Thank you technology. You played a fine part in not allowing me to upload my videos detailing my travails at the Irish Open, which some may argue is just as well. Anyways, the pinnacle of the links season is upon us, as you would have seen on all of The Caddy Guys social media accounts. The Open Championship takes place at Royal Birkdale, just outside Liverpool. Rewind ten years ago and it played its part in the scene of one of Irish golfs greatest moments, when Padraig Harrington won the second of his claret jugs. What do you need to know about Birkdale? It hosts its tenth Open, and includes illustrious winners like Palmer, Trevino, Johnny Miller, O Meara and the great Tom Watson. It was also the site of one of the great stories of recent history, where the seventeen-year-old amateur version of Justin Rose nearly beat O Meara to the title in 1998. It has a rich history of great great champions, few that could be considered flashes in the pan, as many were multiple Open Champions, and by proxy multiple Major winners.
If you are looking for a Champion Golfer, look for experience over youth, as five of the last six (Rory is the outlier) winners have been seasoned campaigners- Clarke, Stenson, Els, Zach Johnson and The course isn’t overly long, though most aren’t anymore. At just over seven thousand yards, it relies on the wind and strategic bunkering as its best defence form low scores. It is considered the “fairest” out of the Open rota, due to very flat fairways, that contrast with most links having undulating fairways. According to sources, much of the rough has been tamed so this should favour longer hitters, but with many many bunkers lining the fairways it still packs a punch.
Like most Open greens, they are not as quick as standard routes on the PGA. It won’t give the advantage to the better putters, and those accustomed to the PGA Tour may struggle to adapt. Look for guys taking break off, and going after their putts! The only two Par Fives on the course occur near the end and set the scene for Harringtons second Major. This means that the front nine clocks in at a par of 34. The weather does not look good for the Liverpool area for the course of the competition. Winds of roughly 20mph are expected for the duration, with a thunderstorm on Friday the highlight of the inclemency.
This will soften up the greens but not as considerably as it would on a parkland course. Like any other scenario though, this will favour the better ball strikers, as iron shots will be the winning and losing of the weekend. With that in mind, who are my picks? Two years after nearly making history, we are witnessing the reinvigoration of Jordan Speith. Fresh from his spectacular win at the Travellers, where he holed out from the greenside bunker in the play-off to win over Daniel Berger, he comes to this side of the pond in great form. His putting has regressed (from otherworldly to average) but his iron play has been nothing shot of sensational, backed up by the fact that he leads the Tour in Shots Gained on Approach. With the wind projected to be up, this should benefit him. Failing that, he does have a great short game, which isn’t as stellar but is still top tier.
The only two hang-ups you can have are his price and his driving. The great aspect of links is that he doesn’t have to overpower the course, but he will have to avoid the fairway bunkers. His accuracy off the tee is 60%, so that will need to improve for the week. He is currently priced at 12/1. Justin Rose is a man with fond fond memories of this course. Though he only managed T70 on his return, that can be accounted for the fact that it was extreme weather that week. He finished strong at the Irish Open, finishing fourth with a lot of solid rounds. He has a fantastic all-round game, hence why he’s down at 18/1. If you’re going for him, it’s outright if you want to make any money. He is a fantastic iron player, who finds a lot fo greens to give himself a chance. This isn’t backed up by great putting, but could be helped by Links greens. He has a strong scoring average and staying power, as seen in this years Masters. He’s long in the tooth so can endure a rocky hole or two, necessary for Open Champions. This one is borne of sentimentality, but a guy with a proven track record here, and decent recent form is one Padraig Harrington.
He was lengthier odds of 80/1 but with the performance of last week at the Scottish Open (the disaster of Saturday aside) gives confidence. He will be the first to tell you that he is trying to peak for this week, and has the game to win here still. He can still get it out there, get up and down and putt reasonably well, save for the odd wobbler. Nine years ago, he shot well on the Saturday when the wind was up, and he won it at plus three. If we see a similar week, don’t be surprised by this guy. They are my three mainstays. Why not Rahm? Yes, he blew me away in person but I only have so much capital to allocate.
All of you know that I’ll go down with the ship, and at least this is all coming from my winnings off Brooks Koepka. As far as other outsiders and bets go, Soren Kjeldsen at 100/1, Tony Finau at 125/ and Kiwi Ryan Fox at 150/1 could be great each way bets. As for the Low Amateur, the best name in the field is a clear favourite. Maverick McNealy, current world number one amateur is low at 11/8, so maybe go for Harry Ellis at 5/1 if you want value. The good people at Paddy Power are paying out as far as eighth place, with one quarter of the odds. Can I go two from two or am I a US Open specialist?