Heavy rain, stiff winds, chokingly thick rough and 206 bunkers scattered over a tight, bouncy seaside links. Welcome to Royal Lytham & St Anne’s, a course that presents more problems than a high school algebra book.
Narrow fairways, which are just 25 yards wide, are likely to be even tougher to play in the expected crosswinds. There are few safe spots for errant drives.
This is a unique major. It is the only Open venue to begin with a par 3, to have three par 3’s on the front nine and to be surrounded by houses on three sides.
By most standards, it is not a long course but the scoring can differ massively depending on which side of the draw you are on, thanks to the weather.
The forecast is not favourable for those who will go out early on Thursday, including Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Bubba Watson.
Yet there is perhaps too much concern about the deep rough. After all, 200,000 fans will help trample down much of the deep stuff, and the rain will have doused the fast-running fairways.
The joy of this course is the difficult back stretch, where fortunes can change in a trice. So scoring on the front nine is crucial.
BETDAQ are offering a wealth of markets over all four days and Tiger Woods heads the outright market. He’s already won three times in 2012 and there aren’t many players in better form. His missed cut at The Greenbrier Classic aside he has been as consistent as anyone over the last three months.
It is sometimes very easy to get lost in statistics. In fact, we just read one on the most common way people walk when drunk – and the findings were staggering.
It’s sometimes best to simplify things.
Woods is the best golfer on the planet. He has the whole smorgasbord of shots in his locker and there are few better scramblers. He has the power to blast his way out of trouble and he has to go on the shortlist.
More than that, he also appears to have regained his granite-like mental game. When smelling blood in the water, he is as cold-blooded as they come. It’s almost as if he has a heart of stone.
Many are tipping Lee Westwood to break his Major duck. He’s long off the tee, has rarely been out of contention and almost won the US Masters at Augusta. But he sometimes gets his hands in bad positions and hence has a poor stroke and distance control. He invariably comes up short of the target. He’s a short enough price to warrant laying in the Top Five Finish market.
Luke Donald acknowledges accuracy from tee to green is not his greatest strength – he is ranked 119th in greens in regulation on the US PGA Tour in 2012.
There will be those who point to the fact that Seve Ballesteros was also a wayward driver and he managed to win twice here. Neither does it take the longest driver of the ball, since previous winners David Duval and Tom Lehman were not that long off the tee. In that respect, Donald has a fighting chance, but he’s not my idea of the winner.
It is arguable that Masters winner Bubba Watson can throttle back the attacking ‘Bubba Golf’ and while his brilliant short game will always see him contend, Phil Mickelson has yet to play smart golf for four rounds this season.
Two-time winner of the event, Padraig Harrington has the steely grinder’s mentality to cope with the elements and won in some of the nastier conditions in recent memory at Birkdale in 2008. His work with Pete Cowan appears to be coming together, but a third Open win might have to wait a year or two.
Rory McIlroy undoubtedly has the game, but if he had more of the Faldo temperament we could put more faith in him. He’s not going to be in the top five.
So aside from Woods, who else for the shortlist?
The 2010 US Open Champion Graeme McDowell hits plenty of fairways and has shown signs of returning to his best form. He’s also a fair bet to finish as the Top Irishman.
Jason Dufner is ranked 14th in driving accuracy and Greens In Regulation on the US Tour, as well as an impressive sixth in scrambling.
And Zach Johnson, who has not missed a cut in the last five Open Championships, is ranked 16th in driving accuracy, 12th in scrambling, and he putts well. While it is very difficult to win back-to-back tournaments, consistency means he merits support.
BETDAQ offer a slew of markets, including a Top 10 Finish and two at very big prices who could go well are Texan Bob Estes, who has missed just two British Open cuts since 1995 with four top-20 finishes, and elder statesman Tom Lehman, a ball-striker supreme, who almost always contends.
With four top-three finishes this season, Rafael Cabrera-Bello looks an interesting proposition to win a tournament match bet against Jamie Donaldson. Likewise Ross Fisher can finish ahead of Paul Lawrie, whose links play is overrated.
There’s always some show-off who will fancy their chances of a hole in one and with so many runners, it’s a better than evens chance that someone will enjoy their moment in the sun.
There’s often value to be had in taking on the favourites in the opening round three-balls. To that end, take a stab at Fredrik Jacobson to beat Jim Furyk and Koumei Oda, and Louis Oosthuizen to open in front of Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley.
And here’s one for the sentimentalists. If ever Sergio Garcia is going to win a Major, it will be at the British Open. He is still head and shoulders above his compatriots, so it’s worth a look playing the favourite in the Top Spanish Player market.
