So what's the best strategy for betting on this year's Open Championship? We'll go into our tips and rationale shortly, however here's a couple of ways to maximise your potential returns and reduce your actual outlay:
When backing players to win outright: Use one of the 'no lose bets' offers out there when backing favourites to win. The best deal out there currently is from BetClic who offer you a £30 no lose bet when you open an account. Basically back who you like, if they win then happy days - if not then you get your money back, no strings attached! For full details of this offer click here. For more no lose bets similar to this click here: No Lose Bets - naturally you can use these deals once the tournament has started too!
When backing players each way: Normally you can back players before the start of the event each way and get paid out up to 5th place; in Majors some bookies will extend this to 6 places which is great value. For the Open, however, Paddy Power have extended their each way terms to 7 places at 1/4 the odds - now that's incredible value. To top it all, Paddy Power are also offering GBS readers double their normal signup offer - £100 of free bets only via this link! As well as 7 places each way, at the time of writing Paddy Power also have the best price available for Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose plus a whole host of other players - for full Paddy Power pricing click here.
So onto the big event itself then. The host of the 140th Open Championship will be Royal St George's Golf Club in Sandwich, Kent - the venue of the very first Open to be played on English soil back in 1894. A true classical links test, the course flanks the Kent coastline and is very much open to the elements with virtually no trees to offer respite from the wind - a factor which is going to be critical this week I feel. More of that later. The course itself is a par 70 measuring 7,211 yards with just 2 par 5s on the card, however with the par 4 4th and 15th both measuring over 490 yards, it will feel more like a par 72. Uneven lies are not just commonplace here, they are to be expected and despite the levelling out of some holes (in relative terms!) there are still likely to be good-looking shots which end up in serious trouble and vice-versa. This isn't a course for the short-tempered - survival will only become those who can smile their way through 72 holes....Kuchar and Quiros it is then!
Let's talk about the weather, an English fascination that will be a massive talking point this week for sure. The weather at last year's Open at St Andrews was pivotal to deciding who stayed in the game and who didn't - who can forget the newly-crowned US Open Champion who led after a majestic first round 63 in benign conditions, only to shoot 80 in round 2 when the Old Course bared her teeth? At the same time, with a favourable early tee time on Friday, eventual winner Louis Oosthuizen opened up a commanding 5-shot lead at the halfway point and barely looked back.
Well here's the weather news - it's going to be a blowy weekend! With wind-speeds approaching 40km/h on Saturday and Sunday, it looks like survival will be the order of the day and par will be a great score on any hole. However, before we get to the weekend, contenders will need to negotiate Thursday and Friday and, at the time of writing, a late/early tee time combination looks favourable - check out all the tee-times here. The current suggestion is that those with a favourable draw will enjoy calmer, drier conditions after early Thursday rain has cleared - this could have a huge impact on who's still in the hunt for the weekend.
European golf is enjoying a purple patch at present and it's no surprise to see European players dominating the betting market as European Tour members bid to win their sixth consecutive Major title. At the time of writing, Rory McIlroy is no better than 17/2 (best priced with Bet365, 6 places EW - click here), whereas Luke Donald and Lee Westwood are in the 10/1-12/1 region with most bookies - incredibly short prices with only Rory's recent US Open to show for their efforts to date in Majors. If you're going to back any of these 3, the best course of action is to treat them as a 'saver' bet using one of the no lose bets I mentioned at the top of this page. For me, the most likely of the 3 is the World No.1 Luke Donald who is playing majestic golf at present, however I'll be investing my 10 points as follows:
The US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits last year was the first Major from a player destined for stardom since his European Tour debut in 2007 and subsequent 'Rookie of the Year' title. With 9 professional victories under his belt in 3 years, Kaymer shot to World Number 1 in February to become only the second German, after his hero Bernhard Langer, to hit the golfing summit, however since then he's been somewhat off the boil. Swing changes in an attempt to conquer Augusta and the upheaval of working with a new caddy have been blamed, as was the razzamatazz of being World No.1, however that period's now passed and I believe he's working back to top form and is ready to become Open Champion.
