The Open - let’s ditch all of that ‘British’ stuff, this is the original Open, it has not-naming rights - this year promises to be unlike any that have taken place in the last fifteen or so. After Justin Rose became the first English major winner for what seemed like an eternity, the interest in his challenge for the oldest prize in golf has reached almost fever pitch. Throw in the recent successes of Graeme McDowell and the comparable travails of Rory McIlroy and you reach levels of audience engagement which simply haven’t been seen since the days of dial-up connections.
All of which is wonderful news for the betting public, because more interest means more liquidity in the market and more options to make money with their sports picks.
At this early stage, the actual number of markets available are few. However, this doesn’t mean that there are not chances for sports bettors to make money. First of all, there are the obvious markets to avoid. Don’t go playing in the likes of the ‘first round leader’ market until you know the weather forecast and the draw. Why? Because if the forecast is for, say, twelve hours of rain from noon on Thursday, then you don’t want to back someone who ends up going out after that time, because they are going to be playing their opening 36 holes in the worst conditions.
Then, you need to remember that in any major championship, opening odds of less than around 25/1 are pretty short. You don’t get to play in a major simply because you can swing a club, and there are usually well over 20 viable contenders for the title. This means that although Tiger Woods might look like a good price at the 9/1 that Bwin are offering on him, it is actually pretty short betting odds compared to the rest of the field. Of course, if you think that golf’s unlikeliest lothario can make it a fourth Open win in 14 years then go for it, but be prepared to try and lay that bet off later.
Similarly, Rose at 20/1 with Paddy Power is slightly short priced. However, this is where you might want to start looking at a bit of history. The last three occasions that the Open has been played at Muirfield, the claret jug has been won by Nick Faldo (1987 and 1992) and Ernie Els (2002). That’s an English champion and a South African one. Rose, of course, was born in South Africa and grew up in England, under whose flag he plays. By contrast, Muirfield hasn’t seen an American winner since Tom Watson in 1980.
Looking at the recent history of the Open itself, it has been five years since a player at the head of the world rankings won, when Padraig Harrington took the jug two years in a row from 2007 from 2008. That, of course, followed two years of Woods dominating the contest. Since then, Stuart Cink, Louis Oosthuizen, Darren Clarke and Els have been the winners, but none has been able to repeat. That suggests that you might want to look at someone who has gone well in recent tournaments without quite making it count on the final day. Someone such as Jason Day, who played so well in the US Open and upon whom you can get 33/1 in most markets.
Finally, there’s only ever been one left-handed winner of the Open, Bob Charles in 1963. Could Phil Mickelson emulate him, on the fiftieth anniversary of that win? He’s a 25/1 shot to do so and, after the way that he played in the US Open, where he was once again pipped at the post, he might just turn out to be a good insurance bet.