There is lots to think about when considering who to put your money on at the Open. Neil Tappin looks at the factors behind how to pick a winner at The Open
How To Pick A Winner At The Open
1 Watch the forecast
The weather is your first and most important guiding factor when answering the question – how to pick a winner at The Open. Most importantly, will this year’s be a windy Open? If not, you can think about throwing a few quid behind some of those ‘through the air players’ you wouldn’t usually give a chance of winning a Claret Jug to. The bookies will know who the links specialists are so if the weather is throwing up something unusual, think about stepping out of the ‘links’ comfort zone.
2 Wait for the draw
The draw at The Open Championship plays a bigger role in proceedings than in any other tournament. This is because of the golf course’s proximity to the sea, the changing tide and its exposure to the weather. On the first two days there is almost always a period of at least a few hours where the wind gets up, and if you’re unlucky, the rain comes in too! The R&A split the draw so that players get one morning and one afternoon tee time. If your tee time coincides with one or two periods of strong wind, you’ll be fighting against those who’ve enjoying the course in much calmer conditions. Fair? Who said golf was fair? At Royal St George’s in 2011, Rory McIlroy was caught in the bad weather. Afterwards he was famously criticised for saying, “I’m not a fan of tournaments where the outcome is predicted so much by the weather. It’s not my sort of golf.” If you were in any doubt as to whether luck evens itself out remember that Rory had the good side of the draw in 2014 and went on to win the Claret Jug. Moral of the story – check the weather and hold off from backing anyone on the wrong side of the draw on days one and two.
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Heading to The Open and taking the bats?…
3 Study the par 5s
In 2007, those in charge at Augusta National lengthened and tightened the golf course to make The Masters a greater challenge for the best players. A longer golf course plays into the hands of longer players, right? Wrong. That year it was Zach Johnson who triumphed at Augusta because few, if any players were able to reach the par 5s in two. The result was a tournament that was, to a certain extent, decided by quality of pitching. The same happened when Wentworth was changed and lengthened – it immediately yielded two wins to the relatively short hitting Luke Donald. So on a course that few know well, it always makes sense to study the par 5s. How much of an advantage will the likes of Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Dustin Johnson have? If only the longest, straightest hitters are likely to get up, this will play into their hands. If everyone or no-one is likely to get up, you might want to widen the net…
‘Horses for courses’ is an old adage that has served golf punters well over the years. For such a specific test as the Open Championship, this is particularly true. Our advice would be to take a look at the last five Open leaderboards. Try and spot some repeating names. Whilst our links courses represent a very different test from anything else seen on Tour, they are a species that share many of the same challenges – firm fairways, deep bunkers, relatively flat greens, windy conditions etc. This requires experience and explains why it took so long for Phil Mickelson to become an Open Champion.
Let’s imagine for a second the wind is going to blow fairly hard at the 2017 Open Championship – hard to picture, I know. This is when those players who are able to shape the ball both ways come into their own. In particular, this is about using crosswinds to help you hit the ball further or being able to fight crosswinds to hold approach shots near difficult pin placements. Quite simply, ball flight control becomes the key to success. The old-fashioned shot-shapers – players like Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson – have the skill to use the wind to their advantage. One dimensional players will be suited to certain holes in certain conditions but will be punished when the only way to hold a firm, fast green is to hit the shape of shot they are least comfortable with. A windswept Open Championship is, in many ways, the purest test of ball-striking on the planet.