Kaymer is no stranger to links golf having grabbed the Alfred Dunhill Links title in September of last year, plus of course Whistling Straits is for all intents and purposes in the same category of course. Further finishes of 2nd at the Alfred Dunhill in 2008, 7th at St Andrews last year and 8th at Pebble Beach behind GMac also strengthen his case. Current form of 3/31/39/18/4 - with that 4th being at the tough Le Golf National in Paris - shows a strong progression and Kaymer's low fade will be perfect for Royal St George's in the wind. Kaymer's got a perfect pair of tee-times, going out at 14:21 Thursday and 9:20 on Friday, and will be a massive force to be reckoned with this week in my opinion. RESULT: T12
Adelaide-born Scott arrives in Kent just 3 months after his best ever Major when finishing 2 shots adrift of the Charl Schwartzel express - a result which will give him the knowledge and confidence that a Major isn't beyond his reach. Indeed, had it not been for Schwartzel's late birdie barrage, we could well have seen the first Aussie since Greg Norman to take a Major back down under. That Norman victory was at this very course and the words of encouragement that Scott has received from The Great White Shark will give Scott a huge boost this week.
If you go back as far a Ben Curtis, you'll find that every Open Champion had recorded a victory on their respective Tour in the previous 18 months, plus at least 2 top 10s in the season to date - Scott's 2010 victory at the windy Valero Texas Open, plus top 10s at Doral and Aronimink this season, are perfect stats for this and add serious fuel to the fire. His 2009 victory at the New South Wales Golf Club - a true links test - is also positive. On a course that will demand pure ball-striking, it's also hugely encouraging to see that area of Scott's game in great nick as he currently sits 3rd on the PGA Tour for Total Driving. RESULT: T25
Swede Karlsson is the first of my 3 supporting acts this week. The 41 year-old giant has enjoyed something of a renaissance since recovering from an eye injury which blighted much of his 2009 season. Since then he's made 6 consecutive cuts in Majors, including 14th in the Open last year, plus he's landed the 2010 Qatar Masters and produced a 50/1 result for GBS readers at the Dubai World Championship. He scuppered his chances of a US Open challenge by expending too much mental energy the week before, ultimately losing in a playoff at St Jude, however he's rested since and will be chomping at the bit this week. Another player with an Alfred Dunhill Links victory (2008) under his belt, Karlsson will be looking to improve on his 2 previous top-7 finishes at the Open this week at a fantastic price. RESULT: M/C
Of the Americans, Zach Johnson appeals to me most at a significantly longer price than some of his compatriots. Another player in the right side of the draw and playing alongside fellow selection Adam Scott, Johnson is in the right kind of progressive form - on a course that will reward his pure ball-striking - to compete for his second Major. His win at Colonial last year gets him the nod on the 18-month rule, as do top 10s this season at Quail Hollow, Colonial and last week at TPC Deere Run. Johnson finished 1 shot outside the playoff at Whistling Straits on a course that was arguably too long for him - this will be much more to his liking and I think you'll see a prominent display from Zach this week. RESULT: T16
Denmark's most successful golfer sneaked into the Open Championship field on Monday after Vijay Singh withdrew from the event and Aussie Brendan Jones declined to attend as his wife is due to give birth any day. So, a lifeline for Bjorn who famously threw away a 3-shot lead here in 2003 to hand Ben Curtis an unlikely victory - however 8 years on and the Ryder Cup vice-captain is playing some great golf of late with 2 wins since the start of the decade. It's the nature of those 2 wins which interests me most though - both in Estoril and Qatar, Bjorn overcame tough, windy conditions to literally blow away the field by 5 shots and 4 shots respectively. Bjorn has got some unfinished business at Sandwich and, despite 3 missed cuts in his last 4 events, I won't be surprised to see Bjorn at the top end of the leaderboard over the 4 days. If you like longshots then don't miss Steve Bamford's view of the best longshots here: Open Championship Longshots RESULT: 4th
Our tips for the 2012 British Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes will be published here on the Tuesday before the event - bookmark this page and come back soon!