A number of high profile players were critical of Chambers Bay, the last course to host a major championship this year. There will be no such dissent at St Andrews this week. Chambers Bay was constructed to pose a links style challenge. Not only is the Old Course at St Andrews the original links course, it is the oldest course in the world with its history stretching back to the 16th century. If Chambers Bay was ‘links golf on steroids’ St Andrews is links golf as it was meant to be and we can’t wait.
There have been alterations to the Old Course over the years but at its heart it has always been the same challenge. Those pioneers of golf in 1552 had to contend with the wind and the rain, the huge greens and the bunkers that litter this great course. Whoever wins this week will have to navigate those same difficulties.
At St Andrews it is critical to maintain concentration and stay in total control of the golf ball. If you miss the greens in the wrong place, you’ve either got an incredibly difficult chip or a 30 yard putt. Jordan Spieth, the highest ranked player in the field due to Rory McIlroy’s absence with injury, has all the ball control attributes that you need but he doesn’t possess a great deal of links experience. He may have won the John Deere Classic last week but that requires a whole different set of skills to St Andrews. That said, he did prevail at Chambers Bay so can’t be totally discounted on that front.
Another young American talent did have a great week’s links golf practice. Rickie Fowler won his second tournament of the season at the Scottish Open. He showed at Gullane that his game is in great shape and that his love for links golf is as strong as ever. Fowler can move the ball both ways and is able to negate the elements as well as anyone. Last week’s win has brought his price in a bit but Coral’s 18/1 is still decent value.
As ever at The Open there is a strong European contingent with their eyes firmly on the Claret Jug and it is to these where we now turn our attention.
Henrik Stenson has, by any standards, a career to be proud of. He’s topped the money lists on both sides of the Atlantic, reached number two in the world and won tournaments against the very best. The only thing missing is a major championship win. That may just come this week. He is one of the best ball strikers around and has turned his putting from a weakness to a strength. At 22/1 with Bet365 the 39-year-old may just have his best chance of winning a big one.
Luke Donald has also topped both money lists but he rose all the way to the top of the game’s rankings in 2011. Since then he has faffed about with his swing and his coaches but his game is now starting to fall into place nicely. A links lover with outrageous touch around the greens, Donald could surprise one or two, especially Coral who have made him as big as 110/1, a price which screams each way value.