THE OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
FROM TOMORROW – 9.00AM BBC1/BBC2
RESCUING punters from their post-World Cup withdrawal, at 6.30am tomorrow morning the sound of club-on-ball will signal the start of the 139th Open Championship from St Andrews.
There are few surprises at the top of the betting, with favourite Tiger Woods available at 11/2 on Betdaq ahead of young pretender to his throne Rory McIlroy at 17/1 and Phil Mickelson at 19/1, both with Paddy Power. We can immediately rule out Phil Mickelson, due to his apparent inability to perform in the British Major. Only once in 16 attempts has he had victory within his sights before missing out on the playoff by a shot in 2004. At St Andrews he’s finished 40th, 11th and 60th while he can boast a tournament stroke average of only 72.48.
It’s harder to make a case against Tiger Woods, who has won on two of his three Open appearances on the Old Course. Still, these are different times for Tiger and with concerns of his impending divorce surely weighing heavily on his mind he might currently be lacking the focus required to challenge.
Incidentally, for any punters with a penchant for punting innuendo, Bodog.co.uk are offering 6/4 that Woods ends up in either Kruger’s Mistress, the Valley of Sin or Hell Bunker. Stop giggling at the back.
After an amazing US Open victory last month, it would be a dream for GRAEME McDOWELL to win a second consecutive Major and I think the Ulsterman stands a great chance. Without even being certain of a Ryder Cup place a month ago, he’s catapulted himself into the big league, leapfrogging the likes of Lee Westwood to the top of the Race to Dubai, after also winning at Celtic Manor. He has a great links pedigree, is well rested and will be brimming with confidence. He’s 33/1 with Totesport.
An excellent all-round game is key on the Old Course and although Westwood certainly possesses that, he is too short at 22/1 on Betdaq when carrying a calf injury and with next to no practice. Ian Poulter has proved he can compete in the Majors, finished second at Royal Birkdale two years ago and tied-11th at St Andrews in 2005. However, he also missed the cut last year and in 2006 and his form has been poor since winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship earlier this season.
Like Westwood and Poulter, RORY McILROY is another who has won in the States this year, undoubtedly has both the talent and the bottle, and I think he stands the better chance of the three this weekend. Back him each-way at 17/1 with Paddy Power, who are paying 1/4 the odds the first seven places.
Tiger’s playing partner for the first two rounds, CAMILO VILLEGAS, is 85/1 with Hills and could be a good outside bet. He was 13th at the Open last year and 39th in 2008. He won this year’s Honda Classic and while a Major is probably still a distance away, I’m keen to sell his finishing position at 43 with Sporting Index.
Graeme McDowell e/w at 33/1 with Totesport
Rory McIlroy e/w at 17/1 with Paddy Power
Sell Camilo Villegas’s finishing position at 43 with Sporting Index