Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Open 2013 - Muirfield

The 2013 Open returns to Muirfield for the first time since 2002, when Ernie Els prevailed in a 4 man playoff.  An interesting Open is in store this week with sunshine forecasted for the week, meaning the course will play hard and fast putting emphasis back on accuracy off the tee with a superb short game both with wedge & putter being essential ingredients for success come Sunday. The winner of '02 actually arrives here in decent form (ignore MC last week in Scotland) having won in Munich a few weeks back. Ernie will be quietly confident this week and why not? Twice winner of The Championship Medal (2002 & 2012), Ernie also lost out to Todd Hamilton in 2004 in a playoff. Ernie's Open record is impressive and over the 13 years since that win at Muirfield he has returned results of T18-2-T34-3-T4-T7-T8-MC-MC-1.(1 WIN, 5 TOP 10s, 1 TOP 20)
       Looking at results over the past 10 years a handful of players seem to excel in The Open. Els is one, Tiger, Padraig being the others with actual victories, but there are also a few others that were regularly competing in this without winning and the first player that springs to everyone's mind perhaps is Sergio Garcia. Thomas Bjorn has good form too as too does Retief Goosen,Henrik Stenson and to some extent Adam Scott,Luke Donald, Martin Kaymer and even Ian Poulter has threatened a couple of times (2 TOP 10s in last 5 years). Of those mentioned, only Tiger hails from the US, but the Americans have experienced great success between 1995 to 2006 winning it 10 times. Can they find a winner this year? Phil Mickelson leads the charge off the back of his playoff win yesterday at Castle Stuart and Tiger is, well, is Tiger and cannot be ignored here this week. Of all the Americans, I do like the chances of Dustin Johnson who prepared by visiting Ireland last week to play some links before heading to Muirfield. Johnson is not in great form this season but he's not far away and as mentioned a few times on this blog there are always players "simmering", i.e. playing well without really hitting top gear or getting the deserved results. Muirfield will suit DJ who has indicated he may not hit driver this week and his links record is extremely good. A course specialist at Pebble Beach and with recent Open form too,it suggests that he is a contender this week. His 3 years recent record reads T9-T2-T14 and I very much like his chances this week. 

So, in what looks a wide open contest this year, who makes my staking plan? I found it hard to whittle down my initial 32 man shortlist to 20! Each time a player had the line drawn through his name, I had to recheck if I was happy in doing so. The Open does throw up some upsets and its one Major where 3 figure players have a chance of a place especially when most bookies are offering 7 and 8 places. Could I find a player at 100 - 300/1 to grab a place? I found 2 that I really liked . But is there value in backing the winner? is Tiger @ 9/1 with potential to go out to 10/1 or even 11/1  tempting? Whilst I really do give Tiger a shout, a big one at that, its not a bet for me. 

Muirfield was the course where Els won, Faldo won, Nicklaus won,Watson won, Trevino won,Player won,Cotton won,Hagen won, Braid won and Vardon won ! Triple figure prices this week? Anyone? If one is to conclude that golf legends win at Muirfield then Tiger Woods is in with a shout. So too is Mickelson (and there ends any mention of Phil to avoid cursing my picks), and so too is Padraig Harrington, twice an Open Champion. But legends have to be born sometime and Gary Player's first Major win was here in 1959, so who is to say we don't see a winner this Sunday that becomes a legend in the game? Is it to be Brooks Koepka @150/1, the new kid on the block who produced a TOP 15 last week on his debut on The European Tour ? Time will tell. Perhaps Rory finds his game and adds his 3rd Major to his locker on his way to becoming a legend, perhaps Tiger ends his drought or perhaps one of the young guns that have been winning titles all around the world will add a Major,and there is every chance such is the abundance of young talent on the Tours at present. One of those is my headline tip.

Dustin Johnson, as already mentioned has super form in The Open the past 3 years finishing inside the TOP 15 all 3 years, going close to Ireland's Darren Clarke 2 years ago. They say, to win at Muirfield you have to have a win under your belt already this season and DJ has, albeit way back in January. Injury meant time off but I'm more than happy to be on him here @ 45/1 with Paddypower . Only 14 events played this year but has produced 9 TOP 25s, including that win in Hawaii. He missed the cut at Merion but at one stage threathened to run away with Masters before eventually finishing in the TOP 15. He should be a double Major winner already and like players before him, (McIlroy & Scott) he has the ability to put those near misses behind him and go and win one. His power off the tee will suit big time here, the wind if it does blow wont be a deterrent. He's practised in Ireland before heading to Gullane, which many do, and he is well prepared and is expressing his likeness for the course. He has a big shout this week.

