Graeme McDowell to plot his way to Open glory at Royal Liverpool

This year’s Open Championship will be the 143rd renewal of the oldest golf Major, with the 2014 edition hosted at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake. The famous Wirral links course welcomes the special tournament for the 12th occasion and the first since 2006.

There have been a few subtle tweaks to the course in the intervening years. Players will be pleased that some of the bunkers have been taken out to leave 82 to negotiate, five holes have seen swales added to them and broken ground has been created in the rough on a number of holes. Overall, the course will play 54 yards longer than it did eight years ago.

Hoylake is a course that especially suits Championship specialists as six of the past 11 winners here had already won the title at least once before.

A couple of key stats that are imperative to succeed in links golf are greens in regulation and putting average. The last six winners have all ranked inside the top 10 for the aforementioned stats for both categories. Over the past decade, only Padraig Harrington in 2007 and Todd Hamilton in 2004 have prevailed without featuring inside the top 10 for one of those stats.

Par fives are another important factor in deciding the victor on Sunday evening. There are four par fives that the braver golfers can target to post decent scores.

The Scottish Open has proved pivotal in unearthing the Open champion and Phil Mickelson won both last year. Each of the past four Open winners have won the warm-up tournament the week before the third Major of the calendar. Links golf is like no other form in the sport and all the experience players can garner in the build-up is invaluable.

Justin Rose won the Scottish Open last weekend, so the Englishman offers an appropriate place to start when looking at who’s in with a shout at Hoylake. Rose hasn’t fared well at the Open since his blistering debut effort in 1998 as an amateur, when he finished fourth. Subsequently he hasn’t carded a single Open Championship top-10 finish in the 14 years.

He’s in terrific form following back-to-back titles, also landing the Quicken Loans National at a testing Congressional, but three successive victories is seriously demanding. Rose is around 14/1 and, owing to his poor Open record and short price, I am happy to pass on him.

Ryder Cup teammate Graeme McDowell also arrives in great nick, but looks in a better position to secure his second Major. The Northern Irishman claimed the French Open last time out and had the outright lead here in the 2006 Open after the first round before dropping down the leaderboard. A tied fifth finish at Royal Lytham proves he has links pedigree.

He’s coming to the boil at the right time and his deadly accurate driving makes him a good each-way bet at 33/1 with Coral.

Tiger Woods is around 25/1 with most bookmakers and he doesn’t represent value. He missed the cut at Congressional at the only tournament since his latest serious operation.

On his 300th European Tour appearance Mikko Ilonen won the Irish Open and is a genuine contender here. As well as his Irish Open triumph, Ilonen has posted three other top-10 finishes this season and history suggests that he enjoys playing here, having won the British Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2000. Sporting Index have set his finishing position at 47 and he’s worth selling at that price.

The spread betting firm have a vast range of markets available and the Top Continental Euro market offers some value. Fans’ favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez performed admirably in Liverpool in 2006 before fading away, but he’s been superb this year, finally winning the Spanish Open in May at his 27th attempt. Punters should buy the colourful Spaniard at 11 with the firm.

First round leader is always an intriguing market at Majors. Fast starters are where to look and Brandt Snedeker fits the bill with a tied fourth after the opening round last year and then fifth in 2012. He’s a straight hitter off the tee and represents a good chance to trade out halfway through to lock in a profit.

■ Pointers…
Graeme McDowell e/w at 33/1 with Coral Sell Mikko Ilonen’s finishing position at 47 with Sporting Index

Buy Miguel Angel Jimenez at 11 in Top Continental Euro market with Sporting Index

Brandt Snedeker to be first round leader e/w at 50/1 with Coral