The waiting is nearly over and I feel lucky to have witnessed the build up and anticipation close hand living relatively close to Portrush. This is the biggest sporting event ever held on these shores and make no mistake how proud the people of the North feel about hosting this Championship. The history here is well documented and those who grew up in these lands couldn't have ever imagined such a transformation in a relatively short time to be the centre of the golfing universe for a week. It has the potential to be one of the most iconic major Championships ever and the famous Irish hospitality will be the icing on the cake for all players and visitors when they descend upon glorious Portrush. A winning docket to cash in would make it all the sweeter.
I spent the Sunday before Tournament play walking the course and if you've managed to view my social media tweets you'll understand i gleaned a fair bit of information as well as sunburn from my Sunday stroll. I concluded that approach play will be key in determining a winner this week. The greens are some of the most undulating I've seen in Open golf and present a proper examination to approach shots. A handful of greens are like upturned saucers and there's no doubt we will see plenty of chipping and pitching around greens. On the practice day this seemed to be the focus of many of the golfers, testing out whether the putter was the better option as opposed to a bump and run or a higher lob onto the green. It will no doubt become an interesting part of the week. The longer hitters who come in with loftier clubs for their approaches will gain advantage in distance control and should miss less greens. The fairways seem quite generous for those conservative enough off the tee with more danger coming into play if you pull out the big stick. It certainly looked to me to have a lot more teeth than what it did in 2012 for the Irish Open and I'd be surprised if they find it as easy as what Donaldson did that week. As ever weather will dictate scores and the wind will certainly play its part. Even calm days at Portrush will have a degree of wind and once again distance control becomes a huge aspect. Out of bounds comes into action on a handful of holes and you only need to miss the 4th Fairway by 5 yards on the right and you'll be re-loading.
Patrick Cantlay rates one of the better options of the week and my bulkiest bet will be on the American. Cantlay has been through a lot in his career to date but has finally landed on the big stage this last two years and improvement is on the horizon. Some would have you think he is a future world number one. I don't know if I'm one of them yet, but I'm interested to see the journey. This season has been smooth sailing with five top 5 finishes including that memorable win at the Memorial. 9th at the Masters, 3rd at the PGA and 21st at the US Open is just the kind of major form we are looking to when looking for contenders this week. Indeed Cantlay seems to play his best golf on tracks that require a good deal of accuracy from tee to green and he isn't too shy off the tee to make gains length wise also. The only weakness lies in the pre shot routine and the amount of time he hangs over the ball. He may need to eradicate this before winning a major, but I'm hopeful his talent can overcome that flaw. he lies 12th in strokes gained approaching the greens this season and looks one of the most equipped golfers to take apart the Portrush test. Jon Rahm is an extremely lively runner this week and I was tempted to back him, but at more than double the price of the Spaniard there is no doubting Cantlay is the more intelligent wager. He finished 12th in his first Open Championship at a tough Carnoustie and Portrush should present him a better opportunity.
3u - P. Cantlay To Win @+2800
3u - P. Cantlay To Finish Top 10 @+300
It is hard to get away from Adam Scott's lively chances this week and despite my belief that the price is certainly on the skinny side I'll be including him in my staking plan. The Australian has enjoyed a renaissance this past six months after a period of languishing outside the worlds top 50. Now 17th and getting back to where he belongs the time may be nigh for him to gain his overdue win at the Open. He had it in the palm of his glove at Lytham in 2012 before crumbling on the final few holes. He has an excellent attitude however and a return to this kind of form was always on the cards. 18-8-7 reads his major form this season and like Cantlay ticks that box of having competed strongly in the biggest events this year. Runner up finishes at Torrey and Muirfield suggest he is best at demanding layouts and Portrush should be a solid test of all departments. Links greens level the playing field with the flat stick and that is always a positive for Scott who struggles to make enough putts to win. his Open pedigree is excellent having finished in the top 5 another two times outside of that Lytham collapse. Lies 9th in Strokes Gained Approach and although I'd have preferred a shade bigger price he must be included.
