Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Open Championship Tips

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The Open Championship stands on a pedestal, sharing it only with The Masters as the Major Championship that professional golfers covet the most.

The 2024 Open Championship takes place in Scotland this year at Royal Troon Golf Club, Troon, Ayrshire, which we last saw in 2016 when Henrik Stenson got his hands on the famous Claret Jug.

The 152nd edition of the Open Championship takes place from Thursday 18th July 2024. Now into our 15th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our Open tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2024 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 free statistical Predictor Model.

You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), which is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and on the Steve Bamford Golf Channel, as well as across all popular podcast players.

The Open Championship winners’ list here at the Royal Troon was the preserve of Americans until Swede Henrik Stenson won his dual here in 2016 with Phil Mickelson. Arnold Palmer (1962), Tom Weiskopf (1973), Tom Watson (1982), Marc Calcavecchia (1989), Justin Leonard (1997) and Todd Hamilton (2004) were the Americans to win here prior to Stenson lifting the Claret Jug here.

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Open Championship Insight, Stats and Tips Research

It’s worth remembering that the Open Championship (or British Open, if you’re 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 which players to back at the 2024 Open Championship. Better still, we can even help with what players to avoid in a Major where plenty of big names will not feature.

Course Information:

Royal Troon, Troon, Ayrshire, Scotland: Designer: George Straith and Willie Fernie 1888, with Martin Ebert (Mackenzie and Ebert) additions 2014 and 2021; Course Type: Coastal, Links, Medium; Par: 71; Length: 7,385 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 0; Fairways: Fescue; Rough: Bentgrass, with Fescue and Gorse, First Cut 2 metres wide 2”, Tended Rough 6 metres wide; Greens: Browntop Bentgrass with Fescue.

Course Scoring Average:

2016: 73.16 (+2.16), Difficulty Rank 4 of 50 courses.

What to Expect at Royal Troon

Martin Ebert has performed another Open Championship update to the Old Course. 195 yards has been added to the course taking Troon from 7,190 yards to 7,385 yards for the 2024 Open. The course will stay as a Par 71. All-in-all an amazing 9 new tee boxes have been added to accommodate the almost 200 yard increase in Old Course length. It’s also worthy of note – as many a professional doesn’t like them – that the new tee on the 10th hole introduces a completely blind shot to Royal Troon. At 450 yards, players off the new back tee will be faced with a blind drive, with a daunting carry over large sand hills.

The par-5 6th will be talked about a lot this time around as the hole has received plenty of work. Two new bunkers have been added to the drive landing area plus 22 yards have been added to it, stretching the back tees to 623 yards. This makes it the longest hole in Open Championship history.

Troon is a true test of two halves.  A prevailing north-westerly wind tends to dictate how the course plays – naturally its strength tends to be the key to scoring levels. The outward nine heads in a south-easterly direction, with the opening 6 holes staying close to the coastline.  To contend, players make their scores on these holes with the wind at their back, but typically firm links conditions makes stopping the ball far from an easy exercise. From the 7th hole onwards, making pars rather than birdies becomes the challenge. The “Postage Stamp” 8th is one of the most famous holes in golf, with the 125-yard par-3 looking tempting on paper, until you see the bunkers and run off areas which surround the tiny green. The green surface itself has a total area of just 2,636 sq.ft. The first hole in the round where players turn into the prevailing north-westerly, the 2024 Open may see this hole play as short as 100 yards on one of the days.

The inward nine plays into the prevailing wind, and turns into a challenge of survival. A number of blind tee shots intimidate, as does the drive at the “Railway Hole” 12th, which is one of the toughest in world golf. Players constantly talk about keeping the ball low and out of the wind on the inward nine, where trouble including gorse, tough fescue rough and deep bunkers are only a slight mistake or misjudgement away. However, as ever with most links set-ups, the Old Course plays as tough as the weather conditions dictate. If there are light winds, scoring will become far easier.

In summary, Royal Troon is a course where line is more important than distance from off the tee. A plotter’s course where planning and plotting will be required to win. Bunkers are everywhere on the fairways, the majority of which are not visible from the tees. Many are instant one-shot penalties. There’s plenty of deep rough and a smattering of gorse and broom to punish the wayward shot.

