Though this national Open moves between a variety of venues, Glen Abbey plays host for the second consecutive year, and the fourth time this century. However, those looking for clues in last year’s result should be aware of the specific conditions. That week saw torrential rain and numerous delays, prompting ‘pick and place’ rules and drastically softening the greens. Consequently, a course that usually presents a tough test became one of the easiest on the 2008 schedule and produced a rare shock winner in Chez Reavie.
That wasn’t the only time Glen Abbey has had trouble with rain delays, and there could well be some more this week if not on the same scale. Softening the greens really does alter this layout, because they are smaller than usual and success normally depends on high-class approach play to hold them. The other crucial defence is that the course is fairly exposed to the wind, so anyone betting in-running over the weekend is advised to keep a keen eye on the weather forecast.
The other memorable thing about the 2008 renewal was the disappointing finish of Anthony Kim whilst carrying this column’s cash. A strong selection at just 12/1 pre-tournament, Kim traded at odds-on over the weekend but had a poor Sunday. Nevertheless, that strong effort bodes well, even if the target golf element may have slightly favoured his game. Prior to the Open, Kim had been coming into form, but this fine prospect once again demonstrated his lack of tactical nous at Turnberry. So while he is feared, I would still like to see evidence of his liking for Glen Abbey in drier conditions, as my impression has always been that this is a course that very much rewards good course management.
Similar comments apply to Camilo Villegas, who landed another top-20 in a Major on Sunday. Villegas clearly plays tough courses well, and has the high-class iron approach skills to thrive on a course with small greens. However, it must be a slight concern that his two previous visits produced a missed cut and 53rd place. Nor does Retief Goosen’s 30th last year, or the fact that the South African has now endured three miserable final rounds in his last three events when holding a winning chance.
Amongst this batch of favourites, MIKE WEIR looks by far the most reliable. Home advantage should never be under-estimated, and nor should finishes of 2nd and 5th here in the past two years. Weir clearly knows this course like the back of his hand, and is suited by it. Furthermore, his missed cut at the Open must be dismissed as a freak. Weir was right in the thick of it after day one, and looked set to notch yet another high finish in a Major before a truly disastrous start to his second round in the very worst of the weather conditions. As Ben Curtis and Ross Fisher can both testify, Turnberry can do that to anyone who hits just a few poor shots.