2u - A.Scott To Win @+3000
2u - A.Scott To Finish Top 10 @+300
Paul Casey will be stroked off many punters' lists this week due to the 'choking' conversation that they will have had with other ill informed punters at the 19th hole. Casey has spent only 4 weeks outside of the top 20 in the world in four years. There's your choker...yeah? BMW PGA, Shell Houston, Valspar (twice), Abu Dhabi (twice), MatchPlay, Volvo and KLm are just a few of the tournaments he has won across the world. What have you done? Nothing yeah? So dont... Yes Paul Casey is far from a bottler. He has surely given up chances to win numerous events down the years, but he is in that bateau with many others. When looking for an Open Champion of late a good deal of experience is needed and the Englishman has that in droves. He has also won the Irish Open which can only be a positive heading to Portrush. Casey will be suited by the test from tee to green and I expect him to give this a good fist. Casey lies 17th in Strokes Gained Approach and is another who will be suited by the bumpier greens. Played in the final group with Oosthuizen in 2010 and outside of that 3rd placed finish has a modest record in this event. This has been one of his most impressive seasons to date with a win at the Valspar, runner ups in Singapore and Pebble Beach, 3rd in Mexico and 5th last time out at the Travelers. Flies somewhat under the radar here despite being extremely impressive all season. The only surprise being that he missed the cut at Augusta. 29th at the PGA and 21st at the US Open is enough signs for me that he can compete in this years last hurrah.
1.5u - P.Casey To Win @+6600
1.5u - P.Casey To Finish Top 10 @+450
Marc Leishman is another experienced sort I'm looking to conquer this Open Championship and land his maiden major victory. The Australian has an excellent Open record with three top 6 finishes which included the playoff defeat at St Andrews to Zach Johnson. Leishman has been a solid performer in this event and his form this year is extremely solid also. He finished the 2018 season with an impressive victory at the CIMB then hit the ground running this season with two top 5 finishes in Hawaii. Two more top 5 finishes followed at the Genesis and a few weeks ago at the Memorial behind winner Cantlay. He lies inside the top 25 in strokes gained approaching and has just the kind of CV we'd want for someone still very hungry to win a major. Not afraid to win either should he get near the lead.
1.25u - M.Leishman To Win @+8000
1.25u - M.Leishman To Finish Top 10 @+700
When I visited the practice day on Sunday Haotong Li was the most impressive golfer I watched. He made the likes of Dustin look like a 20 handicapper. That was four days from the starting gun and generally means nothing but having been on my radar beforehand it only served to convince me more he is worth a bet. He finished a no nearer 3rd at Birkdale behind Spieth and Kuchar and looks suited to the links test. He is one of the younger golfers who could easily get off the mark in the next few years. He has a wealth of talent and the Open is probably the most likely one of the big four for him to win. The battle with Justin Rose in Turkey was almost the second time he had batted away a top 5 golfer having gone head to head with McIlroy and come out on top in Dubai. One of the more likely younger talented sorts to be able to get the job done.
1u - Haotong Li To Win @+15000
1u - Haotong Li To Finish Top 10 @+1100
It has been a hard decision to decide between two deciders to finish but with the place terms on offer it would be silly not go with both for the sake of an extra point stake. I'll start with Chez Reavie. He has climbed to 26th in the world now having finished 14th in the PGA and 3rd in the US Open. That fine form was backed up with a victory at the Travelers and Reavie is enjoying the most sparkling time of his career. Ranking 21st in Strokes Gained Approach he looks to have a game to suit Portrush and I don't think he should be as big as what he is. Similarly Lucas Glover is enjoying a solid season with five top ten finishes, two coming in his last two starts. Another with solid stats who should be suited by Portrush and has bundles of experience in Major championships. Too big a price for someone enjoying a fine season. he has a sketchy Open record with a best finish of 12th, but he surprised everyone by winning the 2009 US Open and another upset may be on the cards here. Of the others Rahm I think along with Rory is the most likely winner, but Cantlay at near double the price appears the better bet. I think Woodland could benefit from the attention going to Portrush and McIlroy this week and the US Open champ could feature again with less pressure than previous recent major champions. Kuchar has very few negatives and I found him hard to leave off the list. Dechambeau at 6 in the world looks big on the exchanges having found some form recently. Whatever happens enjoy the week and if you're lucky enough to get to Portrush enjoy the the best major venue there has ever been.
0.5u - C.Reavie To Win @+17000
0.5u - C.Reavie To Finish Top 10 @+1200
0.5u - L.Glover To Win @+27000
0.5u - L.Glover To Finish Top 10 @+1800