The Open Championship stands on a pedestal, sharing it only with The Masters as the Major Championship that professional golfers covet the most. The 2019 Open Championship makes a long awaited return to Portrush in Northern Ireland for the 148th running of the oldest Major Championship. The tournament, which runs from Thursday 18th July to Sunday 21st July 2019, will feature the most international field of the 4 Majors, with 156 players all striving to lift the Claret Jug.
Now into our 10th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our Open Championship tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2019 coverage with Open Championship tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous statistical Predictor Model. You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast which is also available on iTunes and on our YouTube channel.
Royal Portrush Golf Club has been added to the Royal & Ancient’s Open Championship rota and it’s undoubtedly a welcome addition, taking the Open to Northern Ireland for only the second time. Indeed Royal Portrush hosted the 1951 Open Championship won by Englishman Max Faulkner – his first and only Major Championship. Hugging the north Atlantic coastline, the Dunluce Links is a Harry Colt original layout set amongst unique sand dunes. It’s a genuine links, with the course offering up some serious fairway slopes elevation changes and bunkering, plus green complexes which contain some serious swales.
Described by Padraig Harrington as an exciting golf course, which offers birdie opportunities, the view of the 3-time Major Champion is that we’ll fall in love with this newest of Open venues. What’s for sure is that any winner around the Dunluce Links will have mastered not only the course, but also the infamous local weather which can produce all 4 seasons in a single day.
Open Championship Insight, Stats and Tips Research
It’s worth remembering that the Open Championship (or British Open, if you are reading this on the other side of the Atlantic) and links golf in general is very niche; it’s a defined golfing specialism which in itself produces opportunities from a betting perspective. Mistakes can be costly; however select the right player or player portfolio and the rewards can be strong.
Golf Betting System’s goal is to provide you with informed Open Championship tips, free tournament research tools, insight and information that will help you make educated decisions about what players to back at the 2019 Open Championship.
We take a relative step into the unknown with Royal Portrush. It hosted the 1951 Open Championship, won by Englishman Max Faulkner, who beat Argentine Antonio Cerdá by 2 shots. Back then the PGA Championship at Oakmont didn’t conclude until the Tuesday prior to the Open teeing off on Thursday, so the field featured very few of the sport’s leading lights. I’m not expecting the same scenario in 2019 as Northern Ireland hosts its second Open Championship.
The Dunluce Links at Royal Portrush has been described as a course that rewards pure golf and rejects bad shots with harsh consequences. A Harry Colt masterpiece, the Dunluce will play as a challenging Par 71 at 7,337 yards. Since the 2012 Irish Open hosted here and won by Jamie Donaldson, the course has been re-configured and now features 2 new holes (the par-5 7th and par-4 8th), which have been designed by Martin Ebert. The addition of these two new holes means that the old 17th and 18th holes, which were considered as weak closers, have been decommissioned.
Set within amazing dunes which frame holes perfectly, the course has undulations across its routing but also tellingly on the green complexes. It’s a course which is well known as being ‘right in-front of you’ and not ‘tricked-up’ in golfing parlance, but to play well around here you need a game which is totally on point. Oh yes and a 17-year old, at the time, by the name of Rory McIlroy held the course record on the old course with a 61, shot in 2006. I’m sure you will read and hear about that a few times in the future.
What to Expect at Royal Portrush
Padraig Harrington knows a thing or two about the Open Championship. The 2007 and 2008 Open Champion, Harrington is synonymous with playing links golf to the very highest standard. Asked back in 2012 about the green complexes on the Dunluce course, he answered, “The greens are reasonably receptive, which is a godsend for us, because we are just not used to the ball moving around inside the green complexes and trying to cut the ball into a right‑to‑left green, and you have to trust that, yes, the wind will move it and things like that. When you are playing in warm weather, the ball doesn’t do anything like it does here. I think having had the rain over the last couple of weeks, it’s going to help us out a little bit that the greens are not too firm. It would certainly‑ it’s not that the golf course wouldn’t play well if the greens were firm or the course was firm.”
