It will be a blessed relief not to have money, plentiful though it is at St Andrews where the winner of the Claret Jug will be massively rewarded, the centre of attention and gossip this week.
Instead it’s the actual golf that will be the hot topic, whether it’s a sun-kissed farewell to the genius that is Tiger Woods or Matt Fitzpatrick’s US Open triumph as the catalyst for the first Open triumph by a Brit at the Home of Golf since Nick Faldo way back in 1990.
Anything rather than another gaudy episode in the X-rated soap opera with the Saudi-backed LIV breakaways playing the villain. Fingers and much more will be crossed at R&A HQ that they won’t be handing the Jug to the most likely winner on course form, Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 champion and 2015 runner-up, or any of the other defectors. Besides, the South African hardly needs the record $2.5m first prize.
Video: Perks of winning The Open
He’s already won almost that in six days’ work for LIV. Goodness knows what his bank account will say by the end of the eight-tournament series. But his fifth at Portland will have put him spot-on for this return to the famous links that has given him such indelible memories.
This outstanding putter conquered those huge undulating double greens when getting the best of the weather in 2010. He romp home by seven shots. Five years later he almost repeated but outsider Zach Johnson just trumped him and Marc Leishman in a Monday four-hole playoff, flooding having forced the Championship into an extra day.
We saw what happened at Brookline when Fitzpatrick revisited a course where he’d won before so, although Oosthuizen is not quite the player he was, ignore him at your peril. If the flat stick is still working, it is not hard to imagine him challenging for a third time but I don’t expect him to be as sharp as Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, both also with history at the Old Course.
Despite carrying a huge burden of expectation as he arrived on Grand Slam alert having blitzed Masters and US Open, Spieth still played a blinder back in 2015 to finish only a shot out of the playoff, even hitting the front early in the final round (then inexplicably putted off the green at the eighth).
The magic may be somewhat missing from the flat stick these days but to compensate he drives it longer and straighter. No American understands links golf better and although he faded in the last few holes of the Scottish, there was more than enough to encourage the 2017 Open champion and potential backers to be more than hopeful now.
Because he tore a ligament in an unwise football kick-about shortly before that Open and had to miss it, McIlroy’s experience of St Andrews, at least as regards in championship conditions, is limited to just 2010 when as a tousle-haired 21-year-old only the weather gods defeated him.
Getting the worst of the draw in a repeatedly rain-delayed second round, he followed a trailblazing 63 with a mistake-riddled 80, yet still bounced back to grab a share of third behind runaway winner Oosthuizen.
Never comfortable as a high-ball hitter when fierce winds rush to the defence of a course, he should not have that to worry about this week as the forecast is for nothing more than a gentle summer breeze.
Low scores and 400-yard drives are being confidently predicted and why not as there are six drivable par fours for mighty hitters like Rory. Problem is there are so many of these days.
When shrewdies alighted on John Daly as the bet in 1995 on account of his length, the Wild Thing was the only one (and by a large margin ) who drove it over 300 yards. Even with wild weather which produced a playoff-making score of only six under, the lowest in the modern era, Daly’s extra power was able to take him over those fairway pot bunkers and out of harm’s way.
Today there are 88 golfers on the PGA Tour alone who typically blow it past the 300-marker so St Andrews, at 7325 yards par 72 and the easiest of the Open links without wind to protect it, looks there for the taking.
Not that Hell Bunker on the 614-yard 14th can ever be lightly dismissed. Believe me, I’ve been there, playing backwards in the end just to get out. Or the infamous Road Hole 17th with the cavernous greenside bunker that cost Japanese star Tommy Nakajima a nine on a foul third day. He was three under and in contention. Then not!
I was there too but as a reporter. The hole played a cumulative 133 OVER par in 1978 and Brian Barnes even putted from the green INTO the bunker. Six years later, legendary five-time winner Tom Watson, on an Open hat-trick, wrong-clubbed his second there and wrecked his chance of a sixth. He smashed a 2-iron across the road for bogey. Seve birdied 18. Watson, beaten by two, was never to win another.
