With the leading bookmakers all keen to get your business, the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale makes for an exciting punting proposition this week. With a record-breaking 10 places each way available for the first time ever this year with Sky Bet and the forecast looking decidedly gnarly, finding a value outsider is a tactic that's potentially packed full of profit!
With prevailing westerly and south-westerly winds of anything up to 30 mph forecast at times across the opening 3 days, expect a tough test this week. Some players simply can't handle links-style golf where the ability to grind is paramount. In reality this is probably the most likely of all Majors to produce a long-priced, even 3-figure winner, as per Zach Johnson in 2015, Darren Clarke in 2011, Louis Oosthuizen in 2010 and Stewart Cink in 2009. The last few years have produced the following outsiders, each of whom finished in the top 7 at least:
From a value-hunting perspective, Skybet have the leading proposition with a record-breaking 10 places each way, 1/5 odds at the 2017 Open Championship for pre-event bets. This offer is available to both new and existing customers, so if you don't have a Sky Bet account then make sure you take up this 10-place offer - a proposition that has never been generally offered in Major Championship history:
8 places each way at 1/5 odds is also readily available from bet365, Betfair Sportsbook, Coral, Paddy Power and Stan James for pre-event bets. The Betfair Sportsbook new customer offer is interesting as you can access a boosted £100 Welcome Bonus, plus they have been offering a standard 7 places each way 1/5 odds across both European plus PGA Tours each and every week for a while now.
In terms of specific bookmaker each-way deals for the 2017 Open Championship, here's a breakdown of the best for longshot betting purposes:
Paul Williams has given us his view of the outright market in his preview here. I have also based these selections from my Open Preview piece which is here. However here's a set of longer shots, all of whom have a strong chance of making the each way places or better in my view:
Former Open Champion Zach Johnson makes plenty of sense this week. A winner of this title 24 months ago when priced at 110/1, when asked about his game after finishing 5th at the John Deere Classic on Sunday he answered, "I know my game is trending. I have been saying that for a while, but I know it's trending. It's just a matter of when, not if." Well I certainly liked what I saw in Illinois last week. 1st for Greens in Regulation, 3rd for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, 1st for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 4th for Proximity to Hole were Johnson's best ball-striking numbers for an age. Zach is also happy on a links-style set-up with 9th at Royal Lytham (Even/280 - 2012), 6th at Muirfield (+2/286 - 2013), 1st at St Andrews (-15/273 - 2015) and 12th at Royal Troon (-1/283 - 2016) highlighting ably that Zach is more than happy to grind in our climate. I like Zach's draw with Sergio Garcia which sees him go out at 13:04 Thursday and 08:03 Friday - I think the Spaniard will be a calming influence on the Group which includes Jason Day - and Zach is clearly at home on short Par 70 set-ups. 100/1 is available on Zach at the time of writing with BetFred with 6 places each way, 1/4 odds however I've taken the additional places with Sky Bet in this instance. Result: T14
Steve Stricker finished like a train at the John Deere Classic and has to respected this week. Current form of 5-3-16-40-7 includes a strong 7th at Colonial and 16th at Erin Hills, which was effectively his home event. Shame that it set up as a 7,800 yard mammoth of a golf course! Even so, Stricker shot 69-69 across the weekend to keep his strong record of Major performances building nicely, which also includes 16th at Augusta in April and 4th at Royal Troon 12 months ago. It's worth looking at last year's event in a little more detail as the Ayrshire course was hit by some pretty tough winds - take the last 36 holes in isolation and the scoring was: Stenson -11/131, Mickelson -7/135 and Stricker -5/137. He can clearly play in tough conditions. Stricker has 3 top-10s in the Open Championship with one of them coming here in 2008 when the World Number 75 (amazing on a part-time schedule) finished a solid 7th. The United States Presidents Cup captain also mentioned his key for current motivation at the John Deere last week. "I think it's important for them to see me still playing. I really do. I think deep down they see me playing and competing and still getting in there at times, and I think that's important for them to see that as well." At 50 years old it's difficult to see Stricker winning this, but at an Open that will undoubtedly feature rain and wind, it's good to have an experienced campaigner on board who has a decent chance of an each-way payout. Result: T37
