Welcome one and all to my new blog, where I am going to try and provide the reader with some delightful (well, perhaps not) insight in to the world of sport, and sports betting. Throughout this blog I intend to try and provide some decent players & teams to follow for sporting events throughout the world, mainly through my own crazy numerical ways of thinking. I also hope to be successful in doing this, and to hopefully show people that I do, in fact, know what I’m talking about when it comes to sport, and what better way to ‘open’ my sports blogging life than by choosing “The Open Championship” as my first port of call.
The 141st edition of the annual event is this year taking place from the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club, a 7,086 yard, par 70, links course in Lancashire, where 156 people will be vying to take the famous Claret Jug away from reigning champion Darren Clarke, after the Irishman won the event last year at Royal St George’s in Kent. There has already been a lot of controversy surrounding this years event, many players (including last years champion Darren Clarke, and Tiger Woods) have been critical about the condition of the rough on the course, meaning that it’s crucial for players to drive the fairways and approach the greens consistently well if they want to get close to winning the title here.
It takes a lot of work to be able to whittle down such a large field of players in order to try and find a potential winner based on the statistics and facts available, but after some early scratching of players who had failed to live up to the grade of “looking decent at first glance”, and also removing players who were low down in the important statistics when it comes to links courses (Driving Accuracy, Greens in Regulation, Putts Per Round) I had left myself with a reduced field of only 47 players, and a bit more investigating and I already found myself with a few stand out players from their respective countries from my final list of 37.
KJ Choi I expect to be the top Asian player (4/1 Ladbrokes), although he isn’t one of my fancies to claim the tournament, I cannot see any Asian player claiming the Claret Jug, and the only other Asian I could potentially see outscoring Choi is Thai player Thongchai Jaide who has had a decent run of form over the past 8 weeks, including a victory at the Wales Open at the start of June. His previous performances at the Open have seen him come up a bit short however, an impressive 13th three years ago has been followed up with two missed cuts, and I believe that Choi has more available in his arsenal.
A few more straightforward choices appeared, Thomas Bjorn (6/4 Betfred) to be the top Dane, Martin Kaymer (4/9 Paddy Power) to be the top German (from a field of two), and Sergio Garcia (5/4 Skybet) to be the top Spanish player (although a saver on Larrazabel (10/1 William Hill) is also advisable). As far as other countries go, the players that popped up here were in some ways slightly less straightforward, but their chances based on their form this year definitely put them ahead of their fellow countrymen:-
Graeme McDowell to be the top Irish player (100/30 Sky Bet) was the first of these players. Ahead of McDowell in the betting are McIlroy and Harrington, the former has had a mixed year since winning the US Open by 8 strokes in 2011, although his PGA Tour season for 2012 has seen him win once and place top 10 5 times in 9 events, he had a torrid time trying to retain his US Open title last month when missing the cut, and had also fell from a decent position at the Masters in April to finish 40th. Harrington has also had a decent time of it over the last few months, top 20 in 6 of his last 9 events, with two past Open Championships to boot makes him a real contender here, however, McDowell has been consistent enough to be able to tackle the course better here, and I am expecting him to better the performance of Harrington for a 4th straight year.
Fredrik Jacobson to be the top Swede (11/4 General) is another stand out for me, he has all the ability in the world to build on 16th place from last year, and having sealed top 20 positions in his last 3 events, he looks like a man in form, he has a very impressive Green in Regulation percentage (73.61%), and takes less putts during his round than most of the other players on the European Tour (28.50 putts), making those greens is going to be vital for him if he is going to challenge, but he should have enough to come out on top for Sweden
Louis Oosthuizen to be the top South African (4/1 Ladbrokes), could defintely be worth a shout. The 2010 Open Champion comes in to this event in mixed form, winning twice on the European Tour (African Open in January & Malaysian Open in April) as well as a runners up spot at the Masters in April, thus making him a threat to the field. Add this to a mammoth GIR% of 79.51%, his putts per round rate is 28.94, and his ability to make par or better 7 of the 10 times he has entered the bunker on the European Tour this year (an important statistic for this course) makes him look stronger than the likes of Schwartzel, Els and Goosen going into tomorrow’s first day.
