Monday, 14 July 2014

The Open Championship 2014 - Hoylake


The third Major of the year hits Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake this week, where Tiger Woods last won The Open Championship staged here back in 2006. That was Hoylake’s first time to stage after a thirty nine year gap. Hoylake will host for the 12th time.

Tiger is back again to “defend” but its hard to see him winning again given his recent injury and rehabilitation taking it’s toll. Phil Mickelson of course, is the defending champion from Muirfield twelve months ago,and having produced an excellent effort in Scotland last week he must be a real contender again this week. He clearly has the game for links and he will thrive on last week’s performance here. The par 72 course is just a tad over 7300 yards and the scoring eight years ago was extremely good with Tiger posting a winning 270 score (-18!) In 1957 the winning total was -10.  The Championship course this week actually starts on the members 17th hole, as it did in 2006 and finishes on the 16th ! It was at Hoylake that Ireland produced its first Open Major Champion in Fred Daly so let’s hope it’s good to the Irish again this week as Open Champions Padraig Harrington & Darren Clarke wet their lips in anticipation of more links golf. With Shane Lowry in great form having finished Tied 4th in Aberdeen last week and Michael Hoey also playing well of late, Ireland’s hopes of yet another Open Champion are good. Rory too, will be hoping for decent weather and a better Friday performance (what exactly does Rory be up to on Thursday nights?) if he is to win his third Major. And what about Graeme McDowell ? He arrives on the back of victory at the Open de France so will be in confident mood also. Gmac has excellent Open form and is a real contender this week. He led after round 1 at Hoylake back in 2006 before fading. Should he get a decent start this time, I’m sure he’ll be sticking around to late Sunday afternoon.

Its very open this year with no real standout contender. If looking at current and recent Open form though, perhaps solid cases can be made for the likes of Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Sergio Garcia. All three played here in 2006 finishing 8-48-5. What makes better reading for the three though, is their form over the last 7 Majors since including 3 TOP3s (runner up last year) and Garcia – 4 TOP25s including 2 TOP10s. At 16/1 or thereabouts this week its hard to be confident and taking those prices will only suit the bravest. When comparing their form to Rory McIlroy we can see that Rory’s Open form is poor with just one TOP10 of any real note. Justin Rose likewise has poor Open form and its hard to get onside with him at short odds despite winning his last two tournaments. Having won in Scotland, JR is now favourite this week and its hard to argue with a player that is the form of his life, and who won the US Open in 2013. But going now for three in a row will be tough, but not impossible but I’d still prefer to have a bit of value elsewhere. Perhaps I’m smarting for not backing him last week when I did say he was the one most likely to win at Royal Aberdeen . But at 14/1 – 16/1 and given his previous Open form I’m happy to leave him be this time.

Whenever a tournament hits a links course, punters everywhere look to the Irish & Scottish players for some indicators. Most of them will have played an abundance of links courses over the years and the same can be said these days of those that have had a successful amateur career on the European Tour no matter where they hail from. Joost Luiten has a good links game yet he finished well down the field last week. I can ignore that as he was firing on all cylinders at one stage in round 2 before four straight bogeys ruined a good day, and he never got going again. Also tipped last week was Thongchai Jaidee who also has decent links form. The third selcetion, Stephen Gallacher finished in a tie for 4th and I do expect him to go well again this week.But whilst I think they may have a good Championship I do have a liking for some of the home players to succeed for the first time since Paul Lawrie prevailed in 1999 at Carnoustie and I do think its time that an English player prevailed. English playres look poised this week to pounce and I do quite like the chances of a couple of them. Regrettably though I wont be backing Lee Westwood but would love to see him finally land a Major, and with 4 TOP5s in the last 10 Opens he certainly makes a case.

 

My Selections

 

Paul Casey, like Henrik Stenson and Robert Karlsson of late, has been making steady progress back to the top of the game following a lengthy injury. Having enjoyed some consistent results on the PGA Tour recently, Casey arrives rested and fresh hoping to make this years assault on the Open a challenging one having missed out playing twelve months ago. Casey finished well down the field in ’06 but has produced 2 TOP10s since.  At 66/1 with Betpack,  Casey is worth a dabble here with 6 places on offer (50/1 about for 7 places for those that prefer the extra place)

 
Ian Poulter always produces his best Major form at The Open and that becomes evident by his results of  three TOP10s in the past 6 years. He’s well rested for this week, maybe a bit too much having not played competively now for four weeks. But he’s been back home preparing, and with solid enough performances under his belt of late (3 TOP10s in his last 6 starts) he’ll be in good nick to contend again. Like his Ryder Cup approach, Poults will be fired up for his home Major and having gone close a few times lately this might just be the year he can finally see it through. At 50/1, I’m happy to be on board again as I was at Muirfield.

 Hideki Matsuyama is an interesting punt this week for me. Available at 66/1, the Japanese star could produce another first at Hoylake by surprising all to win as the first from Japan to do so. He has won already on the PGA Tour this year having beaten Kevin Na in a playoff to take out the Memorial and produced a fine 6th placing at Muirfield twelve months ago. The 22 year old has already shown the world that he can compete in the Majors by finishing T10th at Merion and T19th at Oak Hill in 2013.  At  these odds he’s well worth a bet to become the first Japanese winner of a Major. Major winners tend to have plenty of experience behind them and this is vital for The Masters and US Open as well as this, The Open but we’ve had our fair share of shocks as well over the years, with all due respect to Ben Curtis and Todd Hamilton. With 7 places available, Matsuyama can defy the lack of experience and put in another strong showing.

 

Finally, after much deliberation I’m going to stick with Dustin Johnson @ 35/1. DJ has gone off the boil lately but has shown his ability on links courses for quite some time. If scoring is to be had on the par 5s this week, Johnson could be become a factor and he’s a player for the big events. Well capable of showing up this week and he’s added to the staking plan.

 
 

Staking Plan (8 pts/units)
 

1 pt e/w P.Casey @ 66/1

1 pt e/w I.Poulter @ 50/1

1 pt e/w H.Matsuyama @ 66/1

1 pt e/w D. Johnson @ 35/1