Below are some revealing player comments about Royal Troon from the 2004 and 2016 Open Championships:

Henrik Stenson (2016): It’s fairly soft. I guess it’s had its fair share of rain in the last couple of weeks. Fairly short front nine when the wind is in the prevailing direction. It’s downwind off the right going out. Short par-4s, and then that’s where you need to make your scores. That way when you hit the turn, you want to hang on a little bit. It’s definitely harder to make up the score in the back nine. So it’s important to be on from the first hole and try to give yourself as many good birdie chances as you can for those front nine.

Today the Postage Stamp was quite easy. It was just a little three-quarter wedge today. But anyone who wants to see potential train wrecks, if it’s blowing hard into off the left, that would be the place to sit in that left-hand grandstand and see a player struggle with that right-hand bunker. I believe it’s one of them great little par 3s. On the scorecard it doesn’t look much, but when the wind is blowing and you’ve got to be precise with a 7, 8, 9-iron, something like that, into the wind there, it’s quite tricky.

I’m going to take a pretty conservative approach to that hole, especially the back pin. I think you’re most likely see three pins on the front part of the green, which is kind of where you try to land it. You just better make a good two-putt on that back pin, because I don’t think you want to flirt with that right-hand side too much.”

Phil Mickelson (2016): “I made a lot of putts today, and it allowed me to play to not have to take on too much trouble. The only time I got really aggressive was my second shot on 16, and it was a conscious effort to try to get it down there and knowing that I might need a little luck if I went in one of the bunkers. But I didn’t take on a lot of trouble and was able to get hot with a putter.

The golf course plays a lot different for me than I think right-handed players, because going out with that wind off that slice wind for the first eight out of nine holes, I’m more cautious on the birdie holes, and I feel much more comfortable on the inward nine, where the wind is kind of a hooked wind off the water for me.

So I actually felt like with the wind being soft I could take advantage of the back nine, which is usually where you’re just trying to hold on. But I actually feel a little bit more comfortable on the back nine than I do going after the front.

So I needed to work on lag putting. It was obvious last week at Castle Stuart my lag putting was terrible. It cost me multiple shots each round. I went out and spent time Tuesday night on the first green and Wednesday morning on the 18th green doing lag drills, just lag drills, getting a reference point for all the different distances, 40, 60, 80, 100, 50, having a reference for that. And it was big today because coming down on the back nine I had a number of 60-footers, 66 feet, actually, on a couple of those holes, and I had a reference to work off of and was able to make easy pars.

I think it’s very straightforward in front of the greens. You hit good solid shots, the ball ends up where you want it to be. I feel like I can get to tucked pins by carving it a little bit more left to right or right to left into some of these pins, and the bounces will reward those shots. They’ll continue the ball working towards the hole rather than having mounds that deflect it off into other areas. I just feel like good shots really get rewarded here more so than other links courses that I’ve played.”

Ernie Els (2004): It’s a difficult course, especially coming back to the clubhouse, a lot of difficult par-4s into the breeze, you’re going to be, you’ve got to drive it very well. You’ve got to hit a lot of long irons. And then going downwind, the first nine, birdies aren’t guaranteed. It’s a couple of long par-5s. You’ve got to have a pretty sharp, short game to make birdies on the front nine. So all in all, it’s a very fair, good test of golf this week on a very tough golf course. The rough is not terrible, you can get the ball out of the rough. So it makes it more exciting. You’ll see some of the shots out of the rough. The greens are great. The greens are running beautiful, and I can’t see the greens getting away from us this time.

I think you can play quite safe off the tees on the front nine and give yourself a little bit longer shots into the greens. But even the longer shots you’re even going in with short irons, from a 7-iron down to a wedge. With those kind of clubs, you’ve got to at least hit the green and get yourself within 25, 30 feet range. And as I said, even though it’s short, going downwind it’s tough to control the ball. You have to do it because that’s your only real chance to make birdies. On the back nine it’s just, try to hang on, hit it as good as you can, and if you shoot even par, 1, 2, 3 over, you’re going to be happy with that on the back nine. So there’s an extra bit of anticipation to get yourself off to a decent start maybe this year.”