The greens are undoubtedly the star here on the Dunluce Links as they are undulating and devilish when firm. Naturally the R&A will have control over them, but a dry build-up would turn this into a hugely technical challenge. Royal Portrush though is also known for its weather. You can experience all 4 seasons in a single day on this stretch of the North Atlantic coastline and this part of the world is well-known for strong winds. As we always say in the build-up to any Open Championship, the weather will be the key to the 148th Open Championship and undoubtedly this is the kind of venue where a player’s chances can be severely impacted if they are the wrong side of the draw weather-wise.
Royal Portrush Golf Club – Dunluce Links, Portrush, Northern Ireland: Designer: Harry Colt, with Martin Ebert renovation 2017; Course Type: Coastal Links; Par: 71; Length: 7,337 yards; Fairways: Fescue, Bentgrass and Meadow Grass; Rough: Fescue, Bentgrass and Meadow Grass; Greens: Bentgrass (50%), Fescue (30%), Annual Meadow grass (20%).
With only 64 bunkers on the course, Royal Portrush has the lowest number of sand traps on the Open rota, however its difficulty is generated by the wind, the creativity of Harry Colt’s masterful greens, and the course’s new found length.
Martin Ebert’s renovation has added almost 200 yards to the challenge and at over 7,300 yards, playing as a Par 71 with only 3 par-5s, if the wind blows hard on Open week this course could be a real challenge. The most famous hole has to be the 230 yard, par-3 16th named Calamity Corner which is one of the most notorious links course holes on the planet.
You can learn more about the course and it’s challenge in this excellent Golfing World video. As ever though, the challenge really will be as difficult as the weather which presents itself across 18th July to 21st July 2019. I get the feeling that if the conditions are soft and the wind is down, this could be a scoreable course where mid-teens is the target required. If the Northern Irish weather is unkind, the Dunluce Links could turn into a real brute,
Below are some revealing comments about the course when it last played at the 2012 Irish Open:
Padraig Harrington: “Yeah, I think the golf course is set up perfectly. It’s different, the way we play as professional golfers, the style of golf is different to what I would have played when I played here 17 years ago. The greens are reasonably receptive, which is a godsend for us, because we are just not used to the ball moving around inside the green complexes and trying to cut the ball into a right‑to‑left green, and you have to trust that, yes, the wind will move it and things like that. When you are playing in warm weather, the ball doesn’t do anything like it does here. I think having had the rain over the last couple of weeks, it’s going to help us out a little bit that the greens are not too firm. It would certainly‑ it’s not that the golf course wouldn’t play well if the greens were firm or the course was firm but it’s further away from what we play in professional golf, so we would be less accustomed to it.
At least now the way the course is set up, like I said, if you miss a shot, especially off the tee, actually around some of the greens, there’s some bushes, things like, that even out‑of‑bounds close to greens and stuff like that, so there are shots you’re going to find trouble, but you definitely can hit good shots out there and I think it would be a question of trying to make as many birdies as you can and accepting a couple of mistakes here and there.”
Graeme McDowell: “I think 63 off the back tees, not the new tees. Not quite as good as Rory’s 61 in a qualifier for the North of Ireland. But this is a golf course where you can go low. You have a benign day like today, off the old tees, especially, it’s pretty short by modern standards. The course is playing fairly long this week and there’s not a lot of fire in the fairways given the amount of rain we’ve had. The new tee boxes are fairly stout, 7,100, 7,200 yards, there’s some spicy enough rough out there in places if you get off the beaten track. It’s a good test.”
Darren Clarke: “17, off that new back tee, depends where the wind is coming from, obviously, as every hole goes on a links. What is it, 600‑odd yards now? If the wind blows into off the left, it’s a nightmare, because there’s a bunker a bit nearly there on the right‑hand side; and if the wind picks up it’s going to be a really, really tough hole.
Michael Hoey: “They have put a few tees just far enough back, and it’s soft conditions at the minute, and it’s playing long. So I think just this course is now set up just perfectly and visually it’s great.
Just the run‑offs around the greens, you just have to be pinpoint accurate and then the wind and the guys are talking about how good the grass is for divots, it’s just pure, great links, a bit like St. Andrews. It’s really good. I think some of the par-3s are really difficult, the 6th, and the 14th, obviously Calamity. Just finished there and the wind is in off the left and it’s a really solid 2‑iron or maybe 3‑wood. It’s good, because if it wasn’t windy, some guys would hit like 5‑iron in there. So it’s a proper test at the minute which is really good.