Justin Rose to be the top English player (5/1 Skybet) is well worth a put also, I have him as being marginally better this year in the statistics department on all the main categories than Ian Poulter, as well as coming out looking stronger than both Robert Rock and Simon Dyson. His main competition for me is likely to be Luke Donald, however, the World Number One hasn’t been able to make an impact on the Major’s and could once again fall short of the grade. Rose has performed pretty consistently over the past few weeks, and although he hasn’t won a title in that time (unlike Donald), he has finished in the top 10 places 4 times from 5 events, and also leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Rankings. If this course is more suited to the European game as is suggested, then Rose has definitely got a fantastic chance of ruling England and Britannia.
John Senden could very well gain the better of Adam Scott and come out on top of the Australian listings (7/1 Blue Square), especially if he maintains his pretty impressive average scoring rate (70.06) which is almost a full stroke ahead of that of Scott (71.03). Senden also out rates Scott on the 2012 PGA Tour rankings for Driving Accuracy, Greens In Regulation and Sand Saving percentages. Although Scott, somehow, manages to gain more with the putter than Senden. The PGA statistics however rank Senden’s all-around play as the 6th best on the Tour, which is great for this type of course, and if he can live up to his potential, then I fully expect him to raise a few eyebrows and could go very well in the Tournament as well (150/1 Betfred)
Finally in terms of the top Countryman selections I had to look at top American, and this was a very hard category to pick a potential winner from, so instead of one, I have chosen two, as I am not expecting Tiger Woods to perform too well, I can see Bubba Watson (20/1 Paddy Power) having a decent chance should the rain stay away, and failing that, Bo Van Pelt (28/1 Stan James) is another player who has bags of ability, which he shown when finishing 2nd behind Tiger at the AT&T National last month, no doubt he will be out to better his compatriot this time.
So, with the top countrymen all hosed off, the next challenge was to whittle down further and come up with a couple of strong fancies for the tournament outright. At this point I still had a list of 24 players who I was looking at cutting down to a final 6, and by the time I was done, I had selections whom I had dismissed for coming out on top for their country, but still appealed at decent enough prices on the Outright market.
Justin Rose (33/1 Bwin) – Top of the Race to Dubai rankings, playing well this year, and if the course suits his game as it is expected to then the Jo’burg born, Florida residing, Englishman has a great chance to put hisEuropean Tour mastery to great use at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Louis Ooshuizen (50/1 Ladbrokes) – After tipping up the former Open Champion to be the top South African, I also believe he has a great chance to regain the Claret Jug, as stated before, his ability to find the green has been impressive this year, and that is definitely going to work in his favour on such a tricky course.
Bubba Watson (70/1 Skybet) – Big hitting Bubba could tear this course apart if the rain stays away, his average drive of 316.30 yards is enough to make approaches look like a simple pitch and putt routine, and should his impressive GIR% of 72.36% carry forward to the Open, then he is going to have a great opportunity of claiming his second major of the year to follow up his Masters success.
Bo Van Pelt (100/1 Ladbrokes) – Bo has been knocking on the door of doing something special for a while, and his 2nd place at the AT&T behind Tiger could be just the nudge in the right direction in terms of his confidence that he needs here. He may not always get his drive right, but his ability to make up lost shots on the green has been pretty impressive this year, and could be a reason why his all-around game during 2012 is ranked 4th on the PGA Tour.
Charl Schwartzel (66/1 General) – Although not tipped to be top South African, his price is well worth E/W interest for a top 6 finish with most major bookmakers, he can also hit the greens pretty consistently and shouldn’t be ignored as an outsider here, even if Oosthuizen is expected to better him, the just under 8/1 return on your money for a top 6 position is enough of a tempter.
Zach Johnson (80/1 Ladbrokes) – I may not be expecting the Americanto perform as well as his other two countrymen, but again, he looks a strong candidate for place terms at a decent price here, 19/2 returns on your money for a top 6 finish looks handy enough, especially as Zach has managed to consistently make the cut over here in the UK. He is very impressive with a putter in his hand, and so if he can make it to the green and avoid the rough, then he’s got a better chance than most of emerging from the chasing pack.
So there you have it, my first event preview, hopefully it proves to be slightly insightful and successful at the same time, I guess only time will tell when the last group come walking down the 18th on Sunday evening. Hopefully with one or two of my choices leading the way!