The 147th Open Championship is almost upon us with Jordan Spieth defending his title from Royal Birkdale last year. The question is ‘Who will tame Carnoustie at its quickest?’.
While Carnoustie is the toughest of the courses on the Open rotation, the track is especially demanding when the wind blows. But with no more than a gentle breeze forecast for the week, there won’t be the tee-time lottery which often wrecks a player’s hopes.
Sure, there will be times when scoring is easier as with any course. But there won’t be the potential for top players hitting the ball well to run up an 80 or worse. That said, the month-long heatwave and drought brings its own issues with blisteringly quick fairways making the ball more likely to roll into a pot bunker or a burn.
Brandt Snedeker (80/1) isn’t one of the longest hitters on tour but…
Just hit one 427 on 18 @TheOpen .. Guys would be hitting it in the burn in front of green 450+.. Carnoustie is baked out but greens are pure.. Never seen an Open this firm.. Will be an awesome week if it stays like this.. pic.twitter.com/AUXyPGF4iu
— Brandt Snedeker (@BrandtSnedeker) July 14, 2018
Neither is Padraig Harrington (125/1) who won the Open the last time it was held at Carnoustie in 2007.
Just played 18 at Carnoustie. Breeze down off the left. Hit it in the burn again. This time it was the one at the green,457 yards away. The fairways are a tad fast. #TheOpen #carnoustie #EuropeanTour pic.twitter.com/Why6rzYPph
— Padraig Harrington (@padraig_h) July 14, 2018
Distance control is going to be vital and a strong short game will be far more beneficial than a big long game. Or will it? Big-hitting Spaniard Jon Rahm plans to take the bunkers out of the equation by driving over them. While the rough is far less penal than in previous years, he will need a fair bit of luck to prevail with that project.
Dustin Johnson is the 10/1 favourite but hasn’t played since the US Open where, not for the first time, he led at halfway but failed to get it done. A third-round 77 cost him dearly as he finished third, two shots behind Brooks Koepka.
The world number one has three top-10 finishes in the Open, but he is a player who relies more on distance off the tee rather than accuracy. His fine scrambling should see him be at least competitive.
Rickie Fowler’s hunt for that elusive major continues and he is vying for second favouritism with Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. Having come close in the Masters, Fowler never really got going in the US Open. But a share of sixth at last week’s Scottish Open shows he is on his game and he has two top-five finishes from eight goes at the Open.
Rose may finally get lucky with the weather this year. Henrik Stenson’s caddy Gareth Lord once said the Englishman was “cursed at the Open”. Lord added, “If you’re within an hour of him in the draw, you have no chance.” The 2013 US Open champion has been Mr Consistency this season, finishing in the top-10 in his last four events, a run which started with victory in the Fort Worth Invitational.
And what of McIlroy (16/1) who is promising to attack Carnoustie this week? He and Rahm (18/1) are targeting some of the par-4s which, with the parched fairways, are perhaps driveable. The Ulsterman has not been at his very best this year although he does have one PGA Tour victory to his name.
That’s one more than defending champion Spieth (20/1) whose last title was the Open at Birkdale 12 months ago. He has failed to finish in the top 20 since his third place in the Masters and odds of 20/1 look quite skinny based on recent form.
One man who is in the form of his life is Francesco Molinari (25/1). From tee to green, the Italian has long been one of the best and most consistent on tour with putting his Achilles heel. But recent months have seen a transformation.
In May, the 35-year-old from Turin beat McIlroy to win the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth before taking second in the Italian Open. After a respectable share of 25th at the US Open, he clinched his first PGA Tour title, the Quicken Loans National, in superb style.
Molinari won by eight strokes thanks to a final round 62 where he struck the ball quite beautifully. And last week he was tied for second in the John Deere Classic. With an average score of 65.5 over his last eight rounds, to say he is hot is an understatement.
Tiger Woods (25/1) is playing his first Open since 2015 and glad to be back in Scotland. The 14-time major winner has not won a title since the Bridgestone Invitational in August 2013 but this season he has shown glimpses of something like his best. He was fourth behind Molinari in the Quicken Loans National at the start of the month and tied for second in the Valspar Championship in March.
Woods famously won the 2006 Open at Hoylake without using his driver and he has spoken of employing similar tactics at Carnoustie this week.
His old adversary Phil Mickelson (40/1) could also go well despite having missed the cut in his two previous Carnoustie Open appearances. But he has since adapted his game to links golf, winning at Muirfield in 2013 before losing out to Henrik Stenson (25/1) in a classic shootout two years ago.
Like Woods, he has declared that he won’t be packing a driver this week. And ‘Lefty’ is probably the best wedge player in the history of the game as he demonstrated to former pro Gary Evans on Tuesday.
The first person you tag has to let you try a flop shot on them 👇😂
🎥 @timmick29 pic.twitter.com/9yW87Ib4pB
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 17, 2018
Carnoustie has produced surprises in the past and there are some juicy prices around. The aforementioned Snedeker (80/1) missed last year’s Open with a chest injury and is only just returning to his best as proved by his third in this month’s Greenbrier Classic. He’s an 80/1 shot and with BetBright paying out one-fifth of the odds for 10 places, a punt on an outsider could be the way to go.
No Open Championship is dull but this 147th edition promises maximum excitement.
Odds are provided at time of writing, please check your betslip to confirm they have not changed before betting.
Also published on Medium.