It’s encouraging that both Fisher and McIlroy have taken a break since Bethpage, in order to recharge their batteries for this important fortnight. I don’t know which was the better effort; McIlroy’s 10th on his US Open debut, or Fisher’s always in contention 5th. Both were brilliant, as they were in making the frame in the last prestigious European event at Wentworth. I won’t waste a long paragraph reiterating the high regard in which I hold McIlroy. We’re already on for next week, and in truth besides the fact Tiger is in the Open field, that links test is more suitable. But he is also perfectly capable of landing the warm-up, and decent value at 18/1 to do so. Equally, the sky’s the limit for Fisher who, in my view, was the year’s unluckiest loser at Wentworth. In his case, Loch Lomond is probably a more likely target than the Open.
A case could be made for at least a dozen others. Ogilvy is obviously classy enough, and it bodes very well that he finished 14th on his last visit to Loch Lomond in 2001. Back then, Ogilvy was an outsider even on the low-grade Australasian Tour. Alternatively, there’s 2005 champion and course specialist Tim Clark. The diminutive South African has an outstanding course record, making the top-5 four times from five visits, but as regular readers will know, is a terrible finisher who has been relegated to my ‘avoid at all cost’ list for now at least.
The only player with a better course record than Clark is dual former champion Ernie Els. In nine visits, he’s made the top-3 five times and only once finished worse than 11th. It’s impossible to justify a bet on Els given his current struggles, but he remains worth keeping an eye on. Any hint of a return to form would probably be enough for me to take what are by far Ernie’s biggest Open odds since his 1992 debut. Similarly, his compatriot Retief Goosen remains on my Open shortlist, and having won this title before and registered five top-15s at Loch Lomond, cannot be discounted.
Lee Westwood has won here before, and returned to top form over the weekend, even if once again looking a pale shadow of the fearsome final day competitor that won 29 titles earlier in his career. His Paris conquerer, Martin Kaymer, may struggle to maintain the same high level of form for a second consecutive week. Richard Green, bang in form and once again on the premises in France, finished 3rd last year and should go well. He really is a rare winner though. A case could also be made for defending champ Graeme McDowell, or Miguel-Angel Jimenez, who has made the top-10 at Loch Lomond in three of the last four years.