower trajectory golf shots could prove ideal when the wind picks up this week. He also has a morning tee time on Thursday, which could prove advantageous.

Thorbjorn Olesen- To Win 100/1, 6 Places 20/1, 10 Places 10/1
Looking at the further reaches of the markets, Olesen looks like amazing value this week- particularly paying 10/1 to place in the top 10. Olesen recently won his fifth European Tour title at the Rolex Series Italian Open. He followed that up with a runners-up spot in Germany and a sixth at the links of the Irish Open. He has only one top 10 in this event- in 2012- but he has shown great links form elsewhere. He has won and finished runner-up at the Alfred Dunhill Links events. He currently sits seventh in the Race to Dubai and could be a real dark horse this week.

The Man to Beat- Ricky Fowler- To Win 18/1, 6 Places 36/10, 10 Places 18/10
Let’s be honest, it hasn’t always been the easiest thing to back Ricky Fowler. The talented American just hasn’t shown the consistent ability to stamp his authority on events, despite his almost omnipotent presence in the closing stages of Majors. Even though he only finished runner-up to Reed at the Masters, he still seemed to be playing with far more belief that he could actually win that event. And he loves links golf. The 2015 Scottish Open Champion finished sixth last week at Gullane. He also has a second and fifth place finish at the Open Championship. He ranks fifth in scrambling and 15th in Sand Saves. Those categories could prove decisive at Carnoustie this week.

Top Finishing South African- Brandon Stone (14/1)
This is one I just can’t quite believe. After nearly shooting the European Tour’s first 59 at a links course last week- albeit one of the easier links course in Scotland- I can’t believe that Stone is only 14/1 to finish as the top South African. Branden Grace has proven links credentials but has really been scratching this way. For him to sit at 2/1 seems quite fanciful. Stone could absolutely bomb this week, but 14/1 in the wake of that round at Gullane looks decent to me.

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Written by Damien Kayat for

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