So I think par 3s, and then like 17 is tough. That bunker is really in play off the tee. The wind is in off the left, and I hit a good drive and the wind just leaked it and it plugged in bunker. You could make a 10 if you’re in there. You see quite a few players bailing out left.
So that’s quite a tough hole, and then the finishing hole 18 is tough, and the first, a lot of tough holes.”
Shane Lowry after Round 3: ” Yeah, it was quite similar obviously, but it was really tough out there. When you turn around, 14, 15, 16, 17; 17 we couldn’t get home in two, and 16 was playing driver, 2‑iron. Everything was just so tough. I just didn’t scramble the ball well and didn’t get up‑and‑down when I should have. You know, shooting 4‑over, that’s golf.”
Padraig Harrington after Round 3: “Well, we got a big shot the first couple of holes. The first hole, I hit a nice approach shot and came up 45 yards short of the flag. That’s a long way out to carry on the wind. Second hole, same thing, hit a very nice approach shot in there and to come up 25 yards short, you’re kind of wondering what’s happening. So we didn’t get settled into the round very well early on. I suppose we got going a bit more in the middle, on 7, I hit a tee shot that was virtually unplayable. But there wasn’t much going for me early on, so 72 under the circumstances, I’ve got to be pleased.”
Royal Portrush hosts its second Open Championship, 68 years after its first.
Accuracy with Short Game
Let’s take the final skill statistics from Jamie Donaldson who won the 2012 Irish Open held here, plus Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Anthony Wall and Fabrizio Zanotti who finished joint runner-up to the Welshman. Yes, we know that the Dunluce Links has been changed since this tournament, but it does give us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
1st, Jamie Donaldson (-18). 289 yards (8th), 58.9% fairways (35th), 62.5% greens in regulation (64th), 63.0 % scrambling (5th), 1.51 putts per GIR (1st).
2nd, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-14). 273 yards (51st), 62.5% fairways (25th), 81.9% greens in regulation (5th), 46.2% scrambling (27th), 1.76 putts per GIR (23rd).
2nd, Anthony Wall (-14). 277 yards (39th), 67.9% fairways (9th), 69.4% greens in regulation (43rd), 68.2 % scrambling (2nd), 1.62 putts per GIR (4th).
2nd, Fabrizio Zanotti (-14). 281 yards (22nd), 66.1% fairways (15th), 79.2% greens in regulation (13th), 40.0 % scrambling (49th), 1.77 putts per GIR (33rd).
Tournament Skill Averages:
Driving Distance: 30th, Driving Accuracy: 21st, Greens in Regulation: 31st, Scrambling: 21st, Putting Average 15th.
Naturally these statistics have to be taken with some context, but a couple of Tournament Skill Average numbers jump off the page. It’s rare in professional golf that you see Driving Accuracy outranking Driving Distance, but it did at the 2012 Irish Open. Some of this can be put down to the wind where a north-westerly headwind made the home stretch a real handful especially on Saturday. But you have to take from this that to have real success around Dunluce, you cannot be ‘laissez-faire’ or totally flagrant off the tee. Some of the players used to PGA Tour course conditions won’t be fans of that.
In addition, we can also see that Greens in Regulation was of secondary consideration to both Scrambling and Putting Average. That is often the case on a links course when the weather is difficult. Course management and patience tends to take over from pure ball-striking ability, In 2012 we were dealing with a soft golf course in the main, but given tough windy conditions, it’s also revealing that 80% of Greens in Regulation was more than achievable for over 20 players in the field. So if conditions are not as soft as the R&A want and winds are tranquil, Dunluce would appear to be a reasonable test from tee-to-green. Ultimately though, Jamie Donaldson’s length from the tee, allied to a red hot scrambling and putting display won the title for the Welshman, however he was -13 across the 16 looks at the par-5s on the week.
It’s well worth noting that the course played as a Par 72 back in 2012. Since then it’s been considerably lengthened, with the par-5 2nd hole Giant’s Grave playing at 577 yards as opposed to 528 yards, 7 years ago. The back nine for The Open will also feature only a single par-5, the 12th Dhu Varren hole, which plays as 530 yards. So as a Par 71 Dunluce will play to 7,337 yards as opposed to the 2012 Irish Open, where it was a 7,143 yard Par 72.
