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With the dust barely having settled on the recent US Open at Torrey Pines, it is time for the final major of the year and the first Open Championship since Shane Lowry’s memorable triumph at Royal Portrush two years ago.
This year’s venue is Royal St George’s, which last hosted the event in 2011 when Darren Clarke hoisted the Claret Jug. Situated in Sandwich on the exposed Kent Coast, the course is a par 70 measuring just on 7200 yards, which will offer a true links test with typical deep Open style bunkers, fescue rough and undulating greens.
With winds of 25mph+ anticipated across the week, I would expect one of the toughest courses on the Open rota to bear its teeth again. So, let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders, starting with the market leader Jon Rahm.
Rahm did us a big turn when we were onboard at Torrey Pines recently and having finished seventh on his first start since in the Scottish Open last weekend, his position at the head of the market is more than justified.
It is tough enough to get the breaks to win one major a year though, and I just can’t bring myself to side with him at the prohibitive odds to get the job done again – especially, in an event where a bad weather draw, a few bad bounces here or there can be so key.
Next in the market ,behind Rahm, we have Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman would have been at the top of many peoples list after his strong seventh at Torrey Pines. However, lacklustre efforts in Ireland and Scotland last week – where he missed the cut – coupled with the fact that it is now seven years since he landed one of these, is enough to put me off.
Dustin Johnson who was prominent here in 2011 is tempting, but at comparable odds and in better recent form, I can’t help but be drawn to the claims of Brooks Koepka to start our team off.
Koepka, as we know, focuses on peaking for the majors and his last two efforts in the ‘big ones’ have seen him finish second at the PGA and fourth at the US Open.
Granted the four-time major champion has shown some vulnerability down the stretch in the big four of late, which was not there in the early days. But, this just shows me how much he loves the grind of the majors, even when his game isn’t at its peak.
With two Open top 10s to his name, and top fives in his last two starts, he should arrive in a confident mood and he is the pick at the odds of the big names to me this week.
Next up is Tyrrell Hatton. The Englishman’s record in the majors as a whole is poor, however the one exception to this is in The Open and he has bagged two top six finishes in his last four starts. A two-time winner of the Dunhill Links event, Hatton loves a tough links test. So, with six European Tour titles and one PGA title at Bay Hill to his name he looks ready to step up to the next level.
Gone are the fancy three figure odds that we got on Grace at the US Open, however this is perfectly understandable as it is clear that this lover of links golf is trending towards something big. Grace warmed up nicely in Scotland last week and I expect him to mount a big challenge this week.
Scott, meanwhile, appeared to turn the corner with his long game last time out at the Travelers and in an event where the over 40s have a strong record, I can see him making another big push to finally land a Claret Jug.
Finally, in an event that that Paddy are paying to 12 places each-way, I will finish things off with a three figure odds play on Russell Henley.
Henley has been in great form of late and was right in the mix at Torrey Pines before fading on Sunday. A former winner of the Honda Classic an event, which has proven a great pointer over the years to the Open, his strong ball striking can thrive at Royal St George’s.
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