Golf takes centre stage this weekend with the 2012 Open Championship from Royal Lytham & St. Annes. The Open Championship is the biggest event in the golfing calendar and the oldest and most prestigious of the 4 Major championships and, as always, the cream of world golf has arrived in the British Isles to do battle over 4 days.
A resurgent Tiger Woods leads the field from a betting perspective; however his general price of 9/1 is a precarious price for a man whose lack of winning form has left many wondering if we’d ever see the Tiger of old again.
With the last 9 Majors all falling to first-time champions and 13 from the last 15 going the same way it’s easy to see why golf fans are salivating at the thought of this weekend’s showcase. As ever with Majors; there’s a huge number of players that could be going home with the claret jug as Darren Clarke did 12 months ago.
Since David Duval’s victory here in 2001, the course has been lengthened by 181 yards with changes to the tee positions on 2, 10 and 11 plus a completely new green on the par 5 7th, however it still only measures just shy of 7,100 yards for its par of 70.
Despite being a mile or so inland, this is a links course of the truest kind and the weather is often its main defence; in relatively calm conditions, a low winning score is achievable (witness Tom Lehman’s course record of -13 over 72 holes in 1996), however if and when the wind blows it can be a different challenge altogether. The 200+ bunkers strategically placed throughout the course must be avoided at all costs. Accuracy from tee to green is going to be key this weekend more than usual. It’s almost a question of who can avoid the errors that may land them in the treacherous rough.
After one of the wettest summers in living memory, the 4 day forecast is for some reasonable weather from Thursday onwards. There is expected to be heavy rain the day before the tournament starts. Sunday is forecasted as being the most likely day for a return of the sodden Summer that we‘ve all enjoyed. Despite the course being a quick-draining links, there is reason to think that Thursday may play softer than the greens men would like. This could see a lot of American players who would usually struggle in these type of conditions to the fore. Do bear in mind however as the week progresses it should be the quality ball-strikers and links specialists who start elevating towards the top.
There’s already been some controversy with Tiger Woods complaining that the rough was “almost unplayable” in places due to the moisture. The Open organisers have tried to distance themselves from the comment and claimed the comments were taken out of context. The staff at the course has had to work extremely hard to keep the course in championship shape due to the challenging weather.
Interestingly the last 5 winners of the Open at Royal Lytham had all finished inside the top 20 at Augusta that season. There may be some logic in that as a lot of the trouble at Lytham is on the right-hand side of the hole and Augusta famously favours left handed players.
Despite the fact that recent form is generally seen to be less important in determining Open champions, the 4 most recent Lytham champions had put in a number of contending, and in some cases winning, performances in the season of their victory.
So of the 156 players looking to take home the coveted Claret Jug, who can win this thing? Could Lee Westwood or Luke Donald be the first English winner of the Open since Nick Faldo back in 1992? Could Rory McIlroy follow in Darren Clarke’s footsteps and take the championship back to Northern Ireland? Will Tiger be on the prowl or could one of the other members of the American contingent storm the course? All will be revealed shortly.
1.I think that Graeme McDowell at 10/1 to be the top British or Irish player is decently priced.
2.Hunter Mahan at 50/1 is a tempting price. He’s very accurate and always a threat.