Phil Mickelson (2004):Given the prevailing (north-westerly) wind, the birdie holes are the first nine holes. They’re not easy birdie holes, because it’s hard to stop the ball close downwind. But it is by far the best opportunity to go under par. The backside is a tough stretch, the golf holes that you would take par on any hole. Downwind I’m going to be having full swings, taking some of the release and roll out of it. And then the backside are the holes that I really anticipate hitting lower shots and letting them run off.”

Adam Scott (2004): ” I think you’re probably going to have to change your ball flight a bit. I really don’t want to hit it too high in the wind. You can take advantage of these downwind holes going out and getting a little length off the tee, and getting it down by some of the greens. Coming back, anything up in the air is going to be hit by the wind. I’ve seen some balls out there the last couple of days moving 20, 30, 40 yards up in the wind if it just gets up in the air a bit. So I think there’s going to be a premium on keeping it as low to the ground coming back in into the wind, and hopefully running it up to the fronts of the greens, which is a pretty good position.”

open championship tips

The Old Course at Troon, home of the 2024 Open Championship.

Power with Panache

Lets take the final skill statistics from Todd Hamilton and Henrik Stenson from their 2004 and 2016 Open Championship victories held on the Old Course at Troon. This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2016, Henrik Stenson (-20). 297 yards (11th), 73.2% fairways (5th), 77.8% greens in regulation (1st), 68.8 % scrambling (7th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2004, Todd Hamilton (-10). 298 yards (10th), 53.6% fairways (25th), 63.9% greens in regulation (19th), 69.2 % scrambling (11th), 1.70 putts per GIR (14th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 10th, Driving Accuracy: 15th, Greens in Regulation: 10th, Scrambling: 9th, Putting Average 8th.

Three aspects jump out from these statistics. Well directed power from the tee is a huge advantage. Henrik Stenson did this with his trusty 3-wood.

Hitting greens consistently is tougher than your standard Tour event, as the combination of wind, fast conditions and green complexes which repel approach shots, creates a real ball-striking test. A plethora of missed greens over 72 holes even for players who are managing the course well from tee-to-green makes a top-class scrambling game 100% essential.

Open Championship Pedigree - Once Critical, Now Not So

Maybe it’s the modern game, or maybe it’s been recent Open Championship venues, but lifting the Claret Jug was up until recently the preserve of players who had finished in the top 10 of a previous Open at the very least. But that hasn’t been the case of late. Collin Morikawa in 2021 became a member of the ‘no Open Championship experience required club’ when he lifted the Claret Jug in Kent. It was the 24 year-old’s first ever appearance in an Open Championship, which he won at 40/1.

Cameron Smith in 2022 had Open form of MC/78/20/33 when arriving at St Andrews for his fifth British Open. Scratch the surface with the Australian and you would have seen he’d been 5th after 36 holes at Royal Portrush before finishing 20th, plus 9th at Sandwich after 54 holes before slumping to 33rd. From a broad brush perspective, Smith could have been struck off a punters list if a top 10 finish was any form of selection criteria.

2020-2022 certainly breaks the cast-iron Top 10 rule, but Brian Harman last year at Hoylake won off the back of finishing T6 the year before at St Andrews. He’s the latest in an Open Champions list from 2011–2019, all of whom had shown a level of pedigree at the ultimate links golf test prior to lifting the trophy.

2019 winner Shane Lowry had finished 9th at the 2014 Royal Liverpool (Hoylake) Open that Rory McIlroy won. 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 11 winners, they had appeared in 10 Open Championships prior to winning. Collin Morikawa on his Open debut, Jordan Spieth and Cameron Smith with 4 Open appearances, and Ernie Els with 21 are the outliers statistically. And where experience was once all important, in both Spieth and Morikawa across 2 of the past 4 Open renewals we are starting to witness the needle moving towards Major Championship talent overcoming links golf experience, when weather conditions allow.

2023 Champion – Brian Harman

  • 7 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 6th St Andrews 2022.

2019 Champion – Shane Lowry

  • 7 Open Appearances – Top 10s = 1, 9th Hoylake 2014.

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 George’s 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 George’s 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 George’s 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 Scottie Scheffler win at Royal Troon?

Tempted to get on the World Number 1 (at the time of writing) Scottie Scheffler 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.

