As usual, this week represents one of the few in the calendar where I venture beyond the two main tours. The reason is that this particular Major has proved one of the most predictable golf tournaments around in recent years, with relatively few serious candidates. Even when there’s been a shock winner, like Bruce Vaughan last year, the places were filled with obvious names.
The same could be said about seniors golf in general, where the gap between the top handful and the rest is quite substantial, but unlike most other seniors events, this one benefits from live coverage on Sky and tends to see greater liquidity than the Champions Tour norm. Such is my confidence about betting in this tournament that I’m doubling the total outlay.
There is one crucial difference with this year’s renewal, in so far as it moves away from the usual links rota to the relatively calm surroundings of Sunningdale. Four rounds on a tough links course really does separate the best from the rest, but on this parkland course we may see a lot more come into the argument, particularly from the States. Nevertheless, it’s hard to find more than 20 plausible winners, and in a 20-runner race, 6/1 about a standout favourite like BERNHARD LANGER would always represent value.
Langer is very much the dominant force in seniors golf. The German has earned twice as much money and Charles Schwab Cup points than anyone else. He’s won his last two Champions Tour events, and sandwiched those titles with a strong challenge against the younger European Tour mainstream in the BMW International Open. Such heroics against the younger men doesn’t always translate into seniors tour form, but that 9th place does confirm that Langer hasn’t significantly deteriorated with age.
Rather, like many of his main rivals, Langer simply became less competitive as the next generation vastly improved their driving distance. Players like Langer, LOREN ROBERTS and JAY HAAS retained all their iron play and/or putting brilliance, and were able to regularly compete as soon as they entered the over-50s scene. Langer knows Sunningdale well from the days it hosted Euro events, and thoroughly deserves these short odds. Its very hard to see him finishing outside the places.
His case becomes stronger when considering the claims of his closest market rivals. Doubtless, Tom Watson will be all the rage after that incredible performance, but even in the unlikely event that he isn’t mentally and physically exhausted after Turnberry, I couldn’t back him to win a fourth Seniors Open title because of the move to a non-links. It’s safe to say that Tom has now proved beyond all reasonable doubt that he is the finest links player of all-time, but Sunningdale represents a very different test that should markedly reduce his recent advantage in this event.