This regular summer fixture takes on extra significance this year, as the final qualifying event for the European Ryder Cup side. Interestingly, and perhaps controversially, Colin Montgomerie has intimated that any player asked to turn up at Gleneagles who fails to show can forget about receiving a wild card pick. That wide-open battle explains the stronger than usual line-up, with Miguel Angel Jimenez even missing his nephew’s wedding to re-order his schedule accordingly.
 
For reasons that escape me, the Johnnie Walker Championship has become something of an outsiders’ paradise in recent years. All of the last six champions, apart from Paul Casey in 2005, began the week at very big odds. However, that could well change this year given the stronger line-up.
 
Course and stats
 
Gleneagles is distinctive in several respects. Firstly, with five par 5s, long-hitters enjoy a significant advantage. Performance on the four short holes, however, is almost as important as the par 3s are difficult. The main story here though is the weather. This layout is very exposed, and the event seems to invariably coincide with difficult conditions. That is once again the case this year, with wind and rain a constant threat.
 
Prowess in bad weather is therefore probably more important than any specific stat, but driving distance, greens in regulation, par-3 and par-5 performance are also worth considering. In the past, an early first-round tee time has often proved an advantage, but the advanced weather forecast suggests otherwise. If anything, the worst conditions over the first two days are predicted for Friday afternoon, which would reverse those previous trends.
 
Johnnie Walker golf betting:
 
3pts ew ROSS FISHER @ 16/1 (GENERAL)
 
Many of my better instincts point to avoiding the favourite in an event where outsiders tend to thrive, and Fisher has hardly done this column any favours in 2010. Nevertheless, his case is too solid to ignore. Ross showed promise on this course early in his career, and as a long-hitter who thrives in bad weather, is certainly well suited to the test. Moreover, that recent win in the Irish Open is one of the best pieces of form on offer.
 
2pts ew STEPHEN GALLACHER @ 28/1 (BET365, TOTE)
 
Gallacher has presented me with something of a dilemma in recent weeks. As a player who has spent the past decade regularly available at 100/1+, it seems galling to consider taking a small fraction of those odds just because he’s hit a rich vein of form. I’ve been expecting him to slip back at any time, but it hasn’t happened. His last ten starts have now yielded nine top 30s, four times inside the top six. If Gallacher is going to convert that into a win, Gleneagles seems the likeliest venue, as he’s registered four top tens there during vastly inferior seasons. He is also renowned as a bad-weather specialist.
 
1.5pts ew NICOLAS COLSAERTS @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
 
Extreme length off the tee is certainly an advantage around Gleneagles, which must bode well for the much-improved Colsaerts. So too must the fact that three of his five earlier attempts on this course yielded top 25s, including when runner-up in 2005. With seven top 25s from his last 13 starts, Colsaerts is enjoying by far his best ever season.
 
1pt ew RAPHAEL JACQUELIN @ 50/1 (GENERAL, 55/1 BETFRED)
 
Jacquelin’s claims, both in terms of recent and course form, are hard to puncture. OK, he missed the cut on his USPGA debut, but eight of his previous 11 starts had produced top 25s, thrice inside the top three. One of those came when last in Scotland at Loch Lomond, when similarly facing bad weather. His Gleneagles record is excellent, finishing 11th or better on five of his last seven visits.
 
1pt ew GREGORY BOURDY @ 66/1 (BETFRED, CORAL)
 
Bourdy fared better than his compatriot at Whistling Straits, spending the first couple of days in contention, and similar comments apply with regard to consistency, course and bad-weather form. He’s made his last 14 cuts, and while rarely challenging during that spell, his wider win ratio suggests its only a matter of time. The weather was similarly poor when Bourdy finished sixth last year.
 
Main candidates
 
FRANCESCO MOLINARI
 
All the usual analysis applies to the younger of the Molinari brothers. With three top 20s from four Gleneagles attempts, he looks a racing cert to be there or thereabouts, but until improving on an awful conversion ratio, he must be labelled a bottler and one to avoid from a betting perspective.
 
EDOARDO MOLINARI
 
Edoardo makes for a much more appealing bet than his brother. Unlike Francesco, he’s repeatedly proved he has the temperament to capitalise when an opportunity presents itself. He must make any shortlist having dominated an elite field at the Scottish Open, in very bad weather.
 
ROBERT KARLSSON
 
I don’t know quite what to make of Karlsson at the moment. On the one hand, top 20s in the last two Majors, plus recent top tens on both main tours, suggest he’s playing well. On the other, he’s been pretty wild off the tee all year. That would prove costly here, but he can’t be discounted having made the top ten on his last visit to Gleneagles in 2006.
 
PETER HANSON
 
Winning back to back is never easy, but that’s about the only negative for Hanson. He’s in the form of his life, and has twice made the top ten at Gleneagles during inferior spells of his career, including when third on his last visit in 2008.
 
ALVARO QUIROS
 
Given the advantage to very long hitters, Quiros made the shortlist. Bad weather didn’t deter him when finishing 11th and 12th in the Scottish Open and Open Championship recently, and a failure on his sole previous visit can be ignored as it came early in his career.