After nine years, the Open this week returns to the famous Royal Birkdale golf course. Set in Southport on the north-west coast of England, Birkdale has played host to some classic Opens with previous winners including Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and the 2008 champion, Padraig Harrington.
Harrington is back in the field for the 146th edition of the Open and while his personal expectations are modest for the tournament, the main protagonists would do well to bend his ear for advice on how to play Birkdale in tough conditions. The weather forecast suggests that the wind and rain are going to get worse as the week progresses with some players fearing the Open will turn into a war of attrition.
The wind may be Birkdale’s main defence but it’s far from the only challenge the course poses. The bunkers, which are described by Tommy Fleetwood as being in play on practically every shot, cannot simply be avoided. Whether guarding the greens or the fairways, every player will have to deal with the hazards this week. Then there’s the natural plants and sand dunes that Birkdale winds through. With a premium on accuracy, don’t expect to see too many drivers being hit this week.
Fowler Warmed Up and Ready To Go
Like six of the last seven winners of the Open, Rickie Fowler got competitive links golf under his belt last week at the Scottish Open. The world number 10 was unable to win the title that he picked up in 2015 but he was happy enough with his game after finishing in a tie for ninth.
At this stage of his career, Fowler would take any major win to break his duck in golf’s biggest tournaments but he’s got a real affinity for the Open. He’s only missed the cut once and has two top five finishes to his name. He’s also in good form over the past few months which all adds up to him looking a very good bet at 16/1 with Coral.
Fleetwood Capable of Wowing Home Fans
Few players in the field will be as well acquainted with Royal Birkdale as Tommy Fleetwood. He grew up a stones throw from the course and used to jump on with his dad to sneak a few holes in when the greenkeepers had gone home.
Fleetwood’s recent run of golf which includes a win at the Open de France and a fourth place finish at the US Open means he doesn’t have to worry about paying for a round of golf ever again. It also means he’s in a cracking place to win his first major championship at 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
Sullivan’s Improvement Can Spur Assault on the Claret Jug
When Andy Sullivan was picked for Europe’s Ryder Cup he was playing the best golf of his career. Unfortunately, by the time he got to Hazeltine National his game had almost completely escaped him. It’s been a tough road back as he’s fought a two way miss but it all seems to have clicked in recent weeks. A top 10 finish at the Scottish Open gave Sullivan another welcome confidence boost ahead of the Open where he looks overpriced at 100/1 with Betfred.