Tiger’s two Opens here produced two easy wins, by an aggregate of 13 shots, and those performances formed a strong part of my reasoning in backing him to win two or more Majors this year. I have a horrible feeling that, come Sunday night, we will be scratching our heads about not taking 6/1 about the ultimate course specialist, although at least it would mean we could recoup most or all of the stake from that bet.
Ultimately, in order to bet at short prices, one needs a justification in terms of recent form and in this case, there is none. So far, the post-scandal version of Tiger Woods is a poor imitation of that dual St Andrews champion. Having said that, he did manage to get into final day contention in both of this year’s Majors, despite a cold putter. For that reason, it would take a brave man to lay him.
Another failure at Loch Lomond makes it just three top-ten finishes from 23 starts in the UK. The prospect of wind and rain makes it even easier to take on Mickelson than usual, although in his defence, wide-open St Andrews is probably his likeliest Open venue. There was little sign of that when finishing 60th in 2005, though.
Lee is probably still kicking himself about the three-putt on Turnberry’s 72nd hole that cost him a play-off last year, but that should be recognised as by far his best ever Open result and only his second top ten. That record suggests he is likelier to break his majors duck in the States, even if he does have a fine record in the Dunhill Links, played partly at St Andrews. If he were to win the Claret Jug, you can be sure someone will bring up his extremely negative comments about this layout from yesteryear.
Having won two of the last three PGA Tour events, and blown a big lead in the other, nobody arrives in better form than Justin. We’ve all known he has the game for links since finishing fourth as an amateur in 1998, and top 15s on two of the last three renewals were pretty decent too. The only downside is odds of just 25/1, which are hard to stomach when considering he was available at four times that price, in lesser events, just a few weeks ago.
Had Graeme not won the US Open, I suspect he would have been a big-priced selection here. Now at much shorter odds, chasing very rare back-to-back Majors, the idea makes less appeal. Nevertheless, he is more experienced than most in links conditions, and put up an eyecatching run in 11th place at the 2005 Open here.
Stricker dispelled any doubts about his wellbeing with last week’s -26 winning total. St Andrews will be a wholly different test to John Deere Run, but he can hardly be written off when in this sort of form. Top tens in two of the last three Opens, along with an extra emphasis on scrambling here, strengthen his claim.
Until last year’s fast finishing, never in contention fifth, Luke’s Open record was appalling. He does at least have some decent form in the Dunhill Links, though I suspect his lack of driving distance will prove a fatal disadvantage this week.
Furyk certainly has the required Open prowess, with four top-five finishes, but two failures at St Andrews probably owed much to his lack of power off the tee.
Goosen’s record-beating performances in the old Dunhill Cup, before he became a world star, still linger in the memory and confirm he has the tools for St Andrews. He also finished fifth in the 2005 Open, has a fine return of nine top 15s in this Major and generally thrives in bad weather. On the downside, he was poor both last week and at Pebble Beach.
Kaymer was another longer range fancy for this, having already finished second in a Dunhill Links at St Andrews. His efforts over the past fortnight, however, are less inspiring.
Just one fast-finishing top ten from several attempts suggests the Open is Casey’s least likeliest Major. Nor is his recent form anything to get excited about.
Amongst an otherwise poor record, Ogilvy’s one good Open came when finishing fifth at St Andrews in 2005. Much might depend on the wind, as he tends to struggle in bad conditions.
Poulter has already illustrated his suitability for The Open when finishing runner-up in 2008, and 11th at St Andrews in 2005 also reads well given his subsequent improvement. Now all he needs is to turn a disappointing run around.
Both of Villegas’ attempts in The Open have been promising, and I suspect he might win this title one day. Were it to be this year, that would be hugely frustrating having backed him so many times recently. It isn’t easy to make a case on the basis of last week’s evidence in bad weather, though.
Garcia has never entered an Open at anywhere near this week’s triple-figure price. There is nothing in his 2010 form to warrant a bet, although I am loathe to entirely write off a links specialist who has six Open top tens this century, including a painful near-miss in 2007.
With top fives on two of his last four starts, Moore is another in-form American who bookies might be guilty of underestimating. He ranks well in terms of total driving and scrambling, and didn’t disgrace himself in 42nd on his sole Open attempt in 2007.
Both Watney’s previous attempts in this Major produced respectable, if unspectacular mid-division finishes. Now presented with a course where extreme driving distance is much more of a useful asset, he could easily play a part over the weekend.
Stenson’s ability to leave his driver in the bag could plausibly yield dividends at St Andrews, as it did when winning at Sawgrass in 2009. His last two Open results, 13th at Turnberry and a distant third at Birkdale, suggest he’s learnt the arts of links golf.
The defending champion looks one to oppose after a disappointing 12 months. He struggled on both previous visits to St Andrews, too.
2010 STATS: -11pts
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
5pts MARTIN KAYMER TO WIN THE RACE TO DUBAI @ 9/1
20pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN EXACTLY TWO MAJORS @ 5/1
8pts TIGER WOODS TO WIN EXACTLY THREE MAJORS @ 14/1