Even so, Watson did me plenty of other favours and as this is my tenth and last St Andrews Open as a tipster, we had better finish on a winner. My heart says Rory, my head says Spieth. The Texan is not under pressure this time around and is in fair current form having won at Heritage - and tenth at the Scottish didn’t fairly reflect how well he had contended for most of the week.
McIlroy seems in the best place he’s been all year if only the concentration would match the divine ability, and the good weather and flattish walk should help Tiger to make the cut - after all, he is a double winner in the Auld Grey Toon - but his win odds surely show far too much respect.
Three times a Major runner-up in just eight attempts is just extraordinary so Will Zalatoris has to come into the conversation. So far his Open experience has been wretched - he didn’t get past the 15th on debut last year before pulling out having wrenched his back extricating himself from Royal St George’s tangly rough.
Despite his dreary 2022 form I’m backing Tyrrell Hatton on account of his two Dunhill Links victories. Half of that tournament is played on the Old Course though in vastly different conditions. And he did finish fifth in Spieth’s Open in 2017. He says Fitzpatrick has inspired him. Now let’s see it!
With so many bookmakers offering dazzling place terms, some down to 12th position, I’ll also be backing Britain in the shape of Justin Rose who has shrugged off a long bad spell and is starting to fire again.
Also in with an each-way shout are Adam Scott who has past form at St Andrews and newcomer Cameron Young because he hits it a country mile like Daly did, has often looked sensational this first year, and might just pop into a place at 125/1.
Jon Rahm did nothing at the Scottish or in his previous few starts to suggest he was the next Open champion, while Scottie Scheffler and Justin Thomas were awful at the Renaissance Club.
As Patrick Cantlay hasn’t yet been forgiven for letting us down badly at the Travelers, the obvious (maybe too obvious?) American punt apart from Spieth is Xander Schauffele who made it three in a row on Sunday if you count his win at the all-star McManus 36-holer.
But if you do fancy Cantlay, don’t let me put you off. Apart from that Sundsy blip, his form has been first-rate and it continued with fourth place at the Scottish. A win for LIV headline act Dustin Johnson won’t go down well but his close third in Portland entitles him to consideration and 40/1 is too big. He would have finished top-five at St Andrews in 2010 but for going haywire down the closing stretch. If I remember correctly, he even somehow managed to knock it out of bounds at the 18th!
And Fitzpatrick himself - sixth on Sunday was the perfect tune-up - can’t be ruled out even though he has yet to post anything better than a T20 at The Open. But another Major will come his way.
Open Championship Golf Betting Tips 2022
- 2.5pts each-way Jordan Spieth at 18/1
- 2pts each-way Rory McIlroy at 10/1
- 1pt each-way Xander Schauffele at 16/1
- 1pt each-way Louis Oosthuizen at 50/1
- 1pt each-way Dustin Johnson at 40/1
- 0.5pt each-way Tyrrell Hatton at 40/1
- 0.5pt each-way Cameron Young at 125/1
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Celebrating my 52nd year tipping and writing about golf. Tipped more than 800 winners (and more than 8000 losers!). First big winner Lee Trevino at 8-1, 1972 Open at Muirfield. Biggest win £40 each-way Ernie Els at 80-1 and 50-1, 2012 Open. Most memorable: Giving the 1-2-3 at 33-1, 50-1, 33-1 out of 4 tips from a field of 180 in 2006 Pebble Beach Pro-Am. According to one bookmaker “Undoubtedly one of the greatest tipping performances of all time”. And, of course, putting up a 150/1 winner with Stewart Cink in my very first column for Golf Monthly. Lowest handicap 9 Present handicap 35.6. Publications tipped for: Sporting Life, Racing Post, Racing&Football Outlook, Golf World, Golf Weekly, Golf Monthly, Fitzdares Times. Check our Jeremy's latest tips at our Golf Betting tips home page
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