BETDAQ TIPS Suggestions:
T Woods – Outright – Back
G McDowell – Outright – Back
J Dufner – Outright – Back
Z Johnson – Outright – Back
T Lehman – Top 10 Finish – Back
B Estes – Top 10 Finish – Back
R Cabrera-Bello to beat J Donaldson – Back
R McIlRoy – Top Five Finish – Lay
L Westwood – Top Five Finish – Lay
G McDowell – Top Irish Player – Back
S Garcia – Top Spanish Player – Back
F Jacobson – Opening three-ball – Back
L Oosthuizen – Opening three-ball – Back
Hole In One – Back
First round tee times:
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, all times BST):
(x) denotes amateurs
0619 Barry Lane, James Driscoll (USA)
0630 Richard Finch, Garth Mulroy (Rsa)
0641 Matthew Baldwin, Adilson Da Silva (Bra), Tadahiro Takayama (Jpn)
0652 Rafael Echenique (Arg), John Huh (Kor), Kodai Ichihara (Jpn)
0703 Todd Hamilton (USA), Sandy Lyle, Mark Calcavecchia (USA)
0714 Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind), Greg Chalmers (Aus)
0725 Chad Campbell (USA), John Daly (USA), Michael Hoey
0736 Justin Leonard (USA), Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Simon Khan
0747 David Duval (USA), Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa)
0758 Robert Rock, Stephen Ames (Can), Kyle Stanley (USA)
0809 Stewart Cink (USA), Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa), Johnson Wagner (USA)
0820 Jamie Donaldson, Bill Haas (USA), Y.E. Yang (Kor)
0831 Davis Love III (USA), Tim Clark (Rsa), Paul Lawrie
0842 Adam Scott (Aus), Matt Kuchar (USA), Alan Dunbar
0858 Nick Watney (USA), Vijay Singh (Fij), Ian Poulter
0909 Darren Clarke, Ernie Els (Rsa), Zach Johnson (USA)
0920 Lee Westwood, Yoshinori Fujimoto (Jpn), Bubba Watson (USA)
0931 Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson (USA), Hiroyuki Fujita (Jpn)
0942 Tiger Woods (USA), Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia (Spa)
0953 Martin Kaymer (Ger), Ryo Ishikawa (Jpn), Tom Watson (USA)
1004 Aaron Baddeley (Aus), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Charl Schwartzel (Rsa)
1015 Jason Dufner (USA), Martin Laird, Kevin Na (USA)
1026 Daniel Chopra (Swe), James Morrison, Joost Luiten (Ned)
1037 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Troy Matteson (USA), Thomas Aiken (Rsa)
1048 Brad Kennedy (Aus), Mardan Mamat (Sin), Steven Tiley
1059 Warren Bennett, Aaron Townsend (Aus), Grant Veenstra (Rsa)
1110 Sam Walker, Dale Whitnell, Elliot Saltman
1131 Steven O’Hara, Bob Estes (USA), Brendan Jones (Aus)
1142 Juvic Pagunsan (Phi), Scott Pinckney (USA), Nick Cullen (Aus)
1153 Steven Alker (Aus), Lee Slattery, Russ Cochran (USA)
1204 Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Tom Lehman (USA), Greg Owen
1215 Marcel Siem (Ger), George Coetzee (Rsa), Chez Reavie (USA)
1226 Lucas Glover (USA), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Gregory Havret (Fra)
1237 Paul Broadhurst, Charles Howell III (USA), Richard Sterne (Rsa)
1248 Carl Pettersson (Swe), K.t. Kim (Kor), Gary Woodland (USA)
1259 Paul Casey, Ben Curtis (USA), Trevor Immelman (Rsa)
1310 Robert Karlsson (Swe), Mark Wilson (USA), Branden Grace (Rsa)
1321 Harris English (USA), Simon Dyson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa)
1332 Angel Cabrera (Arg), K J Choi (Kor), Ross Fisher
1343 Sang-moon Bae (Kor), Jonathan Byrd (USA), Alvaro Quiros (Spa)
1359 Hunter Mahan (USA), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), John Senden (Aus)
1410 Bo Van Pelt (USA), Francesco Molinari (Ita), Toshinori Muto (Jpn)
1421 Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa), Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley (USA)
1432 Rickie Fowler (USA), Padraig Harrington, Manuel Trappel (Aut)
1443 Luke Donald, Phil Mickelson (USA), Geoff Ogilvy (Aus)
1454 Steve Stricker (USA), Toru Taniguchi (Jpn), Anders Hansen (Den)
1505 Peter Hanson (Swe), Retief Goosen (Rsa), Robert Allenby (Aus)
1516 Koumei Oda (Jpn), Jim Furyk (USA), Fredrik Jacobson (Swe)
1527 Marc Leishman (Aus), Brandt Snedeker (USA), Alexander Noren (Swe)
1538 Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Andres Romero (Arg), Richie Ramsay
1549 Ted Potter, Jr. (USA), Ian Keenan, Andrew Georgiou (Rsa)
1600 Troy Kelly (USA), Morten Orum Madsen (Den), Anirban Lahiri (Ind)
1611 Prayad Marksaeng (Tha), Justin Hicks (USA), Ashley Hall (Aus)
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