Our resident betting expert Paul Krishnamurty who is already 450 points up for this season casts his eye over the favourites to lift the Claret Jug. Make sure you read his top tips.
PHIL MICKELSON 25/1
Clearly the next best behind Tiger, but he has very rarely played well outside the US. Mickelson has won three Major titles, but has only been competitive once in an Open Championship. He has never looked a natural at links golf and rarely performs well in windy conditions. Indeed, at Birkdale in 1998, Mickelson was blown away, shooting 87-78 over the weekend.
LAST 5 OPENS MC/22/60/3/59
VERDICT: As usual, must be strongly opposed in the Open Championship.
ERNIE ELS 14/1
Only Woods boasts a better recent Open record than the 2002 champion, a genuine links expert who has made the top four in six of the past eight years. He won the Honda Classic in March, but otherwise 2008 has been a struggle. Some embarrassing, nervy errors at the business end of tournaments have led to doubts about whether Els remains a serious contender, and it doesnt bode well that Birkdale was one of only a handful of Opens where he failed to make the top-10.
LAST 5 OPENS 4/3/34/2/18
VERDICT: Given his recent struggles and below-par effort here in 1998, he faces a tough task maintaining his impressive Open record.
PADRAIG HARRINGTON 20/1
The Irishman ended a long barren stretch for Europeans in Majors when he won at Carnoustie. Twice a winner of the Dunhill Links as well, he has few equals at this form of golf and stands out as the best European hope, despite the pressure of defending his title.
LAST 5 OPENS 1/MC/DNP/MC/22
VERDICT: He has the patience for the Majors, and no forlorn hope to retain the Claret Jug.
JIM FURYK 33/1
Former US Open champion and a regular Major contender. Like many Americans, Furyk has shown he can produce his best golf on a links. Looked ideally suited to Birkdale when finishing fourth in his best Open result 10 years ago, despite a cold putter on the Sunday.
LAST 5 OPENS: 12/4/MC/MC/MC
VERDICT: The second-best American bet now hes back at Birkdale.
SERGIO GARCIA 25/1
Unquestionably one of the worlds best links players, Garcia has finished in the top-10 in five of the last six Opens. But set against this, he has badly disappointed when holding winning chances in the last two Opens, especially when frittering away his lead at Carnoustie. Even then a par at 18 would have given him the Claret Jug. Garcias progress has been plagued by a loss of putting confidence, so he has a point to prove.
LAST 5 OPENS 2/5/5/MC/10
VERDICT: His record suggests another high finish, but recent final-day performances dont instill much confidence.
HENRIK STENSON 40/1
Emerging Swedish star who is second in the European Order of Merit at the time of writing. Stenson has the pedigree of a top-class player for years to come, and has won a World Match Play title, but he has yet to show anything approaching his best on a links course to date.
LAST 5 OPENS MC/48/34/DNP/DNP
VERDICT: Little to suggest that he has yet developed the skills required to win an Open.
LUKE DONALD 40/1
Thanks to a very consistent long game, Donald has earned plenty of cash on both sides of the Atlantic. He hasnt truly fulfilled his well-touted potential in Majors though, especially in the Open, where hes achieved nothing of note. He seems happier on American courses.
LAST 5 OPENS 63/35/52/MC/MC
VERDICT: Cant be fancied in an Open until hes shown much better form on a links.
JUSTIN ROSE 25/1
Dominated the Open narrative the last time it was held at Birkdale, when finishing 4th as an amateur. Well established in the States, Rose improved out of all recognition in 2007, winning the Order of Merit, but has yet to repeat that level of form this year. His 12th place at Carnoustie after a slow start confirmed his game is suited to the Open test.
LAST 5 OPENS 12/DNP/DNP/DNP/MC
VERDICT: He will be the centre of attention, and is the best hope of a British winner.
LEE WESTWOOD 25/1
Westwood is the most prolific European tournament winner in the last decade with an honour roll of 26 worldwide wins, and a Ryder Cup legend to boot. The Englishman also has had some bad times during an up-and-down career, and his two wins in 2007 were his first for four years. He seems to have returned to his very best in the past year and he is surely due a good Major. The Open could represent his best ever chance.
LAST 5 OPENS 35/31/MC/4/MC
VERDICT: Westwood possesses an admirable temperament when in contention, suggesting he can still claim a Major some day. He looks another strong home contender.