Soren Kjeldsen has always been a fantastic wind player and genuine grinder. 3 of his 4 wins on the European Tour across Gleneagles (2002), Valderrama (2008) and Royal County Down (2015) have all been at single-digits under par and naturally any win at Valderrama highlights the likes of Garcia, Harrington, Langer, McDowell, Montgomerie, Rose and Tiger Woods - not too bad a bunch when it comes to Open Championships and Majors in general. Now I'm sure even Soren would blush when compared to such prestigious golfers, but the fact is that he can undoubtedly mix it when tough conditions beat half of the field before they've even reached the 1st tee. 7th at Augusta last year where winds were gusting up to 30 mph for the opening 54 holes, Soren was also 3rd at Royal Troon last year at the halfway stage before Stenson and Mickelson performed their weekend heroics. The Dane though stoically finished 9th. At 42 years of age, Kjeldsen has much experience to draw on and strong results across the Qatar Masters, Sicilian Open, Dunhill Links Championship and his last win at Royal County Down in the 2015 Irish Open all link well to the challenge ahead this week. There he beat a top field on a tough links course in squally conditions and was an ever-improving 9th last week at the Dundonald Links. Result: T37
Seems to me that Brian Harman has been a little underestimated by the layers this week and 25/1 about a top 10 finish looks a cracking bet. 27th in the World Rankings, 9th in the American Presidents Cup standings and 9th in the FedEx Cup rankings highlights just how well the 30 year-old has played in 2017. His 2nd place finish at the U.S. Open was an exceptional performance given that Erin Hills was a bomber's paradise and that he held everything together when going out in the final group on Sunday. It's worth remembering that Brian, who's based on the eastern seaboard on St Simons Island in Georgia, won his 2nd PGA Tour title in May at the coastal resort of Wilmington, North Carolina in a tournament which was wind-affected. The way he closed that event with World Number 1 Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm breathing down his neck showed plenty of bottle and also highlighted that Harman's game is built around accuracy and top-notch putting. Top 10 results across Torrey Pines (2017), Riviera (2014), Harbour Town (2014 & 2017), TPC Sawgrass (2015), Colonial (2015 & 2017), TPC Southwind (2014) and Bethpage Black (2012) highlight a player who thrives on tougher assignments. 26th on his one and only Open Championship appearance down the coast at Hoylake is promising and as I stated when tipping him last week in Illinois, Harman has to keep producing results as the only likely way he gets into the United States Presidents Cup team is by qualifying automatically. Result: MC
We're used to seeing Tony Finau at 33/1 for most domestic PGA Tour tournaments, but at 30/1 for a top 10 finish I think he could be a wise investment this week. 14th on his Major Championship debut at Chambers Bay in 2015, Tony then travelled up to Whistling Straits in Wisconsin for the PGA Championship and finished 10th. 2016 also saw Finau finish 18th at Royal Troon on his Open Championship debut, so undoubtedly the Utah-based World Number 64 can get on with Major Championships by the coast. Troon is worth looking at in a little detail as Finau took advantage of calmer conditions on Thursday to fire a -4/67 to sit 4th after Round 1. He hung around as well, starting Sunday in 6th before slipping to 12th on his first experience of an Open Sunday. 9th at Kapalua (2017), 4th at Torrey Pines (2017), 1st at Coco Beach Resort (2016) and 7th at El Camaleon across domestic PGA Tour events again shows a liking for coastal challenges and one thing we can be sure with Finau is that he'll be giving it full beans off the tee. I like Finau's mix of high Greens in Regulation, allied to a better than moderate sand and scrambling game this week and I think he could feature. Result: T27
For the best bookie offers for this year's Open Championship visit our latest bookmaker offers page!
Barbasol Championship Tips
Whilst the Open Championship takes place at Royal Birkdale, another 'second division' alternate tournament on the PGA Tour takes place. The Barbasol Championship was introduced into the Tour in 2015 and is played at the Grand National Lake Trail, Auburn, Alabama. The course is a 7,302 yard, par-71 where the green light is always on to shoot low scores.
Won by Scott Piercy at 25/1 in 2015 and by Aaron Baddeley at 55/1 in 2016, the full 2-year PGA Tour exemption available to the winner is a huge carrot, as is the possibility of harvesting enough FedEx Cup points to grab a spot in the magical top 125 or even top 150 (partial status for 17/18). Played in sweltering and humid conditions in deepest Alabama, Piercy and Baddeley ultimately won with -19/265 and -18/266 totals.
