PICKING a winner of The Open was going to be easy … then Rory McIlroy decided to have a kickabout.
The rest is history and my antepost bets were voided on the world No.1 who has fired 13 scores in the 60s over 16 competitive rounds at the Home of Golf.
McIlroy loves St Andrews’ Old Course and it was set up for a fascinating shoot-out between the Irishman, Jordan Spieth and other top contenders for the third Major of the season.
Spieth arrives in Scotland on a pedestal after winning the US Masters and US Open and McIlroy was hoping to shoot him down.
The young Texan is on the drift but is still favourite at 8-1 with the Ladbrokes and William Hill to stay on course for the Grand Slam with Dustin Johnson – the man he edged out to take his second Major last month – next in the book at 12-1 with William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfred.
Spieth is such a fantastic putter he can’t be overlooked and 8-1 is more attractive than it was but the pressure on him could be too much and I’m looking at double-digit stars each-way. One reason for his drift – and he was 5-1 with some bookies last week – is his decision to play (and win) the John Deere Classic in the States rather than prepare with the some links golf at the Scottish Open.
That event was won by Rickie Fowler and the last five Open champions have played the Scottish Open the week before including Phil Mickelson who won both two years ago.
So that stat goes against Spieth but he’s young enough and bold enough to shake it off as well as suggestions he hasn’t given himself to adapt to a new time zone. That’s probably nonsense too and has been ruled out by Zach Johnson who competes in the John Deere and has a decent Open record.
Justin Rose pushed Spieth hardest at Augusta and is a links expert who knows St Andrews well so must have a chance of landing his first Open. The Englishman though has dropped from third favourite to seventh in the book at a best 25-1 with McBookie who are one of the firms offering seven places.
Rose didn’t contend at Chambers Bay but one man who made a huge impression was South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen. He finished just two shots back despite being nine over at one stage of his second round.
It was an amazing recovery and when he’s fit Oosty is some player. He won the last Open at St Andrews in 2010 by seven shots and recorded a joint best 14 under over his two rounds on the Old Course in last year’s Alfred Dunhill.
He loves the venue and is worth an each-way bet at 25-1 with Betfred, Ladbrokes and William Hill.
Anyone looking for a really long shot could consider England’s on form but unheralded Tommy Fleetwood. He has finished second and fifth in the Alfred Dunhill and his scores at St Andrews were 65-67 in 2013 and 62-68 in 2014.
He is an incredible 26 under par for his last four rounds at St Andrews and while it would be a massive leap to win a Major he could earn a place although I’d have been more confident if he hadn’t made a mess of his final round at Gullane to fall out of the top seven.
I backed Fleetwood at 90-1 with Betfred last week and he is now a best 80s with bet365 and others.
The Open at St Andrews will be won by a long and accurate driver and a great putter with the weather possibly playing a part if the wind gets up.
There are other decent contenders such as Fowler and Adam Scott – back with caddy Steve Williams – and Jason Day who performed so bravely at the US Open after collapsing during his third round.
I’ve seen some experts tip players such as Martin Kaymer, Branden Grace, Victor Dubuisson and Charl Schwartzel. Tiger Woods is even tipping himself but I can’t see it although he loves and knows St Andrews so should at least make the cut.
If you’re not sure who to back at this stage wait until the cut or try some match bets. Talking of cuts I noticed Bernhard Langer at 6-4 to make it with bet365. The German and Colin Montgomerie have been dominating the senior Majors and he still has what it takes to get it round a course he knows well.
Enjoy the action and remember to look at Ace Venturer’s tips – he’s the real golf expert on this site.
Oosthuizen 2.5pts ew
(8-1, Ladbrokes, William Hill)
Fleetwood top-20 finish 1pt
Langer to make the cut 1pt