The Open is a tournament steeped in history. The oldest of golf’s four major championships, it has been held at the best links courses in the United Kingdom ever since Willie Park won at Prestwick in 1860. This year it makes a welcome return to a golf course with its own rich history, Royal Troon.
Troon Golf club was founded in 1878 and has hosted the Open on eight occasions. The most recent of those came in 2004 when Ernie Els lost in a playoff to Todd Hamilton. Both men join the list of former Open champions in the field this week looking to make the most of their good memories of the course. They’ll know that Troon’s two nines are laid in opposite directions so the wind tends to be one way on the way out and another on the way in. They’ll also know that it is vital to keep your ball out of trouble to have any chance of making the most of the various birdie chances the course offers.
In 2004, Hamilton and Els ended on -10 and it could require an even lower score to win 12 years on. The weather forecast suggests that the wind is going to be relatively calm and the rain that has fallen in the area leaves the greens fairly receptive. Troon is a fairly short course and has a number of drivable par fours and a couple of par fives that can be reached in two. As ever with a links course it will be a big test of short game and imagination with the long game but this looks like an Open where the big hitters could have a real advantage. That will be music to the ears of Rory McIlroy.
Injury prevented McIlroy from defending the Open last year at St Andrews and he’ll be desperate to be named the “champion golfer of the year” once more. He grew up playing a lot of links golf but his best chances of winning always come at wet, receptive courses. Providing he doesn’t get off to the sort of slow start that has dogged him this season, McIlroy looks the best placed of the shorter priced players at 10/1 with Coral.
Rory will, of course, be greatly challenged by the rest of the world’s best players but away from the top of the betting markets, there are some bigger odds selections which pique our interest.
The first of these is Graeme McDowell. Like his countryman McIlroy, McDowell has a great deal of experience at links courses and is a major champion. GMac has also been playing some very good stuff this season and is saying all the right things in terms of his confidence levels to justify an each way bet at 80/1 with Ladbrokes
Second, have an each way punt on Ernie Els rolling back the years at 150/1 with BetVictor. Everybody saw Els’ horror show on the first green at the Masters but since then he looks to have completely overcome his putting woes. The South African is also hitting the ball very well and has proven time and time again that he loves the challenge of links golf.