The 2017 Open Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Lets start with some home truths. No way is anyone shooting -20 at Birkdale. The course is touted as a fair test but it will never yield -20. The weather in 08 when Harrington won was a handful with wind and rain all bar the Sunday when it was relatively benign. At that point Norman lead deep into Sunday with a master class in wind / strategic play with lots of choke half nelsons and worm burners. It looked at the time to be golf from a bygone age but it worked. The Shark remember was peerless on the fly it and drop PGA Tour but had honed his craft in Australia and the European tour with 2 Opens to his name – I was at one of them – the 93 event at Royal St Georges one of the most competitive Opens ever. Alas Norman changed his game plan in the less severe conditions on the Sunday and paid the price – or it could simply have been a part time 53 year old coming unstuck without any competitive heat under his belt. So Pod prevailed and while it LOOKS at this stage like the weather will not be quite like 08 it will certainly still include the aforementioned wind and rain.
Some information you’ll probably have read / heard elsewhere that may help contextualise the event.
Birkdale is 128 years old and is hosting the Open for the 10th time. It’s well over 7,000 yards and a tough par 70 with both par 5’s on the back nine. Former winners include: Palmer, Trevino, Miller, Watson, Baker Finch and O’Meara. Rose was 4th in 98, turned pro and missed 20+ cuts before he became the player he is now. Fleetwood was raised close by and would sneak on with his father when he was a boy.
The core contenders all have question marks about them and with such a stern test it’s no surprise its 16/1 the field.
Rory’s game seems just plain off and yet he insists it’s close. Who are we to doubt him? I just feel that he would need to do a Norman and plot his way around here and I’m not sure he is up for that.
Dustbin has scars in this event – OB from the fairway in 2011 – and has gone off the boil to a degree, which is hardly surprising.
Ricky and Jordan have form in this event but this is a sterner test and while I think Rickie has the game, he’s failing to close out, Jordan needs to drive it well and that part of his game is questionable. The rest is, of course, off the scale.
Jason and Brooks for mine hit it too hard ‘n high to contend if it blows.
Henrik seems out of sorts. Sergio and Rahm though will know how to work it around here and could easily contend – the prices are the only bugbear.
Our Picks: you may recognise some of this lot…
Bryson Dechambeau: 1pt win at $310
Emiliano Grillo: 1 pt win at $240
Patrick Reed: 1 pt win @ $90
Paul Broadhurst 1st round leader: 1pt win @ $351
Bryson Dechambeau lived up to his potential last week and won the John Deer to earn his spot. He was as excited about getting on the flight to the Open as his maiden win. More to the point he did it with killer putting having gone from 150+ in the rankings to 3rd. He’s found something on the greens, is passionate, and bang in form. Crucially he has the game to deliver with an ability to work the ball low. Equally I think his upright approach will actually work for him when he misses the fairways and hits the hay – which will happen – inevitably. The John Deer was almost a different game to this but its still golf and our man is flying and perhaps most important of all believes in his game. He’s here to win. Another bonus is his tee time – out early with Dufner and Grace. Grace will provide him with a lead should he need it on low-ball flight. Conditions early could be at their best and Dechambeau will have a chance to carry on where he left off. He also has experience of links golf with his 2015 Walker Cup matches where he scored 2 1/2 points from 3 and he finished 2nd in the Australian Masters in 2015 where it was not soft. Plus he’s 329/1.
1pt win at $310
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.
1 pt win at $240
I wrote last week that Bryson Dechambeau is the new Patrick Reed here but there’s only one Patrick and he’s back. Ball flight, did I mention it? is so important here and Patrick loves to work it low. A mercurial sort Reed has had some mind coaching and whatever else it’s done his game has come back to something approaching his best. A recent run of top 20’s including a 5th suggests a man in form. He has also taken and passed with progressive form the Open test with a MC / 20th / 12th run in his only 3 starts. Confident, in form, a great putter and with a killer short game and his ball flight make Reed a huge contender.
1 pt win @ $90
Paul Broadhust would appear to be no chance to win the Open but I like his chances of being first round leader. A senior now Broadhurst is one of those players who’s got better with age and is winning. No mug as regular European Tour player with 11 wins and a top 50 world ranking he’s found his stride on the seniors tour. He hasn’t played in this event since a MC in 2012 but he’s a different player now…mentally. Qualified as 2016 Seniors Open champion he will come here with an attitude that should allow him to free wheel. He has the added advantage of an early tee time (7:08) and being paired with some modest hitters in Jaidee and Castro so will not feel outgunned. He’ll need to put it all together and for the weather to deteriorate in the afternoon but as a speculative wager 350/1 seems overs to me.
1st round leader: 1pt win @ $351 & 0.5 units e/w at the same odds