Open Championship Pedigree
Louis Oosthuizen won the 2010 Open Championship at St Andrews with a performance which belied his lack of Major Championship experience. The South African, who was 27 years of age at the time, had played in 8 Majors, including 3 Open Championships. His record read 3 missed cuts in The Open, amongst 7 Major missed cuts and he had a best finish of 73rd at the 2008 PGA Championship. No wonder Oosthuizen won at a massive 250/1!
I start with Louis though because he’s the exception. From 2011 onwards, all Open Championship winners have shown a level of pedigree at the ultimate links golf test prior to lifting the trophy. Indeed every Open Championship winner for the past 8 years has finished in the top 10 of an Open at least once prior to lifting the Claret Jug. Bringing this right up to date, Francesco Molinari had a top-10 and 2 top-20s to his name before winning at Carnoustie in 2018. Jordan Spieth had a 4th place finish at St Andrews on his CV, prior to victory at Birkdale in 2017, which was only his 5th Open appearance. 2016 Champion Henrik Stenson had garnered 3 top-10s and another top-20 from 11 appearances before beating Phil Mickelson in their famous Troon duel.
It’s also fascinating to note that on average across the past 8 winners, they had appeared in 12 Open Championships prior to winning. Jordan Spieth with 4 Open appearances and Ernie Els with 21 are the outliers statistically. All of this suggests that if you’re looking for a winner of the Open Championship, you need to be looking for those with a proven track record over younger starlets.
2018 Champion – Francesco Molinari
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 9th Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 2, 13th Turnberry 2009, 13th Hoylake 2014.
2017 Champion – Jordan Spieth
4 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 4th St Andrews 2015.
2016 Champion – Henrik Stenson
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 3, 3rd Birkdale 2008, 3rd St Andrews 2010, 2nd Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 1, 13th Turnberry 2013.
2015 Champion – Zach Johnson
11 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 2, 9th Lytham 2012, 6th Muirfield 2013; Top 20s = 2, 20th Carnoustie 20th, 16th St Georges 2011.
2014 Champion – Rory McIlroy
6 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 3rd St Andrews 2010.
2013 Champion – Phil Mickelson
19 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 2, 3rd Troon 2004, 2nd St Georges 2011; Top 20s = 2, 11th St Andrews 2000, 19th Birkdale 2008.
2012 Champion – Ernie Els
21 Open Appearances – Wins = 1, Muirfield 2002; Top 10s = 11, 5th Muirfield 2002, 6th St Georges 1993, 2nd Lytham 1996, 10th Troon 1997, 2nd St Andrews 2000, 3rd Lytham 2001, 2nd Troon 2004, 3rd Hoylake 2006, 4th Carnoustie 2007, 7th Birkdale 2008, 8th Turnberry 2009.
2011 Champion – Darren Clarke
15 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 3, 2nd Carnoustie 1997, 7th St Andrews 2000, 3rd Lytham 2001; Top 20s = 3, 11th Lytham 1996, 11th Troon 2004, 15th St Andrews 2005.
Will World Number 1 Brooks Koepka win at Royal Portrush?
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 (at the time of writing) Brooks Koepka at the Open Championship? Well here’s a word of warning for all those tempted to jump on: no World Number 1 since 2000 apart from Tiger Woods (who else) has won The Open. Brooks’ Major championship record at the moment is unchallenged though and he’s sure to be a very short price.
For the record, Francesco Molinari was 15th when he won last year, Jordan Spieth was 3rd, whilst Henrik Stenson was 6th, Zach Johnson was 25th, McIlroy was 8th and Mickelson was 5th in the OWGR at Muirfield in 2013. The previous 5 winners in Els, Harrington, Cink, Oosthuizen and Clarke were all ranked outside of the World’s top 10 when triumphing.
Open Championship OWGR Analysis
Open Championship Winner
Recent Form Is Key
Francesco Molinari’s first Major Championship win at Carnoustie in 2018 adds even more gravitas to the fact that in-form players are the guys to follow at the Open Championship. It makes sense that those who are struggling with their games are unlikely to find them on a links course and in the last 7 champions, namely ‘Frankie’, ‘Golden Child’, ‘Ice Man’, ‘Z-Money’, ‘Rors’, ‘Lefty’ and the ‘Big Easy’ we can see a pattern that’s easy to extrapolate.
