Selectabet: The 140th Open Championship
July 13, 2011 1 Comment
Date: 14th – 17th July 2011
Competition: The 140th Open Championship
Venue: Royal St Georges GC, Sandwich, Kent
The world’s top golfers will face a longer test at this year’s Open Championship with the Royal St George’s course being extended and par reduced since Ben Curtis (294/1 at Betfair) lifted the Claret jug in 2003; more than 100 yards has been added to the course while par drops from 71 to 70.
It’s the 15th time the Championship has been held over these links and already as one of the sternest tests in the world of golf, the fairways will be firm and running, the greens fast and true and let’s not forget that the rough will be up!
The front nine is characterised by blind shots, imposing dunes and terrifying bunkers such as the enormous, railway-sleeper-surrounded hazard on the fourth, which is set into a sand hill 50 feet into the Kent air. The back nine, which occupies the northern half of the course, is largely without the dunes of the outward half, though the fairways feature no fewer undulations and the greens are arguable trickier.
Yards: 7,204 yards
Two thirds of The Open Championship field consists of players that are fully exempt from qualifying for the Open which includes the top 50 in the official golf world rankings. The remaining third is collated from the various tours of the world, regional and international qualifying and a number of alternates.
Interestingly, the highest ranking golfers not playing are Scott Verplank, Ricky Barnes and Heath Slocum.
As one of the most sought after prizes in sport, this years field includes a stronger field than any other competitive tournament since St Andrews last year and while any Open venue seemingly favours the European players who are more used to this style of play, this year depending upon the wind is going to come down to anyone proficient in shot-making and holding the ball up in the wind to get it to drop softer on the greens.
Holes 14 and 15 along with the 16th are perhaps the most daunting of them all at Royal St Georges and all point towards an exciting climax. At 496 yards, the 15th will be the longest par-four in the 2011 Open Championship and, many would argue, the toughest. Even a drive of 300 yards, which avoids the five penal fairway bunkers, leaves a 200-yard approach to a relatively small green that must be reached on the full, due to three bunkers that line up across the front of a putting surface that falls away to the right. All in, one of the most demanding par-fours in championship golf.
Players who have repeatedly hit the top six over the past 6 years include Sergio Garcia (33/1 at Victor Chandler & William Hill), Stewart Cink (161/1 at Betfair) and Ernie Els (80/1 at ToteSport, Bwin and Bet365) but its the putting, attitude and fitness that will be respectively against them this time of asking.
It’s a mixed bag of sun, cloud, showers and heavy rain over the tournament days and the wind will largely stay a freshening constant at around 12-16 mph but will this prove too tricky for our American friends?
Ones to watch:
With five amateurs shooting for the prestigious Silver Medal – Son of Titleist’s Chairman and Chief Executive, winner of the US Amateur tournament last year and world number one amateur golfer, Peter Uihlein (1000/1 to win with Bet365!) will be the cream that rises to the top of the watery amateur pile this weekend.
And everyone knows that this tournament is really about the Tooting Bec Cup – the PGA professional who shoots the lowest single round score over the tournament days – and so fresh from three weeks playing in his new back garden, this one is Rory McIlroy’s (8/1 favourite to win with Betfred and PaddyPower)) for the taking.
It’s our dear friend Steve Stricker (35/1 at SkyBet, SportingBet and William Hill), who fresh from a third straight victory in the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run who’s current form (now second in the FedEx Cup) and position as leading non European in the Official World Golf Rankings mean whatever the weather he’s a likely American to put the milk in his French vanilla java cup from the Claret Jug come Sunday evening…
But, it’s Fed-Ex Cup leader, two time winner and six times a top ten finisher Nick Watney (35/1 at StanJames, Sporting Bet and PaddyPower) that, peaking at the right time, is the main of our American born fairway fighters to watch this weekend. The exciting 30 year old has the complete all-round game, and has been working hard on it, to quietly compete consistently at the top level.
However, with the top four golfers in the world right now coming from Europe and the threat of playing shots from straw like rough, instead of the lush fairways of Augusta, is it the Europeans who have the greatest chance of keeping the famous trophy on home soil?
Lee Westwood (12/1 at Bwin and Betfred), World Number 2, accomplished links battler and best performer across all of the majors this and last year combined will still be a contender again in the Big British One again this year. Has the game, the temperament to perform at this level but I think the pressure of catching one of the most sought after majors may yet again prove one step too far for Worksop’s number one export.
One to Win:
The most like one to win this week is……South African? Again?
And with five top three finishes stretched around the globe since this season began and a solid history as a links player, it is 42 year old Retief Goosen (52/1 at Betdaq) who will follow in the footsteps of Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen to Open Championship glory this year. Inspired by Louis and Charl, as McIlroy was McDowell, Goosen is Europe’s best putter by far – much required on these tricky greens – and is my top tip to lift a third major trophy following his US Open victories in 2001 and 2004.