REST OF THE WORLD
RETIEF GOOSEN 33/1
Dual US Open champion who has been a model of consistency in the Majors this century. Six top-10 finishes in the Open, but, surprisingly, he has never seriously challenged for a Claret Jug. More worrying is a serious decline in form since finishing runner-up in
the 2007 Masters.
LAST 5 OPENS 23/14/5/7/10
VERDICT: Will need to massively improve on recent form to be a challenger.
VIJAY SINGH 25/1
At 45, Fijis Singh continues to defy the ageing process and retains a long game of the very highest order. Has three Major titles among 52 worldwide tournament wins, but has rarely managed to get into contention in the Open. For a player of his profile and consistency, three career top-10s in the Open is ordinary at best, but he tied for second with Thomas Björn in 2003, behind Ben Curtis.
LAST 5 OPENS 27/MC/5/20/2
VERDICT: Probably not quite at his best on links courses, and unlikely to appreciate any bad weather.
ADAM SCOTT 25/1
Fourteen career wins at the age of 27, including two this year, explain why Scott is so regularly touted as a genuine future rival to Woods. Without doubt hes made considerable recent improvement, but has yet to challenge for a Major. Needs drastic improvement on a distinctly ordinary Open record, where hes made the top 20 just once in eight visits.
LAST 5 OPENS 27/8/34/42/MC
VERDICT: Another class act more suited to US target golf than the unique demands of an Open Championship.
GEOFF OGILVY 50/1
Very much the man for the big occasions, in the last three seasons Ogilvy has won a US Open, two World Golf Championships and compiled an impressive array of high finishes in the top events. Played well to finish 5th at St Andrews and 16th the following year at Hoylake, giving the impression that he has what it takes to conquer a links course.
LAST 5 OPENS MC/16/5/DNP/DNP
VERDICT: The likeliest winner among the growing Australian contingent. One to put on the shortlist.
ANDRES ROMERO 40/1
Still a relative novice in top-class company, Romero has set the last two Opens alight with his attacking play, finishing 8th at Hoylake and 3rd at Carnoustie. Few can boast a better start to their Open career than that and the young Argentinian has won on both European and PGA Tours since last years near miss.
LAST 5 OPENS 3/8/DNP/DNP/DNP
VERDICT: Obviously happy playing links golf, but Id doubt whether his attacking game is ideal for a tough course like Birkdale.
STEWART CINK 50/1
Despite being a regular contender on the PGA Tour over the past decade, Cink has taken a long time to transfer his talents to the Majors. He did have his best Open to date though at Carnoustie last year, and he has been a model of consistency on the PGA Tour this year.
LAST 5 OPENS 6/MC/MC/14/34
VERDICT: Consistent, capable on a links and certainly one of the strongest challengers from America.
STEVE STRICKER 50/1
Stricker suffered with form and injury, all but disappearing from top-class golf earlier this century, before producing a comeback that was as impressive as it was unlikely. For the past two years Stricker has barely been out of the top 10 in the States, propelling him to a career peak of 4th in the world rankings. He also enjoyed his first decent Open to date at Carnoustie when he finished 8th.
LAST 5 OPENS 8/DNP/DNP/DNP/DNP
VERDICT: Nobody will ever write off Stricker again, but it must be a concern that he hit 80-74 over the weekend here in 1998.
JUSTIN LEONARD 66/1
Leonard was Open champion at Troon in 1997, and then lost in the play-off to Paul Lawrie two years later at Carnoustie. He never looked likely to feature during several lean seasons since then, but Leonard has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past year. He is known as a brilliant wind player, having grown up in Texas, although he got battered by the Royal Birkdale breezes in 1998.
LAST 5 OPENS MC/52/16/MC/14
VERDICT: Not without a chance of winning the Claret Jug for a second time, but Leonard must improve vastly on his previous Birkdale effort.
SEAN OHAIR 100/1
OHair won his second PGA Tour title at Marchs PODS Championship, confirming himself as one of the brightest American prospects in the process. OHair also impressed with top-15 finishes in his first two Opens, on what were his first experiences of a links course an achievement that must not be under-estimated.
LAST 5 OPENS 67/15/15/DNP/DNP
VERDICT: On a course where Americans tend to prosper, OHair looks to be a very interesting outsider.
HUNTER MAHAN 66/1
Another highly promising young American slowly building his reputation. Mahan won his first PGA title last year, and could make the Ryder Cup side. Hes taken really well to the Open, improving in each of his three attempts and finishing as top American last year.
LAST 5 OPENS 6/26/DNP/36/DNP
VERDICT: Obviously happier playing a links course than most US players, this makes him an outsider to watch.