Francesco Molinari, like Zach Johnson in 2015, arrived in Scotland, directly off the John Deere Classic charter flight from Illinois and boy his confidence must have been sky high. A huge win (his 5th on the European Tour) in May at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth was followed by 2nd at his home Italian Open when defending. But the Italian’s summer got even better when he flew out to Washington in July to player Tiger’s tournament at TPC Potomac, which he won and in doing so captured his first tournament in the United States. He arrived in Scotland having just shot a field best -7/64 in the final round to finish T2 in the John Deere Classic.
Jordan Spieth flew into the northwest of England fresh from his 10th PGA Tour victory which he had racked-up at TPC River Highlands, when clinching the Travelers Championship in a spectacular play-off victory over Daniel Berger. Spieth had never previously played at the Travelers, but made short shrift of the River Highlands course shooting -7/63 in Round 1 to take control of the tournament from the very outset. From there he held off the attentions of Boo Weekley, Troy Merritt and finally fellow ‘Bro Group’ member Berger to win the title at 10/1. In Strokes Gained parlance he was 7th for Approach, 2nd for Around The Green and 1st for Tee to Green, whilst he was not bad with the putter finishing 3rd for Putts per GIR.
Henrik Stenson arrived in Ayrshire fresh from a free-wheeling 13th at the Scottish Open played at Caste Stuart. 76 in Round 1 was then followed by rounds of 69-66-70. However a fortnight prior to the Scottish Open, Stenson had won the BMW International Open at Laerchenoff with a -17/271 total. His performance in Germany and his 3-shot winning margin was made even more impressive by the fact that he topped Driving Accuracy, Total Driving, Greens in Regulation and All-Round categories; he was also 2nd for Scrambling. Henrik had also finished 4th at Bro Hoff Slot in June. All of this made him very backable, especially as his Open record contained 2nd (Muirfield 2013), 3rd (Birkdale 2008) and 3rd (St Andrews 2010) place finishes. 30/1 was a cracking price to land.
Zach arrived at Edinburgh airport on the charter flight direct from Silvis, Illinois where he’d just finished a single shot behind Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic. 5th at Las Colinas and 6th at TPC River Highlands in previous PGA Tour outings highlighted a player at the top of his game, so even now the fact that he was available at 110/1 to win at St Andrews is jaw-dropping!
Rory had won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in May, a track which had always been his nemesis, until his closing 66 destroyed the field. He then limbered up with a free-rolling 14th at Royal Aberdeen the week before triumphing in Cheshire, where a horrible 78 on Friday was surrounded by rounds of 64, 67 and 68. Rory was 18/1 second favourite prior to the tournament. Phil Mickelson had already won at TPC Scottsdale and finished 2nd on the tough tests of Merion (US Open) and TPC Southwind before he touched down in Scotland. Arriving at Castle Stuart the week before The Open, Phil was a 20/1 shot to win the Scottish Open, which he duly did, before travelling down the east coast to Muirfield, where he shot an incredible -5/66 on Sunday to win by 3 shots from Henrik Stenson again at a healthy 20/1.
Ernie Els was available at 45/1 prior to Royal Lytham in 2012 and quite rightly we tipped him up as a great Top 20 bet in my longshots column that year. With 4 top-5 finishes (Fancourt, Copperhead, Bay Hill and New Orleans) plus a 7th at Wentworth and 9th at the US Open just prior to the Open, he had huge momentum and was in the right place at the right time when Adam Scott collapsed over the closing 4 holes. It’s fact that Ernie was the latest in a long line of form players to triumph at the British Open.
13 Champions from the last 19 renewals (68%) had won a tournament in the same season prior to triumphing at The Open. Tiger Woods (00, 05, 06), Ernie Els (02), Todd Hamilton (04), Padraig Harrington (07), Louis Oosthuizen (10), Darren Clarke (11), Phil Mickelson (13), Rory McIlroy (14) and Jordan Spieth (17) had all won in the season prior to lifting the Claret Jug.
This is Steve Bamford’s pre-event preview. Paul Williams will be back with his final Open Championship tips on the Monday before the event.