The 2018 Open Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Can the 147th Open beat the 146th for late drama? Spieths’ get out of gaol bogey, when off the scale wide on 13 prefaced a run with the putter that broke Kuch’s heart. Carnoustie is a beast of a course and will be a battle of survival – if any sort of weather kicks up 10 over could win. Pod prevailed at 7 under despite a double on the 72nd in the last Carnoustie Open in 2007 and he thinks he’s a chance.
Then there was the 1999 event when Van Der Veld lost with a three shot lead down the last handing the title to Paul Lawrie (in the playoff) at 6 over.
The just finished Scottish Open at Gullane would appear to no wind preparation test for Carnoustie but there is no denying the fact that the Scottish Open has produced the Open winner in six of the last eight years. Yes a lot of players use it as a prep – including Milky Phil when he won both 2013 – but there are some notable absentees that front the market – Dustbin, Rory, Jordan. Can this lot be ruled out? No. Will they win? Maybe.
What we do know is it will be rock hard on the fairways and slower on the greens. Open greens are always slower than say a traditional PGA event. They need to be as many are exposed and wind can move the ball around. While its not short at 7,400+ it will not play long due to the hardness of the ground. It’s not generous off the tee though and with the killer bunkering thrown in there will be a lot of strategic tee to fairway play. We’ve seen a lot of this over the summer and the player who prevails will have kept their ball on the fairways, limited their travails in the bunkers and scrambled. Of course putting is crucial but you have to be in a position to make birdies before you can make them and this isn’t going to be a birdie fest. The final ingredients are a dose of luck and the right attitude – and perhaps the draw.
As always a case could be made for most at the front end of the market. Dustbin’s stats are awesome. Rory is anyone’s guess and his ability to laugh at himself when recounting Brad Faxon’s advice that maybe his body language gave something away at Ballyliffin could be just the catalyst he needs to turn it around. He’s having his best year on the greens – as hard as that is to believe. He’s won this and has good form at the Dunhill albeit in weaker fields and in the autumn. What he also has is consistency.
An interesting stat emerged last week around top ten finishes since 2012 across all tours.
A pretty impressive list with umpteen world wide regular tour wins and 9 Majors. Yet McIIroy heads this by some way. In relative terms Rory outperforms the ultra consistent Rose – 2nd on this list – by 11.5%. Dustbin by 14.7% and Spieth by 20.2%.
Leaving aside Rory accounts for 4 of these 9 majors this stat illustrates once again that Rory is the premier player of his generation.
He’s also 20/1. Jordan is 25/1. Mmm.
The roll of honour at the Open is littered with names. Occasionally a player crops up that really surprises, Lawrie in 1999, Curtis and Hamilton this century, that belie their status, but by and large Opens are won by winners, regular winners, class acts.
Last year we went for the stable approach that included these fellows: Bryson Dechambeau, Emiliano Grillo and Patrick Reed. Dechambeau has since won and so has Patrick – when we were not on at the Masters based on ball flight!
I love DeChambeau’s game and will rue the missed opportunity should he win but I feel his form is waning. Patrick I’m also going to risk not being on despite great form, great ball flight and putting – he’s just a bit short. I’m tempted by Xander and Peter Uihlein amongst others but I can’t have them all.
Rory McIIroy 2 pts e/w @ $19
Milky Phil 1 pt e/w @ $61
Emiliano Grillo: 1 pt e/w @ $161
Ryan Fox: 1pt e/w @ $111
All bets with Bet365 at first EIGHT places and 1/5 the odds a place
Sure Rory has his issues but I’ve made the case for the best player of his generation and I’ve more than once proposed the idea that 20/1 each of two (Jordan if you weren’t listening) represented value. Granted this was at the Masters. Here at the Open Rory has an enviable record since his win in 2014 where his last three starts total 10. One, five and four is quite simply the best Open form. The putter we will have to trust he’s been working on, his attitude more than technical, and if he putts like he did at the Arnie P it’s all over – but it’s a big if. Tee to green at Ballyliffen, where he was also host remember, he was superb. Remember this is Rory, he’s special, and he’s having his best putting year for five seasons. It was also noticeable he’s been working on a more compact swing for these conditions especially his wedge play which was letting the side down. Off at 12:53 with Leishman and Olesen in a 3 ball that should be relaxed and fun provided he gets any sort of weather (as forecast) I can’t see him being far off the lead at which point he’ll be single figures.
