Because theres only so many hours in the day, Ive found it impossible to follow the Seniors scene as diligently as the two main tours. This is a great shame, as betting experience from recent years suggests these tournaments are an absolute goldmine. The Seniors British Open in particular has been an easy puzzle to solve recently. Of the last five winners, the three titles for TOM WATSON were easy picks, as was the successful favourite in 2006, Loren Roberts.
Its easy to explain why. Links golf is always a little easier to sort out, as it separates the best links players from the rest. More importantly at seniors level, the number of players who are capable of getting competitive on a typically brutal links course barely reaches double figures. Usually we see clear separation between the leaders and the rest, with the favourites looking the archetypal value each-way bet where a place, or at least strong contention for a place, is guaranteed.
This years renewal has an added bit of spice after Greg Normans quite incredible performance at Birkdale. Apparently he only headed to Lancashire to warm-up for this, having hardly practiced of late. Obviously a repeat performance of that would make him a mortgage job against his fellow seniors, but Im sceptical he will immediately reproduce that form.
My doubts dont stem from a lack of fitness. By the look of his Birkdale demeanour, hes as fit as players ten years younger. And Kenny Perry is living proof that age need not be a handicap in golf. Rather my concern is that, while Birkdale form is obviously a useful guide for another links test, regular tour form doesnt always transfer so clearly.
A critical aspect of seniors golf is that the holes are shorter than the main tour. So players who retain all their class while losing their length often find it easy to resume their old winning ways once they enter the Seniors Tour. Norman didn’t slip down the rankings for this reason, rather it was a wider decline in his game. Even last week, he ranked 37th for driving distance, proving he can still contend on full-length golf courses when it all clicks into place. But on his rare Seniors outings, Norman hasnt looked a class apart by any means. In fact on these shorter holes I doubt hell match the likes of Watson and BERNHARD LANGER.
Langer is the classic emerging senior. He remains dangerous on the main tour, as 15th place in this years 5th Major at Sawgrass illustrates. If it wasnt for his lack of driving distance compared to the younger players, I reckon hed still regularly be a factor at least in Europe. So it comes as no surprise that hes readily assumed the favourites tag amongst the over-50s. Hes twice a winner this year, and twice a runner-up on the Champions Tour. And remember he has all the qualities required to compete on a links course, making the frame twice in the Open this century, most recently in 2005.
Now that Loren Roberts, the 2006 champion, has pulled out, I really fancy a reverse forecast of Langer and Watson, who is aiming for his fourth title in six years, to add to his five proper Open titles. Quite simply, Watson is one of the all-time links greats if not the best ever.
Watson proved he retains that links brilliance is retained at Birkdale. He played in the hardest early morning first-day conditions, when the likes of Ernie Els were hitting 80. 58 year-old Watson, despite being severely handicapped by his lack of distance, managed a superb 74, one of the best rounds that morning. And if you require further evidence of recent form, consider that Watson won on penultimate seniors start.
One more each-way bet makes some appeal, on Argentinian EDUARDO ROMERO. Always a great wind player, hes finished 4th, 2nd, 9th and 4th in four attempts at Seniors Opens. Having won his last Champions Tour start, El Gato looks sure to be a contender once again.
BRITISH SENIORS OPEN
5pts ew BERNHARD LANGER @ 13/2 (GENERAL, 7/1 CENTREBET)
4pts ew TOM WATSON @ 8/1 (GENERAL, 9/1 LADBROKES)
2pts ew EDUARDO ROMERO @ 14/1 (GENERAL, 16/1 PAGEBET)
LONG-TERM ALREADY ADVISED
2008 VOLVO ORDER OF MERIT
10pts HENRIK STENSON @ 7/1
4pts PAUL CASEY @ 14/1
USPGA TOUR MONEY LIST
BETTING WITHOUT TIGER WOODS
2pts ew KJ CHOI @ 33/1
1pt ew TREVOR IMMELMAN @ 80/1
2007/2008 STATS: +541pts