Scottie, fresh from a 2024 campaign which has seen him win 6 tournaments including The Masters, will naturally be the short-price favourite at The Open. But, for the record, Brian Harman was 26th when he won in 2023, Cameron Smith was 6th, Collin Morikawa was 4th, Shane Lowry was 33rd, Francesco Molinari was 15th, 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.

It would also me remiss of me not to point out that I raised this trend continually before The Masters as well, until that is World Number 1 (at the time) Dustin Johnson captured the 2020 November edition. Scottie’s 2022 and 2024 Masters Tournament wins also came with the Texan ranked at the best player on the planet.

Open Championship OWGR Analysis

YearOpen Championship WinnerOWGR Ranking
2023Brian Harman26th
2022Cameron Smith6th
2021Collin Morikawa4th
2019Shane Lowry33rd
2018Francesco Molinari15th
2017Jordan Spieth3rd
2016Henrik Stenson6th
2015Zach Johnson25th
2014Rory McIlroy8th
2013Phil Mickelson6th
2012Ernie Els40th
2011Darren Clarke111th
2010Louis Oosthuizen54th
2009Stewart Cink33rd
2008Padraig Harrington14th
2007Padraig Harrington10th
2006Tiger Woods1st
2005Tiger Woods1st
2004Todd Hamilton55th
2003Ben Curtis200th
2002Ernie Els3rd
2001David Duval7th
2000Tiger Woods1st



Recent Form Is Key

Brian Harman’s first Major Championship win at Hoylake in 2023 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 11 champions, namely Harman, Smith, Morikawa, Lowry, Molinari, Spieth, Stenson, Zach Johnson, McIlroy, Mickelson and Els, we can see a pattern that’s easy to extrapolate.

Brian Harman took the Claret Jug back to St Simons Island, Georgia from the north-west of England 12 months ago at 110/1. He was the largest priced winner of the Open Championship since Zach Johnson in 2015 and the highest priced winner of a Major since Phil Mickelson won the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Yes Brian was undoubtedly a shock winner, but plenty of sage backers had noted that Harman had been in great nick leading into The Open and had the driving accuracy to navigate Hoylake’s main defence – big trouble off the tee. 2nd at the Signature-level PGA Tour Travelers Championship behind Keegan Bradley, Harman had backed that up with 9th at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and 12th at the Scottish Open the week before Hoylake, where he’d been T3 heading into Sunday, going out in the 2nd from last Group at the Renaissance Club.

Cameron Smith’s 2022 had undoubtedly been the very best year of his career prior to even lifting the Claret Jug on the 18th green on the Old Course. He’d won the first tournament of the year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and The Players Championship in Florida in March, prior to going very close to winning The Masters in April. A 36-hole leader and Final Group on Sunday performance at the Memorial Tournament (finished 13th), plus a fast-finishing (2nd for weekend scoring) 10th at the Scottish Open the week before, had many backing the Australian for The Open at 28/1 prior to the off.

Collin Morikawa in 2020, despite being both a Major (2020 PGA Championship) and WGC (2021 WGC Workday Championship) champion, shocked many when he won the Royal St George’s-hosted Open at 40/1. The reason was twofold: 1) It was his Open Championship debut. 2) He had finished 71st at the Scottish Open the week before. Unravel that recency bias though and Collin had finished 4th at the U.S. Open, 2nd at Memorial, 8th at the PGA Championship and 7th at the RBC Heritage all within his past 6 appearances. 40/1 looking back was outrageous!

Shane Lowry in 2019 had won the stellar year-opener, the Abu Dhabi Championship on the DP World Tour and backed that up with his most successful period on the PGA Tour. 3rd at the RBC Heritage (coastal), 8th at the Bethpage Black-hosted PGA Championship and 2nd behind Rory McIlroy at the RBC Canadian Open had preceded top-30 and top-40 outings at the US Open and Irish Open.

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 DP World 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, in the process winning his first tournament in the United States. And 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 Castle 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 Gut 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 preceding 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 Open 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.

16 Champions from the last 22 renewals (73%) had won a tournament in the 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), Henrik Stenson (16), Jordan Spieth (17), Francesco Molinari (18), Shane Lowry (19), Collin Morikawa (21) and Cam Smith (22) 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.

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