The (British) Open Championship preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Post Brexit perhaps this classic faux pas – calling the Open Championship the British Open – will cease to be an issue – since Britain may consist of England only.
The 2016 event returns to the clans’ roots in southern Ayrshire buried as they are here the past generations of McGillicuddy’s. One could even imagine that with continental drift some your correspondents forefathers reside under the greens at Troon.
Naturally this event is steeped in history and unless you’ve just arrived from Mars, or mid west America, you’ll be familiar with it.
Golf being the ridiculous game it is the 123 yard Postage Stamp 8th will get mentioned more than once and ole Gene Sarazen will rise from the ashes with his hole in one in 1973. More gruesome though is the 15 taken by German amateur Herman Tissies in 1950.
Leaving aside the vicissitudes of this seemingly innocuous hole the key is that it’s often the first hole played into the wind. 123 yards can be a 6 iron and joy will seem like a distant mistress should you land in a bunker.
Troon is very much a game of two halves wind wise and generally it’s best to score early. The back nine is brutal – the toughest seven holes are all on the back nine – with perhaps the par five 16th offering the only respite.
The weather is for mid teens temperatures and 10 – 15 mph winds. Coming from London I can attest to the fact it’s been windy for a week now and South Ayrshire is going to be worse.
Troon has produced some of golf’s greatest winners though 2004 winner Todd Hamilton would probably agree that he’s not one of them. Prior to Hamilton in 2004 was Justin Leonard suggesting that Troon is not a bombers course.
Troon also hosted the single best ever tee to green performance by any player in any Major. Tom Weiskopf hit 69 greens in 1973 to win his only major. Weiskopf was a stunning ball striker who played second fiddle to Jack and Tom etc in the 1970’s. He later went on the become a golf course architect and nearly drowned in mud on his Loch Lomond design while inspecting his handiwork one evening. Loch Lomond was, for a time, the home of the Scottish Open that precedes this event. Subsequently moved to amongst others, Castle Stuart, to give players a more appropriate links warm up for the Open, Castle Stuart has produced every winner of this event. The winner emerged from the field in 2011,2012 and Milky Phil’s amazing 2013 victory at Muirfield. Milky has yet to taste victory since and while a mercurial man, form wise, we feel his swing tinkering has produced just too inconsistent a game to side with him this week.
Make what you will of a review of the 2004 event statistically: The player who drove it straightest finished 7th. Best GIR – 9th. Longest driver – 9th. Best scrambler – 3rd. Best putter – 71st! Ernie finished 2nd and was the 5th best putter.
The winner is we feel a man with feel. There is a theme running through our stable this week and its players with great hands. The greens are small at Troon and while that makes Weiskophs’ 1973 performance even more remarkable the reality is that the winner will need a killer short game and that on links course requires feel.
Patrick Reed: We all know about Patrick right? The new Kuch this man is a top 10 machine and showed he has the links skills required with an excellent tune up at Castle Stuart. Reed opened with a 75 and it just got better and better with a weekend comprising two 67’s. We’ve been all over Patrick this season – although not to his house – and now is the time to get on again.
If it blows we know Reed has the ability and imagination to hit the required wind shots with his arm ball action. T20th last year followed a missed cut in 2014 and while Reed’s form in Opens is limited he’s a fast learner and a progressive player. Possessing a seriously good short game all Reed needs is a week on the greens and you simply can’t see him out of the mix.
Shane Lowry: Unable to attend the 100th Open De France due to his commitment to defend at the WGC Bridgestone unsurprisingly Lowry left his best in the locker. Yes he failed to handle the lead on Sunday at Oakmont but what great player hasn’t felt the pressure and been better for it? A winner of the Irish Open as an amateur and a US Tour winner Lowry looks a great player in the making. Not in the freaks category – Rory class – but a man with magic hands and the ball flight and experience of links golf to win. Back to the WGC. It wasn’t all bad with weekend scores on 70 / 68 and he did improve every day. Lowry missed the cut last year at St Andrews but he did finish 10th in 2014 at Royal Liverpool.
1pt e/w at $51 with (1-2-3-4-5-6 1/4 odds)
Rickie Fowler: Some great Americans have won at Troon…Palmer and Watson… and if ever there was a winner of a major in waiting its Rickie. Longer than you think, straight and a great putter on his day Fowlers form had dipped and he looked wretched for a while but a 10th place at the Bridgestone augurs well for a man who has won 3 times on the US Tour, posted 9 runners up and 5 thirds, not to mention $23m, and is ranked 7th in the world. Throw in his win at Castle Stuart last year and some impressive Open performances, T 30th in 2015, 2nd in 2014, T 5th in 2011, he looks a man to be on.
1pt e/w at $31 with (1-2-3-4-5-6 1/4 odds)
@BetDetective is chipping in with a couple of bets in the non outright markets.
Scott Hend looks like great each way value here with Day, Scott, Leishman and Kiwi Danny Lee the main opposition in the market. Hend was tied for 1st after round one of the Scottish Open last week before fading out of contention. He has been quoted as saying he loves links golf and has a win as recently as 4 weeks ago
We can get 1st and 2nd each way at 1/4 the odds in this market with only six runners and with Alex Noren’s win last week seeing his odds crushed and Henrik Stenson odds on we can get some value in backing a player very well suited to Major championship golf in David Lingmerth. He is a real grinder who plays tough courses well, despite his oversized noggin.