I have always thought in these 'alternate' tournaments that selecting a motivated player is half the battle. In Ben Martin we have a player who sits at 125th in the FedEx Cup standings and with no winner's exemption to sit back on he should see this week as the huge opportunity it actually is to keep his card for 2017/18. 8 straight pay cheques has helped the Clemson University graduate to this position with a fast-finishing 5th at TPC Potomac bringing a nice handful of FEC points into the coffers at the very start of July. In 5 seasons on the PGA Tour, Martin has never strung 2 top-10 finishes together so 37th at the Greenbrier Classic and 39th at the John Deere Classic, where he finished 2nd in 2016, was almost written in the stars, but the South Carolinian is a must-back this week on the basis that he's hitting plenty of greens of late and has real history across resort scoring tests and indeed these 2nd Division tournaments in particular. 6th at Montreux in his rookie 2011 season was by far his best finish of the year. After 2 seasons in the web.com, 3rd at Coco Beach Resort (-17/271) in 2014 marked his return to the main Tour and even last year Martin went into the final round at Montreux in 2nd place before eventually finishing 7th. 20th here last year - following on from a stressful 7th the outing before at Montreux - saw 4-straight sub-70 rounds including a final round 65 and I can see the 2014 Shriners Open winner (-20/264) going really well this week. Result: T6
Boo Weekley is another you have to like this week at a nice price. An undoubted southern states expert, Weekley in his 2 appearances here at the Barbasol averages an impressive 67.75 having finished 6th here in 2015 and 11th last year. He certainly knows how to navigate himself around the Grand National course and his recent form is on the up-shift as well. Weekley was as clean as a whistle shooting -7 with no bogeys across his first 30 holes last week in Illinois and prior to that Boo shot 65-68-65 to be 2nd to Jordan Spieth after 54 holes at TPC River Highlands. He eventually finished 5th. Speaking to the press at The Travelers, Boo talked about finally having fun on the golf course again after getting some personal problems finally dealt with and that obviously makes him a danger this week. A 3-time PGA Tour winner, wins at Harbour Town (twice) and Colonial link in very well with Aaron Baddeley and Weekley has always been a streaky scorer, despite his woes with the putter. 3rd (2012), 8th (2013) and 6th (2014) at Coco Beach in 2012, plus his 2 top-11 finishes here, highlight a player who mentally relishes these alternate events and I also like the fact that he was 2nd at the Sandersons Farms Championship played just down Interstate 20 in Jackson in 2014. Result: T52
Ben Crane at 144th in the FedEx Cup standings is another who seems to be responding to the reality that he might need to play the web.com Tour Playoffs later this summer unless he produces some results. We saw him in the 54 hole lead as recently as TPC Southwind and last week's 25th at Deere Run included a lovely closing -4/67 which lifted him from 44th spot. The 5-time PGA Tour winner is always worth looking out for on Bermudagrass greens as he won at Sea Island in 2011 and TPC Southwind in 2014, plus before then he won the CIMB Classic at The Mines in Malaysia at -18/266 back in 2010. Crane was a factor here 12 months ago with an opening -5/66 getting him into 3rd spot on Thursday and he was still in the hunt come Saturday night after consecutive rounds of 69-69. Hence his final 44th place is a little misleading, but like Piercy and Baddeley before him, Crane undoubtedly has the ability to win on the PGA Tour. His golf and results are definitely on the up-trend as well. Result: WD Pre-Event
Peter Malnati is one that jumps off the page for me this week. Always a hard player to nail down, what's obvious from a look at both his web.com Tour and PGA Tour history is that he thrives in the hot, humid climes whether they be in the Southern United States or further afield. 2013 saw him win (-16/268) the News Sentinel Open in Knoxville, Tennessee which he followed up with 8th at the Chiquita Classic in North Carolina. A promotion to the PGA Tour for season 2013/14 was too soon, but 15th at El Camaleon, 14th at Coco Beach Resort and 19th at TPC Southwind which were his best results again illustrate the point well enough. Demotion to the 2015 web.com Tour again brought a much needed early season victory (-22/262) at Sao Paulo in Brazil, which he followed up with 8th in Mexico. Peter's career high then came just 300 miles to the west of Auburn down Interstate 20 when he shot -18/270 to win his maiden PGA Tour title at the 2015 Sandersons Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi. 6th at Kapalua followed in 2016 and since then zilch! However with his 2-year PGA Tour exemption running out this season, reality has dawned and 38th at TPC Potomac, 29th at Old White TPC and 44th after a dire start last week at Deere Run has seen the 30 year-old, who lives in Tennessee, start to hit a half-decent level of greens. Could well spark to life this week. Result: T18