My second pick is a player that I never thought I would put up for a Major and that's England's very own Ian Poulter. Like Sergio, he is probably better known for his Ryder Cup exploits but he's also a player who is very confident in his game. He hasn't won this year but I am drawn to his recent form in The Open. He was a distant 2nd to Padraig in 2008 at Birkdale and was T9th last year Lytham. He was going great guns at Merion last month in the early rounds and will be determined to put in a huge effort this week in response to his good buddy Justin Rose winning the US Open. Whilst I'm not overly pleased to see he is playing with "twitching" Keegan Bradley and "exciteable" Billy Horschel for the first 2 rounds, it could help the "flambouyant" Poults in what potentially could be a threeball well worth following. Poulter had 3 TOP 10s in the Majors last year before missing the cut at Augusta and finishing T21st at Merion. He won his second WGC title at the HSBC last November beating runners-up, Els,Mickelson,Dufner & Piercy by 2 shots. He'll relish the challenge shoud he get into contention and the multiple worldwide winner may just be about to step up to the big time.

My third pick is once again, Martin Kaymer. I say once again as I put the German up for Merion despite mediocre form this year. I am happy to back him here though having watched him in Munich recently. He fell out of winning contention by pressing too hard with his approach play but there was a lot to like about his greenside game as well as his putting. He hasn't eased off on the dancefloor and is still showing that confidence by rattling in those putts. Finds his range this week and he's going to be up there. No doubting his links ability having won the Alfred Dunhill Links, Kaymer has posted 2 TOP 15s in the past 3 years. Only 29, the Mettmann golfer is bidding to add his 2nd major, and that recent form shows that his old swing is back too. He has a nice early start on Thursday playing alongside Jason Day and the amateur Porteous. He is a nice price for me @ 55/1 especially with 7 places on offer.

My fourth pick is Jamie Donaldson @ Bet Victor. who ar paying 8 places ! The Welshman has really come on the past 12 months since winning the Irish Open at Portrush, another great links course, and meets the "having won already this year criteria" by beating Justin Rose by a single shot in Abu Dhabi. The 37 year old makes only his 7th start in a Major but was T7th at the PGA last year and finished 32nd at Merion. He withdrew from the Scottish Open last week, paid his fine and practised for this week instead.He's in great form having tied for 10th at Carton House and T6th at Le Golf Nacional. He may not win this week but he's overpriced to me at 125/1 and I'll grab it with those 8 places a begging.

My final pick is Michael Thompson @ 250/1 also with Bet Victor. There is 300/1 on offer with 7 places, but as this pick is for the potential to finish on the leaderboard, I tend to take the extra place. Thompson, has also won this year at the Honda Classic. From 16 events he has missed 9 cuts though but that win has also been backd up by TOP 10s at the WGC Cadillac and  The Memorial. He was runner up to Webb Simpson last year at Olympic GC and finished TOP 25 at Augusta this year. He MC at Merion. This is only his 2nd start at The Open in his 3rd year on the Tour. He's a player that can achieve a lot more should he find a consistency but he's worthy of my outside bet this week as he tends to play well in tough conditions (course/tournament) and he will be helped by playing partner, twice Open Champion Padraig Harrington, always a good partner for a links test.

So that's my 5. No Sergio for me this time round, nor Westwood. Justin Rose and Adam Scott were on the shortlist along with Charl Schwartzel, defending champion Ernie Els and Branden Grace. I wouldn't be surprised to see Scott & Els up there again and neither would I be surprised to see Tiger win. Its an intriguing Open this time round and with Irish golfers having always fared well in it over the years, I'm hoping that Padraig, Rory, Graeme,Darren, Shane, and Gareth get in the mix and compete for that Claret Jug as well.

Open Selections (8 pts)

TIP 1: 1 pt e/w Dustin Johnson @ 45/1 Paddypower *paying 7 places

TIP 2: 1 pt e/w Ian Poulter @ 55/1 Paddypower *paying 7 places

TIP 3: 1 pt e/w Martin Kaymer @ 55/1 Paddypower *paying 7 places

TIP 4 : 0.5 pts e/w Jamie Donaldson @ 125/1 Bet Victor * paying 8 places

TIP 5: 0.5 pts e/w Michael Thompson @ 250/1 Bet Victor * paying 8 places

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