It took Milky Phil 22 attempts to win this thing and he maintained he enjoyed the challenges all the way. When you hear him talk about the correct spin required into the wind and the phlegmatic attitude you need to counter the slings and arrows you realise that he’s come to terms with links golf. Arguably the best closing round ever – certainly his – that 66 at Muirfield in 2013 was sublime. He knows all too well that many can’t win this but he also knows only too well he will have his share of good and bad luck, you just have to accept it, and that it’s highly unlikely anyone will run away with the thing. In short, make the cut, stay in contention and position yourself on the weekend to contend.
Prior to his meltdown at the US Open he’d looked like the person I’ve longed since thought he was – the man most likely to win majors nearing and post 50. His mea culpa was interesting and was good enough for me – he lost it and is embarrassed and ashamed – but was man enough to admit it.
Carnoustie will above all enable him to leave his driver in the bag and plot his way around. Throw in one of the best short games ever and it will hardly surprise if he’s in contention come the weekend.
Last year of Grillo ..
Emiliano Grillo is another stable runner and like Bryson has class stamped all over him. He’s taken some time out recently and while he’s shown glimpses of form this year he’s by and large disappointed…me anyway. Despite an underwhelming year he’s 45th in the rankings. He’s also posting some positive numbers that support the argument that he’s not far away from winning. Positive figures for all the key stats, off the tee, approach shots, tee to green and total are only compromised by some average scrambling and putting. Surprise he will have to scramble and putt well! Twelfth on debut in this event last year along with 17th in the Masters, 54th at the US Open and 13th in the PGA suggest Grillo is a big event player. The key is experience in these conditions and ball flight. Ranked 37th on the PGA Tour for fairways hit this will prove crucial at Birkdale.
Grillo has failed to train on to win as the expression goes but he’s still a class ball striker with much stronger putting to go with it. A best-placed third on the PGA tour this year along with two top 10’s in his last six starts is good enough form for me. Not a high hitter he’ll find a natural bedfellow in these rock hard fairways. The one worry in a stats set filled with positives is his strokes gained around the green, just, ranked 103rd, on the flipside somewhat contradicted with his scrambling rank standing at 26th. Grillo hits it straight (70.27%) and hits greens (70.59%) plus is ranked 13th in strokes gained putting at 0.574. Consider that this is the first season he has ever posted a positive figure and you gain an insight to how vastly improved he’s become on the greens. An outrageous talent with a really solid debut 12th in the 2016 Open this is one stable star we are not going to death ride.
Ryan Fox will be running on empty or flying high but whatever happens he comes here in the form of his life. Is it about time another Kiwi won? The son of the legendary Grant Fox he’ll equal his fathers sporting achievements should he win this. He came agonisingly close at Ballyliffin only to be stiffed by Knox with two monster putts in regulation and the ensuing playoff. His play down 17 and 18 and then 18 again in the playoff was top class. Where I really rate his chances are his willingness to run the ball in from anywhere. The way he pitched and ran those 60 yards shots down 18 at Ballyliffin was the sign of a man totally comfortable using the ground. He followed that up with a 6th at Gullane. He finished 4th at both these events in 2017 before missing the cut at the Open – his third – so maybe the occasion gets to him. Currently the 9th best player on the European Tour, over the past two weeks he’s a total of 28 under, and with a home pedigree ideally suited to links golf nothing would surprise.